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Hitwise offers figures without the fuss

Company has its own way of measuring Web site traffic and focuses on competitive intelligence, not ad buying.

I wrote a story on Wednesday detailing the problems Web publishers have getting accurate independent measurements on their audience. This is a problem that has plagued the Internet since Web sites started getting traffic and advertisers began targeting their ads to that traffic.

The focus of the article was on ComScore and Nielsen Online, the two largest measurers of online audience. I also mentioned a couple of other companies that are using multiple methodologies to compete with those companies.

I didn't mention Hitwise, a company that also measures traffic but doesn't really fit into the same category with the others. Maybe I should have.

Hitwise pioneered the development of a network or census approach to online measurement back in 1997, says Hitwise spokesman Matt Tatham. Of the 10 million U.S. Internet users sampled via partnerships with ISPs--the "largest online sample out there today"--2.5 million voluntarily provide additional demographic information such as age, gender, and income through multiple opt-in panel relationships, he says.

The firm specializes in offering daily checks on traffic from more than 1 million Web sites, including smaller ones that don't hit the radar of the bigger audience measurement providers.

Unlike ComScore and Nielsen Online, Hitwise does not extrapolate the data out, and does not report unique users, just percentage of actual visits to the sites, Tatham says.

Advertisers use the unique visitor data to set ad rates, despite the discrepancy between the third-party figures and the figures publishers see internally. Hitwise, meanwhile, focuses on providing competitive intelligence and strategic marketing help to publishers, and not traffic figures to ad buyers, according to Tatham.