Tracking 'Internet Universe': NetRatings looks beyond URL

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In a bid to offer marketers, portals and digital media planners a more powerful tool to analyze a wide spectrum of consumer Internet behavior, Nielsen/ NetRatings today launches the Digital Media Universe, a system to track the use of all online media applications including instant messaging and media players. Previously, Nielsen/NetRatings was only able to measure Web activity via browser and URL activity.

In the works for more than a year, the enhancement to Nielsen's standard audience measurement service will offer marketers a much wider lens with which to track and analyze all types of Web use. The inclusion of the Digital Media Universe component in Nielsen/NetRatings's widely-used measurement product wil help marketers in planning online brand, loyalty, and acquisition programs.

"Now, what they're including is the Internet universe ... it's not just about Web sites, it's about all online activities," said Rande Price, VP-market research, AOL Time Warner's America Online. The move is significant for marketers that will now be able to analyze Internet media on a more level playing field, Ms. Price said."It's a tool to look at one total pie."

no extra cost

The Digital Media Universe, rolling out this quarter, will be offered at no extra cost to marketers and agencies. It will track a diverse constellation of online applications: Internet Service Provider applications such as those that are accessed via Earthlink, Juno and NetZero; wireless content systems such as AvantGo; Web phone vendors like CallWave and BuzzMe; weather, news and sports applications that sit on toolbars; game sites and shopping assistants. The tool will also be able to track proprietary services such as AOL and MSN and the individual channels that reside on those services.

"We were not able to track these applications before," said Tamara Gaffney, director of product management for audience measurement, NetRatings. Marketers looking to bond with the heaviest users of these Web applications, kids and young adults, need to be able to track how they are using them. "[The applications] offer a more perpetual environment ... you can get in front of someone for a longer period of time," Ms. Gaffney said. "It's a different way of using advertising, but its reach and frequency dynamics are very impressive."

According to preliminary research by NetRatings, the percentage of people who use an Internet application but don't generate a URL or activate a Web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape is close to 15%. Instant messaging, one of the most popular Web applications engaged 51.5 million people in August, according to NetRatings.

Fast Facts

What: Nielsen/NetRatings Digital Media Universe

Purpose: Provide marketers with a tool to track all online media use, including non-Web browser applications

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