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Web users surfed to an average of 22 different sites in January, according to a nationwide study of 1,000 people conducted by NPD Group's PC Meter Service. And while checking out the sites, users typically looked at an average of 3.7 pages per domain.

Similar to TV meters, the PC meter tracks what goes on inside a PC (including software programs, online services, Web usage) as well as outside the PC (including users' age and gender).

"PC Meter brings a new perspective to tracking Web sites," said Steve Coffey, VP-general manager of PC Meter Service. "We measure the behavior of the individual, not the behavior of the site."


Launched last fall with just 500 PC-owning households, NPD expects to have 4,000 participating in its studies by April and up to 10,000 households nationwide by July.

Because it tracks individual users who surf the Web, PC Meter can count unduplicated audience, unlike the site-centric measurement services, which can't differentiate among users.

According to the most recent PC Meter study, the top 10 Web sites that received the most unduplicated traffic in January are: America Online, WebCrawler, Netscape, Yahoo, InfoSeek, Prodigy, CompuServe, University of Michigan, PrimeNet and the Well. No marketers made the Top 50 list, although USA Today was ranked.

Commercial online services like AOL enjoyed heavy Web traffic because many users access the Web through their browsers.

"NPD's PC Meter takes its research from the consumer's point of view," said Jayne Z. Spittler, senior VP-director of media research at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, who has subscribed to the PC Meter service since last fall.

"The site-centric programming is useful for content and usage, but it's important to have a combination of research addressing interactive media."


Agencies, media companies and marketers pay between $50,000 and $100,000 for an annual subscription to NPD's PC Meter. The service currently touts about 25 clients, including J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, and a large media conglomerate.

"NPD is on the right track, but it remains to be seen if such a small sample size can handle the fragmentation that exists in Web marketing arena," said Lynn Bolger, associate director of True North Technologies.

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