DoubleClick Forms Online Research and Measurement DivisionDoubleClick Inc. today plans to introduce Diameter, a new division specializing in online research and measurement, in an effort to compete head on with Jupiter Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings.
The new division grows out of DoubleClick's recent acquisition of @plan, a Web media research and analytics firm, and its partnership with comScore, an online audience research company. @plan, which has more than 550 clients, provides media buyers with demographic and research data on visitors to a number of leading Web sites and portals, including CNN, Ask Jeeves, Excite@Home, Microsoft and eBay.
The first product to come out of the DoubleClick/comScore partnership was netScore, which the companies announced last month. The service is based on comScore's research panel of more than 1.5 million opt-in names. In comparison, Media Metrix has about 60,000 participants in its U.S. panel, while Nielsen//NetRatings uses an international panel of 220,000.
Data such as who is visiting a site, how long they stay and how much money they spend at a site can be ascertained using netScore. The service also will allow DoubleClick to offer clients an accurate measure of some segments that have been beyond the reach of measurement firms, such as whether people are visiting a site from home, work or school. It also can track international usage.
DoubleClick said Diameter will provide a full suite of research tools offering audience measurement, advertising effectiveness and media intelligence services. The new DoubleClick division also will provide pre-campaign and post-campaign analysis tools to measure purchasing patterns and online behavior.
"We're providing tools for marketers so they can make informed decisions online," explained Douglas Knopper, Diameter's vice president and general manager. "We're looking to initially target publishers, advertisers and agencies with Diameter."
DoubleClick said Diameter will offer comScore's traffic and traffic/buying services, as well as @plan E-Commerce and @plan Advertising from its @plan unit.
Its audience measurement tools, netScore Traffic and netScore Traffic and Buying, provide fundamental demographic data based on comScore's 1.5 million opt-in names. The services continually capture Web traffic and purchase data from home, school, work and international computers -- something DoubleClick claims no one else can accomplish.
But exactly how audience size is measured is the cause of some controversy in the industry.
Last September, online tabloid reporter Matt Drudge posted an article on his Drudge Report Web site accusing Jupiter Media Metrix of fudging clients' numbers. The report was prompted by a press release from MSNBC.com claiming that, according to Media Metrix, MSNBC.com's traffic for July ranked No. 1, ahead of CNN.com, and that it received a record-breaking 2.4 million unique visitors on July 21 -- the day the bodies of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were recovered.
"[The figure was] so fantastic it represents an audience of more than 10 times that of the average viewership on MSNBC TV!" the Drudge Report said. During prime-time blocks on MSNBC TV in July, audience levels averaged slightly more than 220,000 viewers, according to A.C. Nielsen.
However, MSNBC.com executives pointed out at the time that Nielsen's television ratings are an audience estimate at a specific time, while Web site ratings are an estimate of the number of people who logged on to the site during an entire day and, therefore, are not comparable.
Drudge pointed out that Media Metrix misses large chunks of the online population.
"There's no way of knowing if I have, say, 3 million readers in Israel," he said.
Neither Media Metrix nor its competitor, Nielsen//NetRatings, claims to measure visits from Israel, mainly because not enough people who buy advertising care how many Israeli Internet surfers there are, and in order to measure for them, a panel must be set up beforehand.
But both ratings companies are realizing that missing foreign visitors is becoming a larger issue.
"We want to be able to go to the far ends of the earth," said Maria Bumatay, a spokeswoman for Nielsen//NetRatings. She noted that while the company's main coverage area includes North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, it also provides data for South America and is continually expanding its reach.
"We're adding countries every quarter," she said.