Just about any time you see an article around the Internet that has information and statistics as it pertains to the big name Web sites, you can almost guarantee there will be an accompanying graphic that is labeled as having been provided by comScore.

While the company has become well known for these breakdowns of what makes the Internet tick, it does also have a reputation as being one of the key meters for traffic to a site that advertisers check when trying to decide where to place its ads.  The problem is that for years now sites have complained that comScore under reports their traffic due to the fact that it uses small panels of Internet users that it measures.  Once they collect the data from those chosen few, they extrapolate that out to broader Web, somewhat like the Nielsen ratings system does with television.

comscore_logoWell, according to Peter Kafka over All Things D, that is about to all change.  The company has decided to finally place the more traditional pixel method on the sites that use their services.  This is the same way that other free analytics company do their measuring, and that will allow them to measure every visitor that comes to the site as opposed to using the panel method.

This service will be free to sites that already subscribe to comScore’s services, but if you want them to just more accurately measure your site without purchasing any other services from them, well that’s going to cost you $10,000 a year.  The company says this fee is to help cover the purchase of new servers and handle all of the data that they expect to handle coming in from the additional reporting.  Those that choose to use the new service will get a mixed hybrid of reporting from the panel and the pixel methods, while sites that don’t choose to pay will only receive the panel data.

While that may not sound bad, the example Mr. Kafka gives is that The Huffington Post had 9.95 million unique visitors under the panel method in Dec. 2009, but over 20 million uniques via the new method.  While not all sites will see such a significant change in their traffic, when you’re talking those types of numbers, that could be a difference of thousands of dollars in monthly revenue for huge sites.

The problem is that this is going to create two separate classes of sites on comScore, and advertisers aren’t necessarily going to know who is using which method of reporting.  Perhaps comScore will mark the accounts, but that is not known at this time.  So say an advertiser wants to compare xxxxxx.com to yyyyyy.com to chose which to advertise with.  Even though yyyyyy.com is the more popular site, and has more traffic, they didn’t pay the $10,000 annual fee, and xxxxxx.com’s numbers look better because they did.  If you are a big name Web site, you’ve basically just been placed in a situation where you will have to pay this annual fee or you could potentially lose out on ad revenue due to a company that has nothing to do with you saying you aren’t worthy.

If you’re a little guy, comScore probably doesn’t even measure you, but if you’re a big guy, you pretty much got handed a $10,000 bill you didn’t even ask for, and you don’t have a whole lot of choice about paying.  Happy New Year!