A new player with an old name is joining the debate over ad expenditures on the Web.
Competitive Media Reporting, a leading provider of ad spending data in TV, print, radio and outdoor, today releases its first tally of Web ad spending. CMR estimates marketers spent $33.7 million to advertise on 104 Web content sites in the third quarter.
Microsoft Corp. was the top Web advertiser during the quarter, spending an estimated $1.7 million on the 104 measured sites, according to CMR.
$2.15 MIL IN REVENUE
The top 10 content sites generated an average $2.15 million each in revenue during the same period; Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.'s ZD Net ranked first.
Although CMR has data on individual publisher revenues, it says it won't reveal that information until it meets with publishers to refine its methodology.
CMR's hesitancy reflects the charged atmosphere surrounding Web ad spending. The first player to track marketer expenditures, Jupiter Communications, has been criticized by many in the industry for reporting inflated figures.
CMR acknowledges the difficulties.
"We have a dilemma. We think our numbers are as good as any in the marketplace, and we know that they're wrong," said Joe Philport, a CMR exec VP overseeing the initiative, dubbed Ad Lab. "What we have is a good approximation of spending."
Unlike TV or magazines, where it's easy to determine what's an ad and what's not, measuring Web spending is difficult because there's no standard definition of what an ad is. Additionally, a significant percentage of media is bought off rate card, making it hard to estimate expenditures.
Both CMR and Jupiter expect to spend most of 1997 refining their data collection capability and revenue estimations.
Just how accurate are CMR's findings? First off, the results aren't representative of the entire Web ad industry. Because of its roots in traditional media, CMR doesn't count ad spending on search engines and Netscape Communications Corp.'s site; it will start tracking them next year.
Jupiter last month said marketers spent an estimated $66 million on Web advertising in the third quarter, a figure that includes at least $30 million in spending on search engines and Netscape. Deducting that amount, the figures from Jupiter and CMR are nearly identical.
CMR began developing its Web ad tracking system in May 1995 in conjunction with USA Data, a New York company that designed the Ad Lab data collection system. Early this year, CMR began tracking the number of Web ad banners on magazine Web sites and gradually widened its scope to include sites from other media companies.
CMR and USA Data use software derived from Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alta Vista search engine to find advertising on the Web. The companies claim they can track not only banners but audio, video and sponsorship data.
CMR merges the occurrence data with ad rate card information from the sites to determine spending levels. All the data, including electronic storyboards showing what the ads look like, will be available to subscribers of the Ad Lab service on a password-protected Web site.
Because Ad Lab is still technically an experiment, CMR will charge $1,500 to $5,000 for an annual subscription next year. Information about the service is available on USA Data's site.
Eventually, CMR hopes to offer the ability to cross-tabulate ad spending across all measured media.
"What I hope will happen is that Ad Lab will disappear by the end of 1997 and be replaced with a strong competitive tracking service on the Internet," Mr. Philport said.
Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.