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Jupiter Looks to Unseat @plan, Others

In a bid to glean new business from clients, embattled online researcher Jupiter Media Metrix is planning a foray into hotly competitive turf with an upcoming media planning tool aimed at challenging a host of rivals, including industry leader DoubleClick's @plan unit.

Late next month, New York-based Jupiter will take the wraps off its entry into the Web media planning services arena, with a product called Audience Insite Measures tool, or AiM.

It's a gutsy move, considering that a number of industry heavyweights already have entrenched planning data practices. Most notably, fellow Alley firm DoubleClick spent about $91 million in 2000 to buy @plan, the industry leader in online media planning research.

Other players also have sizable presences in the field, like agency-turned-technology provider Avenue A. Jupiter rival (and one-time suitor) Nielsen//NetRatings has its PRIZM practice, developed in partnership with marketing information firm Claritas, also owned by Nielsen parent VNU.

Media planners use data from these products to locate online outlets suited to maximize their buy's effectiveness. Data on one site or demographic/lifestyle group can be compared to another, allowing advertisers to find the best site to reach, say, male snowboarders who make online purchases.

Like a number of its rivals, Jupiter also is targeting AiM toward publishers, as a way for them to better understand visitors and to target advertising sales efforts more effectively.

What Jupiter is hoping differentiates AiM from a number of competing products is its ability to integrate user clickstream data -- gleaned from its 60,000-member panel -- into demographic and financial information. Most of its rivals (save Avenue A) rely on surveys to develop their data.

"What you get is behavioral data with respect to people's surfing habits, married to demographic and attitudinal data and things like that," said Aldino Gobbi, director of Jupiter's international product group. "The issue with any other kind of approach is that we felt recall is a bit tough for such a large environment like the Internet, and obviously, actual behavioral data we feel is a lot more accurate and dependable, when a lot of the agencies and advertisers are looking where to go with their advertisements."

Gobbi added that he believed using clickstream data would give Jupiter the ability to easily detect increasingly popular sites to add to its database, while using surveys could potentially ignore these.

Still, the Jupiter system does have some shortcoming with regard to competing systems, such as its lack of automated RFP systems. And Gobbi conceded that surveys avoid the risk of limiting data collection to a set panel, though he said this was outweighed by the fact that Jupiter's panel can provide stats like unique visitors.

Jupiter's move continues its efforts at making inroads into new markets, using a host of technology offerings that expand on its sample-based audience and ad campaign tracking practices (themselves a product of the 2000 merger between consultancy Jupiter Communications and Media Metrix).

In September, the company launched its site traffic tracking and measurement ASP, Site Measurement, which embeds pages with code that allows publishers to track users' activity on their site. The product came about though a reselling deal with Purchase, N.Y.-based LiveTechnology.

Additionally, Jupiter last week debuted Campaign Analysis, an agency- and advertiser-focused service that aims to provide third-party metrics on online ad campaigns' effectiveness, including more accurate numbers for impressions served (long a bone of contention among advertisers' ad servers and publishers).

While opening Jupiter to new markets and potential cross-selling with its research and panel-based demographic data businesses, such efforts also put Jupiter into competition with a slew of established rivals. Whether the moves will pay off in time to save the troubled firm remains uncertain, however.

The firm announced on Tuesday that at its current $10.9 million burn rate, it was unlikely to have enough cash to survive the breakup of its $72.1 million merger with Milpitas, Calif.-based NetRatings, which included a loan to Jupiter, and which was nixed by federal regulators.

Jupiter also said it had hired investment bankers Roberson Stephens to help it find potential investors and to pursue other strategic opportunities, which spokespeople have said could include sales of certain business units.

As of January, Jupiter had about $16 million in cash, with $6.6 million also available though letters of credits, currently being used as lease collateral.