Saturday, May 11, 2002

Web ratings merger buoys industry

South Achina Morning Post

A decision by United States-based Internet research company NetRatings to acquire 80 per cent of ACNielsen for US$9.6 million in stock is a vote of confidence in the beleaguered Internet economy, according to industry watchers., owned by ACNielsen, was a joint-venture service of the two firms to measure online advertising and user activities.

"Bringing these two companies together really helps us to integrate our business in combining our operations and also consolidating all our services under a global brand," Nielsen//NetRatings Hong Kong director Peter Steyn said.

Over the past two years, Web measurement companies have been badly hit by the Internet bust. Local start-up iamasia closed in November last year.

At the same time, NetRatings axed its sales and client services staff in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. NetValue Asia, the third major player in the Hong Kong market also cut staff.

Mr Steyn declined to say if the merger would lead to further job cuts at Nielsen//NetRatings or affect the local operation. He said the changes "certainly strengthen our position globally, including in Asia-Pacific".

The company reported revenue of US$23.5 million last year, up 15 per cent from US$20.4 million in 2000. Last October, it was issued the first licence to conduct Internet research in China under new mainland regulations.

The firm conducts Internet audience studies for firms in Hong Kong such as Cathay Pacific and HSBC.

Interactive marketing company Modem Media said companies were increasing their spending on Internet use studies.

"Definitely, they are spending more," Modem Media's regional director Brett King said. "They are getting smarter in using this medium."

Mr King said studies were mostly data-targeted and could provide more information and background on potential and present customers, enabling companies to adjust their marketing programmes and optimise the benefits.

"In this environment, people are very concerned about streaming online and the most important thing to them is their return on investment," Mr King said. "The research can provide a more accurate understanding of the audience so companies know how to address their needs, which would be impossible without the data."

Yahoo! Hong Kong marketing manager Quinnie Ng, a subscriber of eRatings' information, said Internet audience studies were of high value. "There is a need for such research so we can learn more about online surfers and their behaviour," Ms Ng said.

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