Akamai Unveils Real-Time Top News Index
Akamai is a back-end provider helping over 100 major news sites--including NBC, BBC, CNN, and Reuters--speed delivery of their content over its networks. It will not, however, be releasing specific traffic levels for any particular news source, nor is it collecting data on individual end users.
The index is designed to provide insights into socio-geographic trends by comparing, say, the attention garnered by the Michael Jackson trial versus the Scott Peterson trial, or President Reagan's funeral versus Pope John Paul's funeral.
The plainly stated purpose of the free tool--located at www.akamai.com/netusageindex--is to give people a chance to observe the Internet's pervasive role in our day-to-day lives, according to a prepared statement by Paul Sagan, Akamai's president and CEO.
While the company is not yet catering to the interests of marketers, it is in a unique position to capitalize as a tracking service if that were its intention, some industry watchers say.
"If these guys actually wanted to compete against other data tracking companies, they'd have a huge advantage because they're the ones with their hands on the data," said Jonathan Carson, president and CEO of BuzzMetrics, an online buzz marketing company.
But in its existing form, Carson added, the Net Usage Index isn't of much use to marketers because it lacks real depth and detail. Also, marketers are more interested at the moment in tracking online behavior beyond the most popular destinations--also known as the "long tail"--said Carson. "It's elusive, but most people will tell that the real magic happens in the long tail."
Bryan Wiener, president and chief operating officer of 360i, a performance marketing firm, said Akamai's index showed real technical prowess, but didn't seem like a compelling tool for marketers.
"Breaking news is a non-event for most marketers who usually plan campaigns months in advance," said Wiener. "It doesn't seem like Akamai was trying to build the perfect tracking tool here."
It is not clear whether Akamai's new service is alone in its ability to track online news in real time. A spokesman for Web research firm eMarketer suggested a number of services--including the Internet Traffic Report, Netcraft, and Alex--each of which appear to offer some sort of real-time ranking ability.