How many people did that story reach? It depends who’s counting

As digital publishers bet big on video in search of advertising riches, many believe that a traditional method of media measurement isn’t keeping up.

Publishers have long used “unique visitors” as a benchmark to compare the size of their website audiences and lure advertisers. But some media companies say the metric has become somewhat outmoded in an era when content is being disseminated widely on social media and other platforms.

Publishers such as BuzzFeed, Mic and PopSugar publish video content directly on services such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to capitalize on the massive scale and reach of those platforms. Since audiences for these videos don’t always visit publishers’ websites, they aren’t captured in unique visitor figures.

“That type of measurement used to work,” said Jonathan Carson, the president of Mic. “But over the last seven years, digital has moved to these more distributed approaches.”

Publishers have long complained that their audiences were undercounted by firms that use unique visitors as a baseline. But that debate has reached a tipping point of sorts in the past year as media companies have invested more in social-first video.

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