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Hmmm...can we say conflict of interest?
 
Why comScore's pro-Facebook report this week should make you go 'hmmm.'

A statistics teacher of mine at UCLA told a funny joke: 

"A history professor brought his 6-year-old son, Billy, to work one day and they toured the campus together.

They went to the Math department, and Billy asked the professor: 'What's 2+2?' The professor told him: '2+2 is 4, Billy.'

Then they went to the Engineering department, and Billy asked the Engineering professor: 'What's 2+2?' The professor told him: '2+2 is 4, Billy.'

And, finally, they went to the Statistics department, and Billy asked the Statistics professor: 'What's 2+2?' The professor asked: 'What would you like it to be, Billy?'" 

Which brings us to comScore. 

Almost all the "ghost town" baloney about Google+ originates with comScore reports. 

Who is comScore? And why do they publish these reports? More to the point, why are their reports always negative about Google and always positive about Facebook? 

These are important questions because another glowing report about Facebook is expected from comScore this week. The report is expected to counter the widely held perception that Facebook's ads are ineffective. The comScore report is expected to make the case that Facebook ads are incredibly effective. 

Like past comScore reports that make Google look bad and Facebook look good, this report will be lapped up by the unquestioning media and accepted without skepticism. 

Here are the two facts about comScore that should be (but won't be) in the opening paragraph of every media report on comScore's coming Facebook lovefest: 

1. Google is comScore's direct competitor.

2. Facebook is comScore's customer.

Specifically, Google is one of the six companies listed by VentureBeat Profiles of comScore's direct competitors. Google is the only major company on the list. 

Meanwhile, comScore is cagey about who its clients are and how much those clients pay comScore. All Things D is one of the few media organizations to point out the basic fact that Facebook is a comScore client. 

In fact, it's likely that Facebook and comScore worked together to create the report. 

Now, it's theoretically possible that all the data about comScore's biggest competitor is actually negative, and all the data about comScore's biggest customer is positive. 

But it seems pretty unlikely to me. 

When one of your best customers comes to you and asks: "How effective are our ads?," the right answer is probably: "How effective do you want them to be?"

http://venturebeatprofiles.com/company/profile/comscore/competitors

http://allthingsd.com/20120608/trust-us-facebook-ads-do-work-comscore-study-out-next-week/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-08/facebook-rises-as-comscore-says-site-can-spur-purchases.html

(Pic props to Universal Pictures.)
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