Nielsen-of-the-Net wannabe PC Meter is remaking itself with a new name - Media Metrix - a new business plan, and a push to address complaints about how it compiles its stats, which for better for worse are the most often cited among Web publishers.
"This is a really good sign," says Donna Hoffman, management professor at Vanderbilt University and a vocal critic of PC Meter in the past. "It suggests that the Net measurement industry is about to grow up and get serious."
Today's Top 5 Stories
- More Robot Grunts Ready for Duty
- Costly Cloning Isn't a Cure-All
- Snake Eater a Slithering Success
- Laserpod: Groovy Goes Modern
- Mutating Bots May Save Lives
- Wired News RSS Feeds
Criticisms of PC meter have centered on its sample pool, which many believed was too small (a mere 10,000 people), too narrow (measuring only PC users who surfed from home), and too reliant on a ranking system out of touch with the Net's structure. Its clients, hungry for ad dollars, were peeved that the data they paid for was public and potentially being used against them.
The company has tried to address complaints one by one. In March, it quietly stopped releasing data to the public, offering only the top five or ten trafficked sites on request. Last week, PC Meter said it was also tracking PC users in the workplace, as well as surfers using Macintoshes.
Now, PC Meter is considering expanding its audience sample size. "It's a pretty significant investment so we have to be judicious about expansion," Bruce Ryon, PC Meter's vice president of technology business, said Monday.
As the Media Metrix name-change suggests, the company is also expanding from the PC world into other interactive access markets like WebTV, Intercast, and videogames.
Such aggressive measures will be necessary in the ever-competitive market for tracking eyeballs on the Web. RelevantKnowledge uses similar client-side software to track audience surfing habits, à la Nielsen. Others such as I/Pro and NetCount use server-side tools to track individual site traffic. Although PC Meter, with some 100 clients, is poised near the top, the varying types of bean-counting have fomented debates among Web sites.
"It's the grist of the mill - my stats versus your stats, a battle for statistics," says Emily Green, analyst with Forester Research. "There's going to be some settling in which technology is relevant."
But overall, as Hoffman points out, no one has figured out exactly what those relevant statistics are, so companies are still focusing on being Number One in the numbers game or closely examining individual site statistics. Instead, they should be pairing in-depth demographic profiles with general Internet rating overviews for an overall picture of consumer behavior online.
"That mentality that bigger is better and an emphasis on numbers was keeping the industry focused on numbers-based business models to the detriment of the industry. I see no sign that [PC Meter is] not going to do that, but it seems they aren't going to emphasize it," says Hoffman. "They're all good developments - now let's see how they use them."
Related Wired Links:
Battle of the 'Nielsen of the Web' Wannabes
Finding a Definitive Way to Count an Audience
Have a comment on this article? Send it
More stories written by Janelle Brown