In the continuing (and, I predict, growing) audience measurement saga, Fred Wilson chastises Mike Arrington for calling comScore’s audience metrics “flaky” vis-a-vis Digg’s audience:

My guess is that Digg has something like 5mm monthly unique visitors worldwide. Not 20mm. The difference probably results from cookie counting, multiple browsers, and a few other factors.

Perhaps a better question is whether these audience measurements even matter. Google has $10 billion in advertising and has never had to report a single audience metric to advertisers. I think this comment from one of my previous posts nails the issue:

Why do we care about any of these metrics? Gross audience measurements like impressions are “pre-metrics” which can tell us about reach and a little bit about targeting, but very little about whether our advertising dollars are being well spent. “Post-metrics” such as conversion rates and average deal size tell us whether to keep spending or not – that’s what we really want to know. We need advertising outlets that make the transaction costs of setting up a campaign low, something that companies like Google and Spotrunner do remarkably well. We also need to be able to collect “post-metrics” quickly, something that the internet generally allows for (at least in the case of direct marketing spend). We dont’ really need more “pre-metrics”.

The problem is that New Media is still thinking like Old Media — how big is the audience? I though this was supposed to be the end of mass media. What happened to community? It feels like 1999 all over again with online media — with the exception of search — failing to live up to the promise of measureability and accountability.

I guess when your only business model is to get bought by an Old Media company, Old Media audience metrics matter a lot.