Online Auditing Attracts Many Contenders
Manly, Lorne, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management
As advertisers begin to clamor for accurate and independent tallies of World Wide Web site usage, both upstart and veteran audit surveyors are jockeying to become the leading provider of third-party data.
Internet Profiles Corp. (I/PRO) has the early edge in this fiedgling field. WebTrak, Digital Planet Corp.'s NetCount, and Next Century Media all plan to offer rival products in the coming months. Nielsen Media Research already audits HotWired and is readying a full software package that will allow both measuring and marketing analysis. The Audit Bureau of Circulations and BPA International are still in the research-and-development phase. And some of these competitors may soon become allies.
"It's going to be a horse race, not on a neat racetrack like Saratoga, but more like a free-for-all on a steeplechase course," says Richard Fusco, vice president of marketing and business development at Next Century, in New Paltz, New York.
In late July, San Francisco-based I/PRO became the first to offer a software program that could generate the equivalent of ABC's pinksheets. The I/Audit reports include the number of user-sessions per month that a Web site attracts; the length of those visits; the popularity of specific files; and a breakdown of visits by state, country and organization. A one-time report costs $5,000, quarterly reports are $3,000 each, and monthly reports run $1,500. Time Inc.'s Pathfinder, CMP Publications' TechWeb, Ziff-Davis Interactive, Playboy Enterprises, Yahoo!, Netscape Communications and Individual Inc. are the first to sign up.
The price of admission
Although publishers welcome the arrival of verified data, some are balking at I/PRO's prices. "It's a little bit expensive, especially for an initial statement," says one client. Yet bigger players worry that a change in pricing could discriminate against their sites. "If pricing is based on volume, [a high-traffic site like Playboy's] gets screwed," says Eileen Kent, vice president of new media for the title. …