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.”

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