NZers in early on Nielsen's Net research grand plan

About 3000 New Zealanders will be among the first batch of Internet users in the world to get what might be called a PeopleMeter for the PC from AC Nielsen.

About 3000 New Zealanders will be among the first batch of Internet users in the world to get what might be called a PeopleMeter for the PC from AC Nielsen.

New Zealand will be one of the first seven countries in the world to take up Neilsen's $US50m eRatings project to track, measure and project Internet use. Nielsen and the US company NetRatings formed a joint venture to deliver eRatings earlier this year.

The panel subjects will be asked to provide some demographic information and then provided with software to install on their computers at home and at work, says AC Nielsen's Brian Milnes.

"It's more a NetMeter than a PeopleMeter," says Milnes. "It's a lot less intrusive than a PeopleMeter.

"Basically it captures the detail every time a TCP/IP connection is established and the software will send us, in real time, the clickstream that represents their Internet session at that instance.

"So we'll know which individual in a household is using the machine to access the Internet. We have the demographic data about them and then we are capturing in real-time basis both all the sites they access and all the advertising and images that they are exposed to in that session.

"The information from all the participating countries is transferred in real time via the Internet to our processing systems in San Jose. Then subscribers at the other end are accessing that data via the Internet - either as preformatted reports or making their own reports.

"Those reports can be people-based - what a 50-plus year olds in New Zealand doing on the Web? - or site-based - what's 7am's audience, who's advertising on it, what advertising are visitors being exposed to?"

There may of course, be some qualms amongst the panel. Who, for example wants anyone knowing they peeked at a porn site?

"We make the point right up front that no individual can be indentified at any stage in the process," says Milnes. "Data is aggregated - so there's no reporting down to individual level. Panellists' behaviour on the Net will be aggregated along with thousands of other New Zealanders.

"In terms of the processing system, when the data is transferred over the Net, nobody on the processing side will know who they are. The panellist's unique ID number and the details of the panellist are kept completely separate. The data transferred is encrypted. It's very high on conforming to privacy legislation and the Market Research Society code of ethics."

The other flagship service to be provided by the joint venture is AC Neilsen Global NetWatch, "which will be the definitive source of Internet penetration information around the world," says Milnes. "We're looking at running 500 to 1000 interviews on an ongoing basis every month in each of those countries.

"It will collect information about Internet penetration at home, at work and in other places, the ISPs used, intention to connect. And that will be used as a base for the ongoing projection of the data we get from the Nielsen NetRatings panel."

ERatings itself has also spawned a number of related services, says Milnes.

"There's an e-commerce service can track people as they move through a site, clicking through, filling a shopping cart, going behind the secure layer, making a purchase - not the credit card details or anything like that, but you can develop very clear ideas about who's buying, where they're from, how sticky individual pages are - all that sort of stuff.

"There's also an Internet investment analysis service which we expect to be very strong in this part of the world - basically subscribed to by banks and analysts and venture capitalists who want to evaluate the performance of companies on the Net."

AC Nielsen will officially launch eRatings in New Zealand on November 18.

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