The Daypart Is in the Eye of the Beholder

With advertiser interest in dayparts growing, publishers are anxious to take advantage of what many view as their core strength: the fact that the Internet is the central medium consumed during the day. Yet the industry still lacks an agreement on how the day should be divided, potentially hurting the establishment of dayparts by confusing advertisers.

Competing Web measurement firms Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore Media Metrix both announced new daypart measurement tools on Monday, highlighting the growing importance publishers are placing on Internet advertising tied to certain parts of the day — while also illustrating the potential pitfalls.

Nielsen//NetRatings announced the release of its Internet Pocketpiece, a syndicated online measurement tool for gauging Web traffic along dayparts for the top 250 Internet sites. Not to be outdone, comScore announced the availability of its own daypart analysis tool, as part of its MyMetrix reporting platform, by the end of the month. The module will segment data by time of day and day of the week using data from its panel of 120,000 home, work and university Internet users.

The rival measurement systems highlight the importance placed on dayparts in the online advertising industry — and the need for standards. Industry organizations of all stripes, including the Online Publishers Association (OPA), the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), have trumpeted the Web’s unique position as the medium of choice during the day.

Yet everyone has different ideas about how to divide the day. The NAA released a study in January that split the day into six parts: early morning (before 8 a.m.), morning (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.), lunchtime (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), afternoon (1 p.m. to 6 p.m.), evening (6 p.m 10 p.m.), late night (after 10 p.m.).

The following month, the OPA took a stab at establishing set dayparts in a study done with Nielsen//NetRatings. Last month, it unveiled a proposal for five dayparts: early morning (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.), daytime (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), evening (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.), late night (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.), and weekends.

A spokesman for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which sets most standards for the online advertising industry, said the IAB is not actively working on a standard way to divide the day.

Now, the industry’s measurement firms have weighed in. Nielsen//NetRatings’ Pocketpiece has its own conception of dayparts: early morning (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.), daytime (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), lunchtime (noon to 2 p.m.), early evening (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), night (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.), and weekends.

Further muddling the picture, comScore said it would work with clients and industry organization to establish standard definitions. For now, the company hasn’t decided on exact parameters.

“With our initial delivery, we will deliver a specific set of several dayparts that split the workday as well as the weekend, though we’re also likely to add new breaks over time,” a company spokesman said.

The confusion over dayparts could hinder their acceptance among advertisers, who are used to the nine defined dayparts in television and the five in radio.

“There’s some advantages” to standard daypart definitions, said Michael Zimbalist, the OPA’s executive director. “If someone says ‘I want to buy daytime’, it should mean the same thing.”

However, Zimbalist added that standard dayparts would evolve. Until then, companies are likely to define their own dayparts.

“There’s definitely value to industry-wide benchmarks,” said Manish Bhatia, senior vice president for product marketing and business development at Nielsen//NetRatings. “In the meantime, we put our stake in the ground and we said this is how we’re going to do it and this is why.”

Nielsen//NetRatings said its Pocketpiece tool is available immediately. Primedia and its subsidiary About have signed on as the first clients. The service looks only at ad-supported sites, giving users a dayparted look at sites’ unique visitors, reach, time spent, and demographic details.

ComScore’s dayparting tool will be available for free to MyMetrix clients, giving them the chance to compare a variety of dayparted stats.

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