NetRatings debuts Web planning service

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Start-up NetRatings today launches Online Observer, a Web audience tracking service that will help media buyers see how their banner ads are performing on a site-by-site basis.

Clients include CKS Media, Organic Online, Agency.com and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

But despite its name, NetRatings goes beyond simply rating sites based on traffic. Online Observer offers media buyers detailed information about users' activity on the Web, including not only Web sites but banners viewed and clicked on. This summer, it also will report on electronic commerce activity.

DEEPER INFORMATION ABOUT USERS

"We track everything that comes and goes from the panelists' machines," said Tim Meadows, VP-marketing at NetRatings, Milpitas, Calif. Online Observer will launch with a panel of 2,000 users, recruited online, with weekly reporting on between 1,100 and 1,500 users. It plans to build to 25,000 panelists, Mr. Meadows said.

Online Observer goes further than Web measurement services offered by Media Metrix and Relevant Knowledge, which use panels to track users' activity on Web sites, but do not report on banner activity.

Chris Charron, analyst at Forrester Research, puts NetRatings more in the online media research space, now led by @plan, whose clients include Microsoft Corp., Wired Digital, ESPN SportsZone, Giant Step and other online media buyers and sellers.

"@plan and NetRatings provide deeper information about users, not just gross traffic," said Chris Charron, analyst at Forrester Research.

WEEKLY REPORTING ON DATA

He said Online Observer's key differentiating features include weekly reporting on data and a lower price than @plan. NetRatings is priced at $12,000 per user, while @plan's service is priced at an average of $45,000 per license for unlimited users.

"Right now, a cost of $50,000 is prohibitive for many advertisers who aren't spending enough online yet to justify this kind of research expense," Mr. Charron said.

However, Mark Wright, CEO of @plan, said he views Online Observer as more of a complementary service to that of @plan, which uses a panel of 40,000 panelists, developed with The Gallup Organization, to research demographic, lifestyle and brand preferences of users across Web sites and categories.

"For advertisers, we're not delivering ratings, but research for brands to determine the role of the Web in their marketing mix," said Mr. Wright.

AUDIENCE ACTIVITY ON BANNERS

With Online Observer, media planners can see detailed information on audience activity on their Web sites and banner ads, including reach, click-through, referring site and destination site.

In addition, Online Observer provides demographic and behavioral information such as age, income and occupation for users viewing and clicking on their ads.

TEAMING WITH I/PRO, ADKNOWLEDGE

"It's important to see how different types of creative work can perform on different types of sites used in media," said Craig Gugel, VP-chief research and media services officer, Organic Online.

NetRatings also announced partnerships with I/PRO Dispatch and AdKnowledge MarketMatch Pro to integrate Online Observer data in those more comprehensive media planning services.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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