May 20, 2003
"Big Champagne's Burst Bubble"

BIPlog has written about Big Champagne before, and understood from their website that it is a service that measures music downloads which they point out through media quotes in the center of the front page. But Online Tonight's editorial column by David Lawrence refutes this impression Big Champagne would like people to believe, and instead points out that they monitor what is offered, not what is downloaded. And there is a big difference.

Apparently, that information can be found by using KaZaa desktop, and a few other things on the Internet. Because there are more downloaders than uploaders, offerings are not a good statistic of what people download, and the article mentions that is an impossible statistic to get perfectly. It's something more akin to Nielsen ratings, which are estimates. Big Champagne won't discuss their methods. They also don't apparently count the downloads on legitimate sites. And in using IP addresses to determine geographic location, they profess to have more accuracy than is possible.

It's an interesting look at this company that has clients like Clear Channel/Premiere, Blender Magazine and E! Entertainment, and a CEO that recently testified before the California Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry. Read the article, because it makes clear how Big Champagne may have fooled the media and their clients into thinking they know much more than they do.

From the front page of Big Champagne's website:

"What Nielsen is to TV ratings, BigChampagne is to the increasingly important measurement of what people are downloading on the Internet."
− The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 20, 2003 12:04 AM | TrackBack

This whole story seems a bit overblown. Yes they are not measuring downloads, they are measuring what's offered. However most file trading programs default to placing downloaded files into shared directories so there is a significant correlation between what is offered and what gets downloaded.

As for being able to get the same information out of Kazaa and the like, you certainly could, but it would require massive amounts of search effort. IE search for 50 Cent, count how many files turn up, search for Mozart see how many files turn up, repeat, repeat. That's not how I want to spend my day and Big Champagne makes it so I don't have too.

Are their numbers flawless? Far from it, but they are certainly providing more data then anyone else about the file trading phenomena. At worst they are guilty of a bit of hyperbole, and god knows the music industry is no stranger to manufacturing hype...

Posted by: Abe on May 20, 2003 11:18 AM

I agree, it's not that big a deal, but I also think it's important to correct the misrepresentation of their data, as they, and we, reported it as download statistics and it's really not. Based on the information on the website, I got the impression they had some way of tracking downloads that they were not sharing because it was proprietary. But I think it's better to be clear about what it really is, which is an estimate of file trading based on files offered. And then it's fine to rely on them as providers of that kind of data.

Also, their CEO's testimony before the CA Senate Committee that they have useful information about online filesharing statistics is more of a concern, if they leave the Senate, making policy that is often very hard to change once set, with the impression it is download statistics they provide. But the testimony itself does not definitively say what data they have, either downloading or shared files, sort of like their website. So being clear and accurate is good, because many of the media articles their site points to on their press webpage are written with the impression that Big Champagne does provide accurate download statistics.

Posted by: Mary Hodder on May 20, 2003 08:51 PM

What statistical Hog Wash! Faulty and poorly constructed experimental design and number crunched appropriately to suit their economic requirements. Forget about what the public really wants. 'Let's put together a psuedo-scientific method, collect some marginally accurate data and splash it on a glitzy web site to make a buck'... hmmmm you can fool some of the people some of the time....

Posted by: Joel on August 4, 2003 08:12 PM

Well, certainly not everyone shares their files. But there are enough people sharing their files that the incidence of a song being offered is a totally reasonable proxy for it's popularity. And the Nielsen comparison is not a bad one, although BigChampagne does not recruit their sample subjects like Nielsen does, so arguably BigChampagne is a more accurate picture of reality. I don't hear many folks complaining about Nielsen though. Now MediaMetrix is another story alltogether...

Posted by: Ryan on September 5, 2003 06:31 PM

Why shouldn't it be possible to capture the searched that are being done on Kazaa? From an article in this months Wired mag, I get the impression that Big Champagne is looking at the searched being performed.

Posted by: JohnnyL on September 8, 2003 08:27 AM

Exactly... Big Champagne is not offering statistics of what is "offered"... it is tracking what people are searching for. Similar to the "Monitor" function in P2P software, but they seem to track all the major networks simultaneously and with IP-based ZIP code locators. While the term "downloading" is not correct to describe what they track... what people are searching for is even MORE important than what they are downloading, because what people are searching for is a prelude to what they download. David Lawrence's own agenda should be questioned. Personally, I don't really care what BigChampagne does as long as I know the record labels are patronizing them "under the table" in order to bolster their marketing techniques. If they come knocking on my door to serve a lawsuit, I'll drag BigChampagne in on my defense so they can explain to the judge how the very record label that's suing me is also buying my P2P search statistics for marketing purposes.

Posted by: Wyrdtoo on September 15, 2003 01:12 PM

Well, yes, but. The thing is, aggregating info on "searches" and "offered files for uploading" verses "downloads" does matter. I can search for "john" and get Lennon, Bowie, Cougar etc. all in the list. The point is, searches don't tell you how many of the returned hits the person takes. And offered files don't tell you exactly how many downloads were actually taken. When Big Champagne intimates that they can tell you the exact number of downloads, and forgets to mentions they mean searches or uploads, it's misleading. Just want to point out the distinction to make government policy and the media a little more accurate in explaining what service Big Champagne offers. tx.

Posted by: mary hodder on September 15, 2003 02:23 PM

While I agree that symantics are important, I think the point is that Big Champagne is showing labels where the holes are in their marketing activities. Whether they use downloads or searches to determine the holes is mostly irrelevant. Both sets of activity will point toward the same conclusion and recommendations to the labels. As for accuracy of data, what they find is better than nothing at all, though not as good as server logs from the systems they are monitoring. Question: Does give Universal their server log data on searches and downloads? How about Apple's iStore?

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