But depending on what's being measured, from ad spending to the size of the e-commerce market, the numbers can be all over the board.
To help make sense of all this data, Advertising Age has teamed up with eMarketer, a New York-based Internet data aggregation company that was founded last year, to present and sell "The eAdvertising Report," an ongoing series of reports.
AS MANY SOURCES AS POSSIBLE
Beginning this week with the charts on this page, Ad Age periodically will publish data from the "The eAdvertising Report."
EMarketer's approach is to publish all the comparative data from as many research sources as possible and then explain the different methods used to arrive at those numbers. In addition, it crunches all the data with its own algorithms to present its own projections.
"The more numbers you look at from more different sources, the more accurate your picture of the Internet is going to be," said Geoffrey Ramsey, statsmaster at eMarketer.
The numbers are often different, he notes, because companies have different methodologies for gathering data and calculating results. Some organizations, such as the Internet Advertising Bureau, use supply side data from Web sites.
Other research companies use demand-side data, looking at factors such as average spending per consumer, to extrapolate market size.
EMarketer takes data from both sides, compares them and then applies its own analysis, such as factoring in U.S. census data and projections for online growth, Mr. Ramsey said.
"We have all these multiple data points, and at first [the numbers] don't necessarily agree," he said. "But after adjusting them, you start to see a convergence, where all the data points start to come together."
Using this approach, eMarketer makes its own projections that online ad spending will reach $1.5 billion in 1998, growing to a projected $8.9 billion in 2002.
For its calculations, it used independent data from multiple research companies, including ActiveMedia, Burst!, Forrester, Jupiter and others. An accompanying chart shows variances in each research organization's projections for 1998 spending.
For Ad Age, one of the great values of the report is the ability to have all major Internet data available for comparison in one place.
More information on the report is available at the eMarketer site