Nielsen//NetRatings Combines Panel, Analytics Results

In an attempt to reconcile discrepancies between panel- and census-based online audience measurement solutions, Nielsen//NetRatings has combined the two in an integrated methodology. The new methodology is already being used in Italy, and clients in the U.S. are testing the approach.

The new methodology, which the company calls “Data Integration,” brings together results from Nielsen//NetRatings’ NetView panel and its SiteCensus Web analytics approach. By linking the panel with its site-centric solution, the Data Integration method comes up with what NetRatings calls an “Integrated Audience” number.

“Our Data Integration methodology takes the best of both methods to create a comprehensive data set that delivers detailed reach and frequency metrics, audience demographic profiles and other metrics for pre-and post-campaign analysis tools,” said Manish Bhatia, SVP of product development and measurement science at Nielsen//NetRatings.

There has long been a debate about the precision of each approach to audience measurement. A panel-based method gives more detailed demographic and behavioral data, but some opponents believe panels count too narrow a sub-section of visitors. An analytics-based approach provides information across a broader section of a site’s audience, but it has the drawback of being cookie-based. The cookie approach could lead to overestimating visitor counts and underestimating visitor frequency metrics when more users delete or block cookies.

A string of recent studies, beginning with one from Jupiter Research in March, have shown that an increasing number of users are deleting cookies. The industry has been in an uproar ever since, with subsequent research finding that between 38 and 44 percent of Internet users say they regularly delete cookies.

Nielsen//NetRatings collected data from Italian Web users in July, which showed that up to 47 percent of browsers deleted cookies during that time, and another 2 to 4 percent blocked them. The numbers varied by industry, with sites in the Search Engine/Portal, Telecom/Internet services, News & Information and Entertainment categories seeing the most impact.

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