March 10, 2003 12:29 PM PST

Traffic tools track Web's prime time

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Two Web researchers are starting to measure Internet site traffic and audiences by time of day, moves that cater to online publishers' push to win over traditional advertisers.

Nielsen/NetRatings and ComScore Media Metrix, rival Web analysis firms, introduced on Monday products designed to let Web publishers and advertisers find out which types of people are visiting popular Web sites during specific periods of the day, or "dayparts." For example, the tools could show that the audience of a particular financial Web site largely consists of males aged 25 to 35 during the morning hours on the East Coast. Advertisers could then use that data to tailor a message to that demographic.

That type of ad targeting is common in traditional media such as broadcast television and radio, in which marketers pay more to reach a desirable audience at certain times of the day--such as during television's evening prime time. By selling dayparts, Internet publishers make it easier for traditional advertisers to understand how Web advertising fits into their overall marketing campaigns.

"'Dayparting' is becoming more important if you want to reach different audiences better, by understanding when they're likely to be online and on certain sites," said Peter Daboll, president of ComScore Media Metrix. "We felt the Net wasn't on (an) equal footing with other media on basic metrics."

A handful of Web sites, including America Online, New York Times Digital and CBS MarketWatch, have already started to sell advertisers space on their pages during certain times of the day. CBS MarketWatch, for example, has previously sold ad space for Budweiser at the end of the workday when its audience--typically males working in finance--is headed out for a beer.

Late last year, with the introduction of its AOL 8.0 online service, AOL started selling advertisers access to audiences with rates based on peak viewing times. The effort is meant to appeal to advertisers that are more inclined to spend money on traditional media than online.

David Smith, president of interactive ad agency Mediasmith, said that the analysis tools should improve the buying process for media planners.

"Reporting dayparts in a standardized way will only increase the push by advertisers to buy this way," he said.


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