What About the Future of Web Research?

How will NetRatings acquisition of Jupiter Media Metrix transform Internet audience research and measurement?

It's an important question, since measurement is such a key component of online advertising, often the reason advertisers go online in the first place.

The companies both offer detailed reports on Web usage that agencies, advertisers and publishers use to plan their advertising or enhance their sites for advertisers. Combining them offers the opportunity for a better product. Tim Meadows, NetRatings executive vice president of products and services, speaks of a "broader array of service offerings," without being specific, possibly because the companies have yet to determine what broader services they can offer. "We'll take the best features from each service and marry them together so customers get a broader suite of capabilities," he says, another remark that lacks specifics as to what the new company, to be called NetRatings, will actually offer.

"It's two companies coming together with overlapping services so the management team will be looking at the different assets and making sure we're applying the best operations," says Susan Hickey, director of investor relations at Jupiter Media Metrix.

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While the companies offer overlapping services, as Hickey says, their research methods differ slightly, making them somewhat distinct. NetRatings places monitors in computer users’ homes, similar to the way A.C. Nielsen measures television audiences (VNU, the Dutch publishing firm, owns A.C. Nielsen and the majority of NetRatings). Joanna Stevens, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, which buys research from both companies, says NetRatings offers "the widest global coverage," while Jupiter offers "more narrowly focused custom reports that compare Yahoo with its competitors on a property level."

MediaPost was eager to speak with the companies’ customers to gauge their feelings about the acquisition and the changes in Internet research that may result. Stevens says Yahoo "looks forward to continuing to work with them. Each has its own strengths and the acquisition will bring together a best of breed." She also says the acquisition will lead to "improved Internet measurement standards," an important development if it occurs.

Kevin Howard, media director at Avenue A in NYC, an interactive agency, doesn't completely share Stevens' positive views. He says the acquisition is "a good thing as far as us not having to buy two different engines to get the same results." But he also says, "Competition spurred innovation and without it, I don't know what the iteration of the product will be. There were two top services for the same thing, but the competition was good."

The question then becomes, will the acquisition lead to a better product or a stagnant one? Only time will tell.

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