The service, called Nielsen/NetRatings, will give advertisers and agencies an in-depth look at online campaigns, with the ability to track not only usage data on banners and other ads, but examine demographics and other audience information.
"This service represents a breakthrough in Internet audience measurement," said Tim Meadows, VP-marketing at NetRatings, Milpitas, Calif.
NetRatings, which last year launched its Online Observer Web audience tracking service, has a head start in delivering detailed information about online campaigns, such as tracking banner performance, using a panel method.
And Nielsen, through its longtime experience providing TV ratings information, is well poised to enter the Internet arena by bringing traditional research methodology to the NetRatings service, say analysts.
CONVERTING A SKEPTIC
The two companies announced a partnership in October, but industry observers have not had a clear sense of the resulting service.
"I have historically been a skeptic about their ability to dislodge [Web audience measurement leader] Media Metrix, but the [demonstration] they showed me made me change my mind," said Jim Nail, senior analyst, Forrester Research. "I think they have a real shot."
Mr. Nail said Media Metrix, which merged with competitor RelevantKnowledge in October, has built strong relationships with advertisers and agencies for its audience tracking service, which also uses a panel approach. "Media Metrix has pretty firmly established itself top-of-mind as the lead source for traffic information on the Web," said Mr. Nail. "They took out a major challenger [with the RelevantKnowledge merger], and shored up where they were weak, which was online reporting."
But Mr. Nail said the Nielsen/NetRatings service has a competitive advantage with the depth of information it will provide about online campaigns. "That's what blew me away in the demo."
Using the service, advertisers and agencies will be able to track the performance of Web ads by site, total impressions, click-throughs and other data, such as demographic information per ad on a site.
"Typically when you think of audience measurement, you think of who visits sites," said Mr. Meadows of NetRatings.
However, "The same two people looking at a Yahoo! page will see two different ads." That's where NetRatings' in-depth information will give advertisers the kind of data they need to determine campaign effectiveness, he added.
With the new service, NetRatings will drop its existing Web-recruited panel, which should ease the concern of critics who argue that online recruiting is biased. Instead, it will use random-digit-dial recruiting, which is considered a more valid sampling method. So far, the panel has 9,000 participants.