But unlike conventional broadcast radio ratings, which rely on written diaries filled out by samples of radio listeners, Webcast Metrics claims to be far more accurate, generating reports from actual user data, not samples.
The service, which has been operational for two months, has been gradually rolling out Internet stations prior to its official launch.
Webcast Metrics will have to stand in the face of Arbitron's failed MeasureCast, a tool the research firm launched in November of 2002 and ceased to use in April of this year, as it was simply unprofitable. But Webcast Metrics utilizes a different method than Arbitron. While Arbitron served strictly as a research supplier, Net Radio Sales represents ad sales for a large network of independent Internet radio stations. On an average weekday quarter hour, Net Radio claims to reach about 80,000 listeners, or 20 percent of the estimated total Internet radio audience in the United States. They hope to use Webcast Metrics as an additional tool to further their advertising reach.
"Internet radio has the ability to provide real data to advertisers," says Jennifer Lane, the president of Net Radio Sales. "That's the significant difference between broadcast and Internet radio. There is no need for estimates, and advertisers we've met with have reacted really positively."
But while Webcast Metrics bills itself as an independent, third-party measurement provider, its involvement with radio advertising sales is likely to raise eyebrows on Madison Avenue, which is often skeptical about research that comes from organizations that also sell advertising inventory.
Nonetheless, Net Radio Sales' Lane says that Arbitron's departure from the market made it necessary for someone to step forward with a new service. "There hasn't been audience data available," she says, adding that the Webcast Metrics data "raises the level of accountability that Internet radio can offer to advertisers. We think that is significant. We think it will revolutionize the industry in terms of accountability and help the industry to sell more advertising."