Internet ratings company NetRatings has closed its New Zealand office with the loss of six jobs, although its volunteer panel of 4000 users will remain.
The information will be processed through its Australian office as part of the company's worldwide consolidation plans.
The company, which was run in New Zealand by AC Nielsen as Nielsen//NetRatings, has bought one of its major rivals, Jupiter MMXI, in a deal reportedly worth $US71 million. As part of the purchase, NetRatings will re-evaluated its position in a number of global markets, including New Zealand.
"We will still run the panel from New Zealand but everything else goes to Australia as part of the cost-containment exercise," says managing director Brian Milnes. He says the company will review its commitment to the New Zealand market in the next three months and may well decide to exit entirely.
"If that happens then I've said to them I'll put my hand up to buy the New Zealand business and run it myself."
Milnes, who has been with AC Nielsen for many years, was instrumental in setting up eRatings in New Zealand October 1999. ERatings is the company set up by AC Nielsen as a joint venture with NetRatings to push the NetRatings brand in markets outside the US. AC Nielsen currently owns 80% of eRatings, although NetRatings has announced it plans to buy AC Nielsen's share of the company for around $US16.4 million.
Milnes says the move will see future developments of the company put on hold while long-term decisions are made. That includes the implementation of a business-user panel - one of the criticisms levelled at AC Nielsen and NetRatings in New Zealand has been the lack of information about users who surf from work - the existing panel only includes home-based users.
The New Zealand market has been particularly harsh for online ratings companies in the past year - the two other major players in the market, Hitwise and Red Sheriff, have both laid off staff as well.
Milnes is quick to point out this move to Australia is not a "pullout from the New Zealand market" but is in fact "an amalgamation. For the customers it's business as usual."