Like HotWired and Starwave, c/net, a site that covers computer and technology news and has about 100,000 registered users, is attempting to measure Web traffic.
C/net's software allows advertisers to chart traffic to their own Web sites, as well as compare it with the average traffic on the c/net's other advertiser sites. "The life of creative on our site is about a month, and it's going to get shorter," said c/net CEO Halsey Minor. "If your ad sits for a month and suddenly is getting a 2% response rate when everyone else's is getting more, you know it's time to refresh it."
The software can also measure activity on c/net advertisements seen by users coming from different servers, like Prodigy or America Online, Mr. Minor said. Often this type of contact cannot be accurately tracked because commercial services can "cache," or store a visited Web site on their own servers after a user visits the site. Each time during that online session the visit is then recorded on the service's server, not that of the specific site.
"If they can solve the problem of commercial online providers cacheing ads, the advertisers will go wild," said Adam Schoenfeld, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, New York.
C/net is offering a free one-month trial to its charter cable advertisers and its charter Web advertisers: Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft Corp., MCI Communications Corp., Intel Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. October 1, the site opens to all marketers, and charter advertisers must pay.
The service developed an advertising price unit that Lou Otremba, the company's exec VP of network sales, has coined a "CAD"-or a confirmed advertisement delivery-that tracks the number of times an ad is viewed. Ads are delivered in monthly increments of 200,000, 400,000, or 600,000 CADs, with each 200,000 costing $15,000.
HotWired also developed its own tracking software and charges $15,000 for a four-week sponsorship, but it has partnered with Nielsen Media Research to increase advertiser trust in its online tracking efforts.
"We believe it's essential to have a third party audit this," said Mr. Minor. "When one [that] we can work with is available, we will audit from both," he said.
In fact, the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information and Entertainment-a joint venture of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers-has called for third-party audience measurement for online ventures. Arbitron New Media, Nielsen, Audit Bureau of Circulation, Internet Profiles Corp. and Digital Planet are all working on tracking systems.
"I would expect that we're going to get piecemeal solutions to all these small problems first and then some shakeout before a standard is in place," said Mr. Schoenfeld.