Nielsen will provide its seal of approval, assuring HotWired clients the online magazine (http://www.hotwired.com) has developed sophisticated technology and does a good job of tracking usage. The Nielsen name will appear on HotWired's weekly reports to advertisers.
The partnership marks a first for both companies-Nielsen's first step into online measurement and HotWired's first outside tracking deal.
"We've talked with a lot of people, but Nielsen has the best brand name in the business," said Rick Boyce, HotWired's advertising director. "They carry more clout than other services and consumers and businesses trust them."
Down the road, Nielsen plans to independently monitor HotWired's traffic from its own remote servers and launch an Internet measurement service for agencies and advertisers.
"Hopefully, we'll monitor traffic at lots of commercial Web sites," said Tom DuBois, director of business strategies at Nielsen. "We're developing two measurement models: subscription-based and non-subscription-based."
HotWired has more than 200,000 registered members and gets about 40,000 visitors each week. A four-week advertising sponsorship costs $15,000.
"At this point, Nielsen hasn't added much to the party because HotWired already does a great job," said John Nardone, director of consumer products marketing at Modem Media, Westport, Conn., agency for HotWired advertisers AT&T and Coors Brewing Co.'s Zima. "Overall, there may be a role for a third party to authenticate measurement, although it's not essential in this medium because traffic is trackable by advertisers."
Still, 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.
Bill Harvey, president-CEO of consultancy Next Century Media, New Paltz, N.Y., which is working with CASIE on such a measurement system, said there is a strong need for research and standards to keep online publishers from providing inflated or meaningless site traffic reports.
"The medium is the measurement to some extent," he said. "Imagine if the broadcast networks had separate reports and not a big-picture report like Nielsen. It'd be chaos. And that's what interactive media will be without an aggregate that can view online as a whole."
Of the Nielsen-HotWired alliance, Mr. Harvey said, "Someone had to go first and be audited by a third party. It's great to see HotWired taking leadership."
New tracking services like Internet Profiles Corp.'s I/Count, Delahaye Group's NetBench and Digital Planet's NetCount are emerging to measure online traffic and compete with traditional research providers like Nielsen and Arbitron.
Nielsen has also formed an alliance with Yankelovich Partners and ASI Market Research called ANYwhere Online to develop a range of research services for measuring online media.
"The nature of the technology and the way information is gathered will change dramatically in the next year," said Modem's Mr. Nardone. "There'll be a whole new slew of players to work with by then."