Nielsen//NetRatings Questions Panel Members

Internet metrics firm Nielsen//NetRatings jumped into the online survey game Tuesday with WebIntercept, a tool that queries panel members based on their behavior online. Nielsen//NetRatings says it’s been conducting such surveys for about a month and a half.

“This was really driven by customer demand,” said Sean Kaldor, VP of corporate marketing and business development at Nielsen//NetRatings. “Our customers have continued to come to us asking us to survey our [ratings] panel, but we won’t let them do that because it affects [the panel’s] behavior.”

WebIntercept uses a panel of Internet users recruited by Nielsen//NetRatings, but it’s separate from the panel it uses to compute ratings and rankings for Web sites. Initially, the global survey panel will consist of two million respondents, but that will be expanded to three million next month.

Because it has software installed on these users’ machines, Nielsen//NetRatings can initiate surveys based on their behavior online. For example, the company recently surveyed people when they logged on to a search engine, asking them the purpose of the search. The survey could also be triggered by the completion of an activity, such as an online purchase — either on the client’s site or on a competitor’s. With some members of its panel, the company can initiate research based on what items they are buying online or how much they are spending.

The announcement follows competitor comScore Networks’ formal launch last week of a similar service, Survey Solutions, which it hired former NFO WorldGroup president and COO Randy Smith to head. ComScore said it had been doing survey work for the past two years, but hired Smith to focus more resources on the space.

Online research has been a skyrocketing segment of the overall research market, and some expect the Federal Do-Not-Call list to only speed the growth of the online segment.

“It’s pretty clear that the problems with telephone-based surveys were opening up a big opportunity for us,” said comScore’s Smith.

The two services seem to be quite similar, although Kaldor notes his company’s panelists aren’t given any incentive to participate. ComScore has typically given its panelists software that speeds their connections to the Internet.

ComScore, for its part, trumpets its two years of experience in offering the service — although it only formally launched last week — and says the historical attitudinal data it’s built up makes its product superior.

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