OPA Defines Online Dayparts

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) yesterday released the third in a series of white papers intended to provide marketers with a better understanding of Internet usage and the role of various metrics in evaluating a site's advertising potential. The subject? Dayparts.

"Daypart targeting on the Internet has been proliferating, but until now, there has been no analysis of where the natural breaks in the dayparts occur," said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the OPA. "This study represents the first such analysis."

Using data from Nielsen//NetRatings, the paper concludes that five distinct dayparts exist on the Internet: Early Morning (M-F, 6am-8am), Daytime (M-F, 8am-5pm), Evening (M-F, 5pm-11pm), Late Night (M-F, 11pm-6am), and Weekends (Sat-Sun, all day).

The study confirmed that Daytime is the largest daypart (measured in terms of both total audience and total usage minutes), followed by Evenings and Weekends.

Research shows that affluent, working people between the ages of 25-54 make up a larger share of the Daytime audience than any other daypart, while children under the age of 18 are three times more likely to be reached during the Evening and Weekend dayparts.

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"Media planners can improve the efficiency of their ad buys by weighting them toward those dayparts during which their target audiences predominate," said Zimbalist.

In addition, an examination of usage by site category found that Internet users seek out different types of sites depending on the daypart. Notably, Internet utilities, such as search engines/portals, e-mail and chat showed little variation in usage or audience demographics by daypart, whereas content sites exhibited distinct differences in usage and demographics by time of day.

"This finding - that the Internet Utilities display little variation in relative usage levels or demographics by daypart - in marked contrast to Content sites, helps to further elucidate that the consumption of online content by consumers is a unique activity separate and distinct from use of the medium for communication and search," said Zimbalist. "The level of engagement and affinity that consumers have for content sites provides marketers with unique opportunities to communicate with their prospects and customers."

Usage at Entertainment sites was significantly less during dayparts dominated by Work usage (11%), compared to those dominated by Home usage (15-19%). Usage of News & Information sites showed the opposite pattern, peaking during the Early Morning and Daytime, when a majority of usage is from work.

Further analysis shows that certain demographics are easier to reach on particular types of sites during specific dayparts. For example, during Early Morning, 51% of usage of News & Information sites is from Males 25-54, though the demographic represents only 41% of total usage for the daypart.

"Understanding Internet dayparts completes one more piece of the puzzle, as marketers increasingly demand apples-to-apples comparisons between offline and online media," said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of client analytics at Nielsen//NetRatings. "This information will help planners more effectively carve out media buys to match a desired audience when and where they are online."

Peter Naylor, VP/GM of Sales at the iVillage Network, agrees. He says iVillage already accommodates advertisers daypart targeting requests and "because dayparting is a concept traditional marketers understand, we hope this research results in an increased investment in digital media." He adds, "if that's the case, then all digital publishers should consider daypart targeting to one degree or another."

The study was based on U.S. Internet usage in September 2002 from Nielsen//NetRatings. Hourly usage data for all 30 days in September was segmented by gender/age, household income and usage location (home versus work), as well as by site category.

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