This morning reading the article that a report commissioned by Google found that the internet economy is worth £100 billion I couldn’t help but have a little giggle to myself: As someone who has been preaching and preaching the need to monitrise online activity I welcomed this high level demonstration of grabbing headlines with big figures, but also couldn’t help but smirk at the problems this report would get in particular web departments if it used to value their activity.

Two problems would be raised:

Impartiality:

The report is obviously a massive PR activity by Google:
Report shows how much business goes on online = business rush out to get bigger online presence = bigger $ ad revenue for the world biggest online ad firm.

I can imagine the arguments as to whether such activity was correct and justified by web teams and whether, rightly so, did it invalidate the whole argument.

Methodology flaws:

Second problem would be the massive jumps and estimations that were required to reach this figure.  In creating this £100 billion throughout the document figures had to be estimated or a particular ‘best method’ had to be used just to get to the figure .  I don’t want to get technical, but the below should tell its own story:

“We estimate the value of goods and services researched online but purchased offline at £40 billion in 2008” (p12 of report)

We all know that getting to the above figure needs a hell of a lot of estimations. So you could, if so inclined, flaw the whole thing picking at its method of estimation and again, rightly so.

BUT….

Then you miss the whole point. This report serves a purpose of putting an activity that by its nature is a vague proposition (internet use) into a context that everyone understanding (£ signs). And if Google the company with more data than any other in history has to make ‘estimations’ and ask the authors to paint with broad brush strokes, than individual web team should not be afraid to do so if it helps all externally to understand better and value what you do.

As a final thought, I also like this report and will refer to it again as it a useful example of how sometimes you need to forget the myriad of available statistics to make a point. Internet reporting often reaches a point of inertia through having too much data. Those working in the web will not make the jumps and leaps that the offline world has to make because of its lack of information as the online analyst is desperately trying to find the perfect correct figure through their millions of data columns at their disposal.

Online value can only be properly shown by combining with the offline world and that means estimations and sometimes best even best guesses- and if this makes you uneasy just remember every other department in your organisation is estimating and guessing every day!