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PubMatic just released a new AdPrice Index which was immediately picked up by a rather frightening number of news sources: Business Week, ClickZ, The Washington Post to name just a few.

First off, serious kudos to the PubMatic team for releasing these numbers. This post is in no way meant to be negative to them, they’ve got a great service and by releasing this index they are upping the bar for everybody else — I wish everybody released a monthly report indicating their view of the market. Note that Rubicon had previously released a less statistical and more narrative Q1 Ad Network Market Report.

What I find somewhat surprising is the level of buzz the PubMatic release generated. Although I’m certain that the statistical quality of their numbers is good I want to point out that there is an inherent sample bias for the Index not only on the publishers selected but also the ad-inventory being analyzed. The publishers are ones that chose to signup for the PubMatic service to help them optimize revenue from Ad Networks. Next, PubMatic’s numbers reflect only the subset of inventory that was sent to PubMatic and the media dollars that inventory made based on the networks that work with PubMatic’s platform.

So even taking these numbers with a grain of salt there are probably enough pubs & networks that something happened in April… so surely it must be time to PANIC because we’re in this massive recession and online advertising is going to dry up and die … right?

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Agencies have quarterly budgets. Each ad-campaign has a certain target revenue that needs to be spent by the end of the quarter, and since most publisher forecasting systems are prone to error there are a large # of campaigns that find that their guaranteed buys have under-delivered and are now nearing the end of the quarter with significant money left to spend. Where do they go? Ad-Networks. Through years at RM we saw the same thing year after year, quarter after quarter. March, June, September and December were always high in revenue, with December being particularly great with some nice “end of year” budgets moving to remnant display. So my guess — what we’re seeing is a normal cyclical trend, where Q1 budgets moved to Ad-Networks in March, disappeared in April and hence PubMatic saw a significant drop in revenue. Of course I could be wrong, but either way the media should certainly stop predicting the impending doom of the online-ad market.

More important than the actual numbers, I think that the reaction to this event shows how desperate we are for insight and visibility into what’s going on. How much money is flowing, and to which parties? What I’d like to see is the Quantcast 100 Advertising Index. Impressions, CPMs & revenue for the aggregate top-100 sites on the Net — now those would be numbers to analyze and report on!