The US advertising industry is drawing up guidelines for creating on-line Internet audience ratings like those for television and newspapers, reports Reuters. In an effort to install procedures for measuring on-line audiences, the committee responsible for most of the $150,000m US advertising market, the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment, will provide objective guidelines for interactive media research and draw up ratings like the Nielsen ratings in television and the Audit Bureau of Circulation for magazines and newspapers. The group, backed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, will monitor private researchers as they develop standard ratings. The group’s effort was sparked by the head of the world’s largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble Corp, which who challenged them at a trade meeting two years ago to get going in new media. Since that appeal was made, the media landscape has been altered dramatically. Then, interactive television was considered to be the next big frontier, and on-line was a niche market. But with dramatic growth of on-line services and the infrastructure to support them, advertisers are keen to change gears. While consumers have flocked to the on-line market, advertisers are cautious because there is no reliable feedback system in place to measure who is looking at what, when and for how long. On-line advertising represents $100m to $200m a year at most, research firms estimate, but revenues are already doubling annually and promise to deliver strong demographics, meaning big-spending high-income customers. Members of the coalition are looking for innovators to invent the technology. At this early stage, it’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs to say ‘We can measure this medium’, said Mike Naples of the Advertising Research Foundation, a member of the coalition. A number of private companies have joined the competition to create the ‘Nielsen ratings’ for the on-line world.
Webtrack, NetCount and Internet Profiles are among the early leaders. Bigger names have entered the fray, with Dun & Bradstreet’s Nielsen unit, leader in television ratings, joining Internet Profiles in a joint venture. The group will not endorse any one private company but will monitor their rating systems and create standards of perforance. The same advertising groups created the Audit Bureau of Circulation, a self-policing body that ensures the accuracy of magazine and newspaper circulation, 50 years ago. Publications that enlist with the bureau submit to auditing and other industry scrutiny. Reliable circulation figures helped the magazine industry establish itself as a mass medium for national advertisers. The on-line industry and the advertisers waiting for it now hope that the same will happen to their business.