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Researcher Jupiter defends pop-ups

Jupiter Media Metrix releases its list of the U.S. top 50 Web and digital media properties, defending pop-up and pop-under pages that are included in its traffic numbers.

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    Allen Weiner, analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings
    Jupiter Media Metrix on Thursday released its list of the U.S. top 50 Web and digital media properties, defending the inclusion of "pop-up" and "pop-under" pages in its traffic numbers.

    The New York-based research company said camera maker X10 moved up a notch from fifth place in May to fourth place in June. The company noted the placing was largely due to X10's pervasive pop-under ads, which pump up unique visitor counts by automatically opening a browser window linked to the site.

    Jupiter said eBay sites skyrocketed from No. 12 in May to No. 8 in June, with 23.3 million unique visitors, a 21 percent increase from the previous month. The hike, according to Jupiter, was caused by a 66 percent increase in unique visitors to eBay's Half.com, which launches pop-up pages from MyPoints and The New York Times' Web site.

    Jupiter noted that RealNetworks saw traffic to its Real.com sites jump 17 percent after a pop-up campaign was launched in June. The advertisements added 1 million unique visitors to the company's totals, Jupiter reported.

    Jupiter's decision to include pop-up counts in its results highlights differences in the way Web measurement companies track traffic numbers. Jupiter competitor Nielsen/NetRatings attempts to remove pop-up and pop-under counts from its results; its listing for this month did not include X10 numbers.

    On Thursday, Jupiter said weeding out all pop-ups is impossible, and its decision to include pop-ups produces more consistent results than those of competitors that choose to exclude some of those numbers.

    "Our job is to measure what takes place on a computer screen, and we report those people who are exposed to what's going on on the computer screen," said Doug McFarland, president of Media Metrix. "Our job is to measure behavior and exposure, and this is both behavior and exposure. It's also a new form of advertising that is growing in some popularity on the Web."

    Representatives for Nielsen could not immediately be reached for comment.

    At least one online marketing expert said including pop-ups in Web traffic lists produces problems.

    Donna Hoffman, professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in Internet marketing, said she doesn't see the value in including pop-up and pop-under ads in Web measurement reports.

    "The point of measuring traffic on Web sites is to measure the traffic on publisher Web sites so that publishers or content providers can get some sort of analog-to-audience measure so that they can use that number to set rates for advertising," Hoffman said.

    According to Jupiter, AOL Time Warner hit the No. 1 spot on the U.S. top 50 list, with 72.5 million unique visitors for June. Microsoft sites trailed behind with 61.5 million, followed by Yahoo with 59.9 million.

    Nielsen/NetRatings released its latest report Wednesday, ranking the most visited Web properties for combined at-home and at-work traffic for June. AOL Time Warner hit the top of the list with 76.9 million unique users; Yahoo had 68.1 million; MSN had 62.7 million; Microsoft had 39.4 million; and Lycos Network had 32.5 million.