NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nielsen//NetRatings, the media research firm, will overhaul the way it measures the popularity of Web sites, moving to add two new yardsticks to its service, it said on Tuesday.
The move follows growing criticism of how Internet user behavior is measured and how the value of Web sites is determined, both of them key factors in convincing advertisers to shift more of their spending to the Web.
Currently, advertisers and online sites often use so-called page views, or the number of times a page was viewed by users, to judge the audience a site attracts.
Nielsen//NetRatings, however, is introducing measurements that will show the total number of minutes per user and the total session per user on Web sites.
The move is intended to give a better picture of audience activity online, given that users are increasingly spending more time with one site watching videos or messaging, for instance.
As one example, Nielsen//NetRatings noted that visitors tend to spend more time per page on Google’s YouTube than they do on News Corp’s MySpace, since they are primarily watching videos. That means fewer page refreshes and fewer page views.
When ranked by total minutes, Time Warner Inc’s AOL and Yahoo would have been the top brands in May, with 25 billion and 19.6 billion minutes, respectively, largely because of their instant messaging and e-mail services, Nielsen//NetRatings data show.
That compares with a ranking of unique visits to the site, which puts search leader Google ahead at 110.2 million.
Internet media companies, search providers and marketing agencies have long touted the ability to track how a user might react to an ad online as a major advantage for Web ads over television and other media.
But in recent months Nielsen//NetRatings and another closely watched tracking firm, comScore Inc., have faced scrutiny over the way they measure audience. In April, the Interactive Advertising Bureau asked the two firms to allow a third party to audit their ratings practices.
Reporting by Paul Thomasch