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comScore, CMR Link Up

Online audience metrics firm comScore Networks gains a major new partner -- and new support for its methodology -- under a new deal with New York-based CMR.

CMR, a Taylor Nelson Sofres company formerly known as Competitive Media Reporting, tracks brands' online and offline advertising spending and placements. Under the new agreement, CMR said it would incorporate parts of Reston, Va.-based comScore's Internet audience measurement service, netScore, into its own system, AdNetTrackUS.

comScore's netScore service is based on a global panel of 1.5 million Internet users, which is several times larger than the combined panel of larger rivals Jupiter Media Metrix and NetRatings, which last week agreed to merge.

The vast size of comScore's panel has contributed to ongoing disputes about methodology among the major players in online audience measurement. comScore's rivals, for instance, charge that its large panel isn't representative of a true sample because the company offers users incentives, such as an Internet accelerator, to join. But comScore contends that its methods produce accurate results because it uses a smaller calibration panel to weed out any statistical inaccuracy created by the incentives.

Meanwhile, Jupiter and NetRatings themselves aren't free from controversy over methodology, routinely reporting considerably different traffic figures. For the month of August, for instance, NetRatings ranked Yahoo!, MSN and AOL Time Warner as the top three sites in order by unique visitors. In its ratings for the same month, Jupiter had it exactly the other way around.

In this context, CMR's choice of comScore would seem to speak highly for the measurement company, and its approach to Internet audience tracking.

"After extensive review, we concluded that comScore is simply the most accurate and complete source of Internet usage metrics," said CMR president and chief executive David Peeler. "CMR is committed to providing the broadest and most precise monitoring of advertising for the Internet. It was clear to us that combining the strengths of both services would provide even greater benefit to our clients."

Meanwhile, as CMR begins selling netScore research to its ad agency clients, that support could prove critical for comScore -- as NetRatings and Jupiter aim to become the dominant force in the market for audience research services.

"Through the deep relationships CMR has built with its clients nationwide, netScore will realize an unprecedented opportunity for adoption and growth," said comScore president and chief executive Magid Abraham. "With netScore as part of its infrastructure, CMR's renowned AdNetTrack service will offer clients increased accuracy and value."

CMR and comScore said they would look at additional joint projects in the future, beginning with the development of a single, Web-based reporting platform for AdNetTrackUS and netScore.

"The door is wide open to countless other opportunities for CMR and comScore to develop exciting new capabilities across media and sales channels," Abraham said.