Does the Internet really deserve media ratings?

As the strength of the Internet is its diversity, is it fair on advertisers if research companies deliver Web ratings? For the sake of survival, it may be wise to leave the Net well alone. By Mike Gorman. Mike Gorman is media director at Saatc

I read with interest last week that Nielsen had teamed up with the US company Commerce Net to deliver Web ratings – for about $5,000 (3,330) a swipe.

This probably heralds the end of the Internet as a meeting place for weirdos and trainspotters and provides the opportunity for more popular programmes. It will not be long before we see the Web equivalent of Only Fools and Horses as the clamour for ratings inevitably determines content.

As someone who would describe themselves as “Net share”, I was interested in Nielsen’s foray into research on the Net. A recent survey conducted by a consultancy called Upstart (it would be, wouldn’t it?) and published in New Media Age (circulation uncertified) revealed that UK ad agencies do not understand “new media”, lack the technical skills to implement it and find the pace of development difficult to keep up with. Well, I would certainly give credence to the last observation – I would be surprised if most of you didn’t find it difficult.

You see, the rate of change is very interesting but the most challenging aspect of new media – however it is defined – is how to put it to best use for beleaguered advertisers.

The post Monte Carlo debate on the cost of commercial television – led by Paul Polman of Procter & Gamble – highlights the difficulties businesses face in having to pay inflated prices for a commodity that rigorously defends itself from competition while expecting advertisers to withstand the rigours of the market.

Advertisers are trapped by the station price unit of measurement and restrained from developing proprietary research because they are inextricably, but extraneously, linked to the TV rating point by the money they have spent buying the airtime in the first place.

But back to the new media and the prospect of ratings on the Net. As far as I am concerned, it would take another potent advertising vehicle out of the hands of the practitioners – and the advertisers – and into the murky world of the “technos”, who will distil it to such a level that it means little.

I would like to see industry research adopt some of the innovative standards pushed by Bill Gates at Microsoft. The strength of new media is meant to be its diversity.

It was never meant to be a corporate means to transmit information, more a way of voicing opinion.

Conventional research companies need to keep their hands off the Net if it is to survive as a vibrant and developing advertising option for the 21st century.

Media research should not be characterised by bland ambition, but by innovation and the desire to help to promote goods and services.

In the dark recesses of the Internet there are pages that are devoted to the idea that Gates is evil personified. It may be time for us to consider what Microsoft can do for the media world and help change the Gates perception.

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