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INTERVIEW: WASA, the Website Association of South Africa

Heard on the grapevine that a potential, low cost, hassle free, non big-boys-club competitor to the OPA had launched recently.

My take on the OPA for those interested. At first glance, disliked them. In fact, launched various petitions under the guise of my previous company. It took to the market like a bloated old boys club, forcing sites to pay to be members of an association with no discernable value besides "audited" statistics that, theoretically, advertisers should trust.

That may have changed, I'm not sure. Like so many other things, once a product leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you rarely return to graze.

Enter WASA. They accept analytics and for the moment, are FREE. The site owners say that even when pay subscriptions start, it'll be low. (Nothing like the launch of OPA 3/4 years ago demanding 1% of turnover (UPDATED: R20,000 NOT 1% of turnover)!?!?). Doubt that idea lasted.


I spoke to Jonathan Smit - one of the owners. The textual interview is below for your enjoyment. Go check out the site - all the big boys are there. Let's get some local bloggers / portals / communties up!

1. Reason you started the site?

WASA was formed with the aim of providing a comprehensive list of South African websites with audited statistics. We wanted to create a central place where website owners could list information about their sites which is then disseminated to the media, advertisers and other interested parties. Our aim is to enhance the profile of South African websites and to provide an affordable way for local sites to get their statistics audited and to help them establish their web presence.

2. Relationship with the OPA?

The OPA is focused on supporting the needs of online publishers and WASA offers a complimentary service which is open to all websites (Not only publishers). We see ourselves as working hand in hand with the OPA. We have already met with them and our meetings have been very positive.

3. Cost to join?

Membership will be free until the end of May 2008 wherafter it will cost R100, R200 or R500 per month depending on how you would like your site to be classified. The classification is up to the website owner. A small website will pay R100 / month, a medium one, R200, and a large website will pay R500 / month.

4. How to do you "audit" or ensure "audited" stats?

In order to ensure that we use comparable measurements, WASA only accept statistics from Google Analytics or Nielsen/Netratings. We have an independent legal firm (Buys Inc) who audit the numbers and they are the only people who will have access to verify the figures from the source.

5. Do you list your stats on WASA as well?!

As soon as we can, we will! But owing to the fact that the site has only been operational for 5 days, we do not currently have a full month's worth of stats to list ;-)

Musing: I wonder if Amatomu missed a trick to become the de facto "audited" stats provider for blogs. I know network advertising was in their plan (according to some glam interview I read!)...

UPDATE: Thanks Matthew for the corrections. I guess my issue back then was the exclusion of the "long tail" publishers by virtue of the enormous entry fee. That led to the perception of the "old boys club". Not by everyone, just by those excluded. :)

Read the old mud-slinging debate here (don't you love the ability to dig stuff outta the archives using Google!?).

Read Matthew Buckland's thoughts here.

Comments

  1. Yeah I wonder how long the lists on WASA would be if they hadn't just taken OPA stats and self-registered all those sites?

    I guess when we launched Amatomu we should have just sucked down all of Technorati's data but that would have been er... unethical.

    Amatomu isn't interested in competing with the OPA, the value the OPA has brought to advertisers and local traffic reporting standards is substantial.

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  2. Two things.

    1. Interesting point about self registration. That wouldn't really make them "audited stats" or "level playing field" stats, would they? I've asked Jonathan to comment...

    2. Point I was making about amatomu - is NOT to compete with the OPA. The OPA says "South Africa's BIGGEST websites" or something, in their strap line. That excludes long tail media, blogs, citizen journalism etc. - a segment of the industry where Amatomu dominates and performs a valuable aggregation service.

    Advertisers can still get value (as proved by Adwords) by taking advantage of the tail. The tail in this country battles to get credibility. OPA gave "big" sites credibility as you say. Who's doing it for the little guys?

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  3. Agreed about the long tail, I don;t have an issue with the idea I just think the way it was launched could have been done in a way that doesn't lead to a show-down between the two.

    Unless you consider this new organisation an auditing firm, the results won't be audited, just verified against Google Analytics. I think its problematic that the process is run by people who have sites listed and tracked in the system. The OPA system is audited by a neutral 3rd party which means less questions will be asked about its motivation. The OPA is also a non-profit organisation, whereas this one is for-profit.

    Amatomu is also a specifically blogger thing, we're not that interested in corporate or media web sites. It costs money to track and report statistics like that - the Amatomu database does 55 transactions a second, so bandwidth and processing power presents real costs.

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  4. It's not about the length of the lists, Vincent, but relevance! It would be irresponsible of WASA not to list a subset of OPA stats and claim to have a comprehensive list of South African websites with accurate statistics.

    Currently the OPA is the only major organisation which represents any websites in South Africa, but unfortunately, it doesn't cater to the needs of the mass website market (the long tail as Andy so rightly pointed out).

    Unethical would be if we "sucked down" the OPA / Nielsen's data and pretended that it was our own. We however, clearly state that the site is an OPA site as well as the statistics source as Nielsen's Netratings (As we do for Google Analytics).

    WASA too is not interested in competing with the OPA but rather with creating a central body accessible to all website owners where they can publish their site details & audited statistics as well as receive media exposure.

    Google Analytics is a fantastic tool, which used in conjunction with membership to WASA makes this possible at a price which is far easier to swallow than the OPA and Nielsen's.

    We too make use of a neutral 3rd party, in the form of legal firm Buys Inc, to ensure the integrity of the system, and while yes, we are a "for profit" organisation, I would argue that this will allow us to move quicker and provide a better service than a non-profit one run by volunteers. Profit has also never been our primary focus, but rather the provision of a service which the market seemingly wants and which will enhance the exposure of all SA websites.

    I don't have much to say on Amatomu besides that it provides a brilliant service for the South African blogosphere, but I echo your sentiments, Vincent, that it is specifically focused on bloggers whereas WASA is not. WASA's focus is South African websites and whatever form they may take.

    Regarding the "self-registration" as you guys have termed it, again, there was no malice in our actions, merely relevance. We wanted to have a list of the top websites in the country on the home page, and surely you agree, that without including the sites currently in the OPA, such a list would be hopelessly inaccurate?!

    We did also consult with the OPA before starting this venture and never intentioned for our launch to be a showdown between WASA and the OPA.

    PS I apologize for the length of this comment, but that's a lot to respond to ;-)

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  5. I'm no insider on how the OPA operates, but having had some fairly detailed discussions with members and the people who work on making the stats credible, I can't say I share your distrust of the OPA. Whether it has succeeded is a matter I'll leave to advertisers to judge, but I do know that a lot of thought and effort has gone into making the OPA stats accurate and honest.

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  6. My beef was merely the pay R20k or bugger off approach that I experienced. I have heard nothing bad at all regarding credibility.

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  7. I think this is very good news, though they face some interesting challenges.

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