Hitwise Launches U.S. Online Measurement Service

Australian Internet measurement company Hitwise officially launched in the United States Monday, aiming to take on Nielsen//NetRatings and ComScore Media Metrix with a cheaper alternative targeting small- and medium-sized companies.

The company has set up U.S. operations in New York, marking its fourth expansion to an international market from its home base in Australia. The company bills its alternate service provider product as an online competitive intelligence service, allowing companies to gain insight on competitors’ sites on a daily basis and create their own custom reports.

Hitwise boasts a large measurement pool of 10 million Internet users, whose Web habits are tracked through partnerships the company has struck with Internet service providers. Added to this anonymous data, Hitwise has a mega-panel of 2.5 million users who have provided their demographic profile. Including its operations in other countries, Hitwise monitors about 25 million Internet users worldwide and boasts coverage of 200,000 sites in 150 industry categories.

According to Andrew Walsh, Hitwise’s chief executive, the size of its panel and its data-collection methodology give the service three advantages: it reaches more sites, it can provide daily updates on Web activity, and it can do it cheaper than the current measurement services.

Unlike Hitwise, both Nielsen//NetRatings and ComScore Media Metrix rely on random-digit dialing (RDD) to recruit their panels. This method allows them to give an accurate picture of Internet use through sampling techniques with smaller panels — Nielsen//NetRatings, for example, has a U.S. measurement panel of about 50,000.

Walsh points out that this technique, while highly accurate for the top sites, often misses low-traffic sites. It also requires up to a week before RDD panel data can be extrapolated to provide a statistically accurate snapshot of site traffic. In addition, RDD panels are expensive to recruit, making Nielsen//NetRatings and ComScore Media Metrix too expensive for many businesses.

“Hitwise is in the unique position to provide Fortune 1000 marketers who are not necessarily in the top 500 with daily insights on how their customers behave online and interact with competitive brands,” Walsh said.

Instead of the $30,000 charged by other measurement providers, Hitwise said it could provide measurement services for $10,000 to $15,000, with pricing varying on seat licenses.

Walsh said the company has over 500 clients worldwide and reached cash-flow profitability in January.

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