Microsoft Hires Accounting Firm to Audit MSN Users

Microsoft recently hired accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to audit the number of people who use the MSN network of Internet services. Industry observers say this engagement may be the first of many, as more opportunities open up for accountants to expand their assurance services.

PwC's role was to provide independent verification of the number of unique users (300 million), who visited MSN from February 1, 2002 to May 31, 2002. Microsoft explains the verification process involved a series of inspections to test compliance with the Interactive Advertising Bureau's measurement guidelines.

Suzanne Faulkner, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, predicts that other companies will follow Microsoft's lead. "Now, more so than ever," she said, "it's important to communicate to the public credible key operating metrics, such as the number of unique users… It's beneficial for the industry as a whole, and we suspect others will follow suit."

The trend is not surprising in view of the mounting pressures on online service providers to defend their numbers, both financial and non-financial. The pressures are coming from investors and securities analysts, who often scrutinize the number of subscribers as a way to gauge future revenues. Just last month, a number of analysts aired their skepticism about the sustainability of AOL's 35 million subscribers, given the percentage who are on free trial memberships. Microsoft reports that MSN currently has 8.7 million subscribers.

The added attention being paid to such numbers today has led to a growing clamor for uniform definitions of key analytical measures and provided opportunities for assurances from accounting firms.

-Rosemary Schlank

You may like these other stories...

You probably don't want to think about how many times you access the File menu in Excel 2010 or 2013. Personally I think Excel 2010 has the best possible File menu arrangement, other than having Print Preview grafted...
Following other recent high-profile hacking events, investigators discovered yesterday that hackers broke into the draft work paper files of several famous CPA firms. Revealing images of the scantily clad documents have been...
For bitcoin users, the taxman cometh. And you best know how to calculate taxes owed on what the IRS calls convertible virtual currency.In March 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-21, which declares virtual currency will be...

Already a member? log in here.

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Sep 24
In this jam-packed presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA will give you a crash-course in creating spreadsheet-based dashboards. A dashboard condenses large amounts of data into a compact space, yet enables the end user to easily drill down into details when warranted.
Sep 30
This webcast will include discussions of important issues in SSARS No. 19 and the current status of proposed changes by the Accounting and Review Services Committee in these statements.
Oct 21
Kristen Rampe will share how to speak and write more effectively by understanding your own and your audience's communication style.
Oct 23
Amber Setter will show the value of leadership assessments as tools for individual and organizational leadership development initiatives.