Quantcast gets $20 million in funding — and more attention than it deserves

Why is it that some companies get coverage and others don't? One could go into all sorts of conspiracy theories, but I think the reason is often much simpler: Reporters write about what they understand. Quantcast fits the bill — which is why the Web-measurement service's $20 million round has gotten top billing on all the usual suspects.

Quantcast is a fine and worthy startup. Its investors include Peter Thiel's Founders Fund. Along with Compete.com, it's bringing a much-needed shakeup to the arcane business of Web-usage statistics. Quantcast's twist is that it measures website usage directly, as well as estimating it from surveys, as others do.

That, of course, is a subject of keen interest to the online media, to which Quantcast has catered expertly. (Gawker Media, the publisher of Valleywag, is a Quantcast customer.) Look no further than its widget-measurement service. Widgets — those bits of website code embedded on other Web pages — are a fad these days among Web publishers, and Quantcast promises to count not just regular website visitors, but users of other sites who see their widgets. Measuring widgets will likely just result in a swifter understanding of their irrelevance, but in the meantime, the flourish garners Quantcast attention from widget-obsessed publishers.

More attention than it deserves, though. Even with $20 million in the bank, Quantcast faces much larger competitors. And who does it serve outside of a circle of midsized Web publishers, too small for the current rating services but big enough to attract real advertisers? The size of that audience is what anyone rating Quantcast's chances should measure.