Free ISP sites arrive in NetRatings

The local Nielsen NetRatings rankings for April have seen the Web sites of two high-profile free ISPs show up - whatever that means.

The local Nielsen NetRatings rankings for April have seen the Web sites of two high-profile free ISPs show up - whatever that means.

Clear's own free ISP Zfree and the company it backed in court, i4free, appeared as the 12th and 13th most visited .nz domains respectively in the Nielsen NetRatings survey which typically finds that ISPs' own sites are the most visited.

Nielsen credits i4free with attracting 34,080 "unique visitors" in its first month of business, just headed off by Zfree, which was measured at 35,850 visitors in only 12 days following its April 18 launch. i4free CEO Annette Presley claimed last week to have signed up more than 60,000 customers.

Although i4free requires new customers to come to its Website to sign up, its set-up software sets the default home page in new customers' browsers to TVNZ's NZoom portal. Its site, which offers no other services, thus misses out on the captive traffic reaped by other ISPs, which install their own sites as their customers' default home pages.

Zfree's statistics, on the other hand, will have been boosted by its Web-only email and newsgroup offerings, obliging customers to visit its site more frequently.

Brian Milnes, ACNielsen eRatings.com managing director, Australasia, says the "massive surge" in traffic to free ISPs' domains was not achieved at the expense of traffic to existing local pay ISPs, which maintained or grew their unique audiences.

"This trend is about growing the ISP pie rather than reslicing it," says Milnes. "The growth in free ISPs may have impacted on some ISPs, but the audience gains for Zfree and i4free did not seem to reduce traffic to existing pay ISPs.

"For instance, Ihug's audience figures increased by 4% from March to April. This suggests subscribers to free ISP services are maintaining their current ISP, as well as assessing the new free product offerings."

Nielsen's figures may be cheering to Ihug, which sells banner advertising on its site and its planning to boost its content offerings, but the numbers released yesterday do not show a breakdown between the revenue-generating parts of its site and, for example, the private Web pages at homepages.co.nz.

The top 7 domains associated with local ISPs in terms of visitors in April were:

Domain Unique Audience*

xtra.co.nz 215,336

xtrasite.co.nz 122,994

ihug.co.nz 78,787

clear.net.nz 44,325

paradise.net.nz 43,606

zfree.co.nz 35,850

i4free.co.nz 34,080

Source: Nielsen NetRatings - New Zealand at-home panel April 2000

* Unique Audience is the number of distinctive people that have visited a

particular site/domain/property at least once in the given time period.

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