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Are People Just Making These Numbers Up?

According to yet another number cruncher Millennial Media, Android and iOS are tied at 37% in terms of ad impressions, 16% of the overall impressions going to iPhones specifically. While Apple’s iOS ad impressions figure has grown 32% since January, Android, based on that their impressions increase has been over 2100% over the same time period, well, apples and oranges, right, with Google being the ad brokerage

Wait a minute, Millennial Media isn’t some kind of analyst operation, they’re an ad network, and those stats are impressions of their own servers drawn from the two devices, something over which there may be tremendously confounding variables. Meanwhile CNN and many other sites are just tossing around these numbers leaving most readers assuming that Millennial Media, which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page for what that’s worth, is an authority on the overall growth of both general popularity and platform efficacy a vessel of promotion.

For all I know they just sell ads to probably a relatively small number of websites with some, all or none of which being in a mobile-tuned format, who for one reason or another opted not to go with AdSense, AdMob or iAds and are running Google Analytics or Webalizer to come up with these stats. You put out numbers like this and everyone grabs them, including me, suddenly you’re on the map. Kind of like me reporting loudly that Firefox has overtaken IE and then, more subtly (if at all), noting that that data is according to our server logs and not some macro analysis of everyone’s traffic having sniffed big pipe backbones for packets containing user agents in browser requests to all sorts of sites or from Google’s Street View packets.

I’m not disputing that Android will surpass iOS in terms of ad impressions it hasn’t already given its rising popularity and that the people behind it are an ad brokerage which owns AdMob but it feels like lazy bloggers and authentic journalist bloggers alike will recklessly snatch the latest percentage figures from anyone they find on Google News and crank out an article about it which are at best misleading given that most people, in my estimation, won’t look at these numbers and realize that this could be very skewed sample data. I’d trust it more if it came from either iAds or AdMob with one not disputing the other than Millennial Media to be trusted as an indicator of trends in the advertising market.

I don’t like doing question mark titles in articles but this one isn’t rhetorical: Can an outfit like this just make numbers up without repercussions? Is it not, in fact, a good strategy to start making a name for yourself? Sort of like this, watch: 41% of the stats you’ve read in the past year regarding Android and Apple were on average a 26% deviation from the truth. Are the original numbers I handed off to you from Millennial Media good enough from which to extrapolate on your own to get an idea of the big picture and trends? Do you trust any of the number crunchers we see regularly, like comScore, Gartner and Neilson, or would you trust your own gut more? Hell, was the data I was about to continue writing about, presuming they were dead accurate, even of interest to you anymore if they ever were at all?

Doug Simmons