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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