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Metrics firm expands Net "universe"

Nielsen/NetRatings adds market share for Internet-based applications such as instant messaging and streaming media players to its Web site traffic data.

Online audience rating company Nielsen/NetRatings on Thursday unveiled a new report that adds market share for Internet-based applications such as instant messaging and media players to its Web site traffic data.

The report highlights the increasing number of options--beyond the Web browser--that are available to consumers seeking to tap into the Internet and provides a more accurate picture for advertisers of companies' Internet reach, Nielsen/NetRatings said.

For October, Microsoft and AOL Time Warner debuted in a dead heat for top spot in the so-called digital media universe, Nielsen/NetRatings reported, with each garnering a unique audience of about 92.6 million for all of their Internet sites and nonbrowser applications. Yahoo trailed with some 79.8 million unique visitors, followed by the U.S. government (38.3 million), Google (37.7 million), Terra Lycos (37 million), About-Primedia (34.5 million), RealNetworks (34.4 million), Amazon (39.9 million) and eBay (32.5 million).

The new report also breaks down the Net universe by "brand reach," or the number of people who head to a site marketed under a particular brand. According to this measure, Yahoo was the top-rated Web property with 79.8 million unique visitors, followed by Microsoft (78.8 million), MSN (75.5 million), America Online (73.3 million), Google (37.7 million), Lycos Networks (34.7 million), RealNetworks (34.2 million), Amazon (33.2 million), eBay (31.5 million) and CNN (24.2 million).

The report reflects ongoing efforts by companies that measure Web audiences to retain their relevance in the wake of the dot-com bust and at a time when online advertising dollars are scarce.

A staple of the Net boom, metrics reports have faded in significance in the past few years with the death of the Internet IPO market and lingering doubts about the relevance and accuracy of the reports. In a sign of hard times facing Net measurement companies, Jupiter/Media Metrix this year sold its U.S. and Canadian traffic measurement businesses to rival ComScore for a mere $1.5 million.

NetRatings' new report tracks instant messaging applications, media players, nonbrowser ISP applications, wireless content systems, Web phones, news and information tool bars, connected games, weather applications, auction assistants and shopping assistants, the company said. In addition, the new report for the first time includes traffic data for AOL's proprietary network.

"Within some of the top players in the industry, we've seen how much their Internet applications offerings (are) clearly influencing the number of users they reach," Manish Bhatia, NetRatings' senior vice president of product marketing and business development, said in a statement.