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Macromedia, WebSideStory Team For Flash Tracking

As Web tracking firm WebSideStory today unveiled the latest version of its ASP software, the company made a strong push to attract Web developers and ad agencies by touting the product's ability to monitor interactions within Macromedia Flash files.

Flash has rapidly been gaining acceptance in the world of online advertising and Web development -- the company says the technology is used on half of the 50 most trafficked Web sites, a 100 percent increase from just six to nine months ago. But its weakness has always been the difficulty of getting useful stats about sites and ads created in Flash. Add to that the fact that Flash sites don't register on search engines that use spider technology, and it's not surprising that Macromedia was eager to work with San Diego-based WebSideStory to develop products that put Flash on the map, so to speak.

"[Macromedia], of course, became very excited about this because it really opened up some doors to tracking Flash advertisements and Flash-enabled web sites," said Jay McCarthy, vice president of product strategy at WebSideStory.

Basically, the new ASP product -- dubbed HitBox Professional 2.0 -- allows developers to add tags to their Flash files, and then go to the Web to track how users are interacting with these files after they're deployed on sites. It's similar to how the product tracks HTML files. The new Flash functionality has previously been available with the Enterprise edition of WebSideStory's product, but the Professional version -- priced at $23 to start and scaling depending on usage -- is aimed at smaller businesses.

The technology allows developers to track things like clicks within a Flash ad and mouseovers -- interactions that can be correlated with things like conversions and brand awareness, according to a recent study undertaken by ad technology vendor Enliven and research firm Dynamic Logic. (Enliven also has developed technology to track Flash ads.)

WebSideStory, though, isn't the only one working with Macromedia to provide this type of information. Industry groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Rich Media Task Force and the Macromedia Flash Advertising Alliance have long been examining ways to solve the tracking problem. Although it's possible, it hasn't been very easy to get information about user interaction with Flash. It even took quite some time to develop a way to measure Flash impression and click-throughs -- very basic ad metrics -- and interactions are a step up from there.

"Previously it was just a huge coding challenge and only the most savvy Flash designers knew how to do it," said Meredith Searcy, director of product marketing for Flash.

Having real-time access to this interaction data ideally allows developers to tweak ads and Web sites to better attract consumers. If a certain ad, for example, isn't getting any clicks within the ad, it might be modified or replaced by a better ad.

"[With Flash] you're able now to get so much information in a small space," said Searcy. "And people are getting so much more out of their unit space, by using Flash, and are now taking it to the next level to get that critical tracking and analysis information."