Targeting by dayparts online

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Internet marketers have struggled for several years to determine when their best prospects are online and what sites they’re using.

A recent report released by the Online Publishers Association sheds some light on the problem. Titled "The Existence and Characteristics of Dayparts on the Internet," it is based on September 2002 U.S. Internet usage data from Nielsen//NetRatings. Hourly data were segmented by gender, age, household income and location (home or work), as well as by site category.

Using data from Nielsen//NetRatings, the report identified five distinct dayparts on the Web: early morning (Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.), daytime (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), evening (Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.), late night (Monday through Friday, 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekends (all day Saturday and Sunday).

Daytime is prime time

The study confirmed that daytime is the largest daypart—measured in terms of both total audience and total minutes spent online—followed by evenings and weekends.

Further analysis showed that certain demographics are easier to reach on particular types of sites during specific dayparts. For example, during the early morning, 51% of the users of news and information sites are males age 25 to 54, although that demographic represents only 41% of total Web use during that part of the day.

For advertisers targeting an online audience, "daytime is prime time," said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the OPA. "News and information sites dominate daytime activities on the Web. And while it’s not the most contextually matched placement, finding the decision-makers on news and information sites is a no-brainer."

One crucial finding of the study was that audience share and demographics of Web sites with content vary by time of day, while those of search engines and e-mails do not.

The percentage of people using entertainment sites was lower during work hours (11%), compared with the use of entertainment-related sites at home (15% to 19%). Use of news and information sites showed the opposite pattern, peaking during the early morning and daytime, when a majority of viewers are at work.

Michael Zammuto, CIO of Inktel Direct Corp., a Miami Lakes, Fla.-based advertising agency whose clients include BellSouth, Ford Motor Co. and Sprint Telecommunications, said marketers must use this information to their advantage.

"This is vital for b-to-b marketers because they’re getting people when they’re seeking information, as opposed to [reaching them] at home when they’re in a different mindset," he said, adding that an increasing number of his media buys are targeted to daytime. "It’s an opportunity to get the right types of decision-makers."

Solving the puzzle

A recent report presented by The Wall Street Journal Online and conducted by Internet research firm eMarketer amplified the marketing potential for "daytiming" on the Web.

The study, titled "An Elephant in the Room: The Online At-Work Audience," found that 37% of working Americans go online regularly at the office. The report also found that 60% of consumer online dollars are spent in the workplace.

Geoff Ramsey, co-founder-CEO of eMarketer, said daytiming adds a significant piece to the online advertising puzzle.

"It’s using the Internet in a more sophisticated way," he said." If you’re trying to reach people at work, it’s going to let you know who’s online and what they’re doing there."

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