Measuring an Exploding Digital Media Universe

Web audience measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings is expanding its scope of online consumer research in an effort to keep advertisers abreast of an exploding universe of digital media devices.

Instant messaging, Web phones, media players, file-sharing services and online games are just a few of the digital media applications that will be included in the newly-announced report, called Digital Media Universe. It will also include expanded research tracking consumer behavior within AOL’s proprietary channels as well as channels within Microsoft’s MSN service.

The New York-based Nielsen//NetRatings said the expanded service would build
on its current Web-based traffic research on Internet applications and browser
channel audience data.

A spokesperson for Nielsen//NetRatings said the goal of the expanded scope of the AOL research is to give Web publishers a comparison of how AOL’s 30 million-plus subscribers use the different channels beyond which URLs they visited. Same with MSN.

The new research comes amid exploding popularity and usage of a range of new
digital media devices, especially instant messaging platforms that often
outstrip session times with Web browsers. The firm said the measurement
would increase coverage of the number of people who use Internet
applications residing on the desktop, but do not use the Web. The goal is to help marketers and advertisers reach and market to a growing audience with “persistent” online connections.

Just as the Nielsen’s television audience ratings service eventually
expanded beyond the original networks to include the cable broadcasting
industry, so too is the online measurement division working to keep pace
with measuring digital media audiences.

With media players such as Apple’s QuickTime, RealNetworks’ Real and Microsoft’s Windows player, for example, the service
plans to track which formats are in the most use, for how
long each day, and what kind of content is popular with them.

The new research results, aimed at helping advertisers choose their
interactive media buys with even more granularity, are expected to be
released during the fourth quarter of this year.

Other digital media the product plans to measure include wireless content
systems such as AvantGo, Web phones such as CallWave, news and information
toolbars, connected games, weather applications, auction assistants and
shopping assistants.

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