CAMPAIGN REPORT ON NEW MEDIA: The top sites - Portal strategies have been successful but, as internet advertising rapidly matures and sites proliferate, targeting UK web users is turning into a refined art By Matthew Reed.

The internet is the fastest-growing medium in history and, according to the NOP Research Group, in the UK alone, 10,900 new adult users venture online every day. By 2001, 13 million people in the UK will have access to the internet, according to forecasts from the specialist UK research house, Fletcher Research.

The internet is the fastest-growing medium in history and,

according to the NOP Research Group, in the UK alone, 10,900 new adult

users venture online every day. By 2001, 13 million people in the UK

will have access to the internet, according to forecasts from the

specialist UK research house, Fletcher Research.



’There are more people coming online, driven by such things as free ISP

models,’ says Charlie Dobres, the chief executive of the new online

media planning specialist, i-level, and the former general secretary of

the Internet Advertising Bureau. As UK internet audiences grow and

understanding of the medium increases, advertisers are beginning to see

it as a viable platform. ’There’s been a lot of latent, pent-up demand

from advertisers for quite some time, but we’re only just seeing the

ability to deliver it,’ Dobres says. Both agencies and sites are getting

on top of the business.



In 1998, UK advertisers spent just pounds 15 million on internet

advertising, according to Fletcher Research. In 1999, however, UK

internet advertising is expected to be worth between pounds 40 million

and pounds 50 million - about 0.5 per cent of total adspend - and will

rise to pounds 140 million in 2000 and pounds 268 million in 2001.



The table of top 50 sites put together by Carat Interactive for Campaign

is one guide to where internet users are going. It is based on traffic

by page impressions - one of the most straight forward measures - and

indicates that a variety of both ’portal’ and ’destination’ sites are

pulling in most UK internet traffic. For those that aren’t up on web

jargon, ’portal’ sites are those that are used as gateways to the

internet and include the major directories or search engines, such as

Yahoo! UK & Ireland and Excite, as well as the sites run by internet and

online service providers, such as Freeserve and Virgin Net. Destination

sites are those that internet users go to for their content, including

news, personal finance, sport, travel, community and entertainment

sites.



As with all forms of media, especially when they’re still emerging,

there are different ways of measuring performance. It’s important to

note that page impression figures, upon which the table opposite is

based, only give advertisers part of the picture. ’If you want a figure

that’s similar to press advertising,’ Dobres says, ’you’d better look at

the unique users or unique hosts - the number of actual computers

accessing a site. Site registration is also a useful indicator, when

done well.’ Carat Interactive’s director of new media, Richard Wheaton,

says that ’impressions do have value, but you need to cross-reference

with the ’users’ figure because it shows how these sites are retaining

audiences.



’What’s interesting is the lack of big US brands on the list,’ Wheaton

adds. ’Below the top ten, it’s dominated by the leading UK media

owners.



The traditional publishing world has generated some very good sites and

activity. Media owners are developing sophisticated editorial content

and trying to retain audiences.’



Neil Bradford, director at Fletcher Research, observes: ’Advertisers

still want really strong media brands to associate themselves with

online, partly because the web is still seen as anarchic.



’In the last year, portal growth strategies on the UK web have been

successful.



They’ve managed to incorporate a lot more content and become much more

attractive entities in their own right. They drove up their traffic -

portals grew the most over 1998 in absolute terms; and they also grew

their niches, such as financial or travel news areas.’ Significantly,

directories, such as Yahoo!, accounted for 36 per cent of UK online

advertising traffic in October 1998, up from 30 per cent in March; and

captured 21 per cent of advertising revenue, according to Fletcher

Research.



While newspaper websites pioneered the development of the web in the UK,

they have been relatively static over the past year, according to

Bradford. ’The newspaper sites have stayed at the same level. It’s only

recently that more interesting things have come along, such as the

relaunch of The Guardian site, Guardian Unlimited.’



The entertainment sector - including the BBC’s commercial website,

www.beeb.com, and the Carlton Online sites (the games site

www.jamba.co.uk, for example) ’is still bubbling under’, Bradford says.

’Page impressions are relatively low at present, although beeb.com has

doubled its traffic over the last year.’ However, financial and

computing sites are in profitable niches.



’There’s been an explosion of attractive niches, including personal

finance sites, such as www.thisismoney. com,’ Bradford adds.



It must not be forgotten that people use portal and destination sites in

a different way. Despite the investment that directories have made in

their content, internet users still tend to use those sites for

functional purposes, such as for searches.



It may be a complicated job for advertisers to get their message across

effectively and on the right bit of the internet, and most will need

more insight than research on audience numbers. But all measurement is

well received as advertising on the net is becoming more significant and

more valued by the month.





TOP 50 WEBSITES BY TRAFFIC, COMPILED BY CARAT INTERACTIVE

     NAME                WEB                        CATEGORY

     OF SITE             ADDRESS

1    AOL Network         for subscribers only       Paid-for internet

                                                    service provider

2    CompuServe          for subscribers only       Paid-for ISP

3    Yahoo!              www.yahoo.co.uk            Portal/directory

4=   Excite              www.excite.co.uk           Portal/directory

4=   Line One            www.lineone.net            Free ISP

6    CricInfo            www.cricket.org            Sport/community

7    Microsoft Network   www.msn.co.uk              Portal/directory

8    BBC News            www.news.bbc.co.uk         News

9    Freeserve           www.freeserve.net          Free ISP

10   SoccerNet           www.soccernet.com          Sport

11   The Telegraph       www.telegraph.co.uk        News

12   Bloomberg           www.bloomberg.co.uk        Financial

13   Virgin Net          www.virgin.net             Free ISP

14   Football365.co.uk   www.football365.co.uk      Sport

15   The Times           www.the-times.co.uk        News

16   ESI                 www.esi.co.uk              Financial

17   Sporting Life       www.sportinglife.co.uk     Sport

18   FT                  www.FT.com                 News

19   UK Plus             www.ukplus.co.uk           Directory

20   FHM                 www.fhm.co.uk              Entertainment

21   Sky                 www.sky.co.uk              Entertainment

22=  Formula1.com        www.formula1.com           Sport

22=  CarlingNet          www.carling.net            Sport

24   Beeb                www.beeb.com               Entertainment

25=  ITN                 www.itn.co.uk              News

25=  Auto Trader         www.autotrader.co.uk       Automotive

27   Guardian

     Unlimited           www.guardian.co.uk         News

28=  NME                 www.nme.com.               Entertainment

28=  Loaded              www.uploaded.com           Entertainment

30   Dotmusic            www.dotmusic.com           Entertainment

31   Irish Times         www.irish-times.com        News

32=  Interactive

     Investor            www.iii.co.uk              Financial

32=  Railtrack           www.railtrack.co.uk        Travel

34   This is London      www.thisislondon           News/entertainment

35=  Scoot               www.scoot.co.uk            Directory

35=  Loot                www.loot.co.uk             Classified

37   Moneyworld          www.moneyworld.co.uk       Financial

38   Yellow Pages        www.yell.co.uk             Directory

39   ITV F1              www.itv-f1.com             Sport

40   Teamtalk            www.teamtalk.com           Sport

41   The Mirror          www.mirror.co.uk           News

42   Economist           www.economist.com          News

43=  QXL                 www.qxl.com                Retail

43=  Bargain Holidays    www.bargainholidays.com    Travel

45   The Independent     www.independent.co.uk      News

46   Lastminute.com      www.lastminute.com         Retail

47=  Visitbritain.com    www.visitbritain.com       Travel

47=  Megastar            www.megastar.co.uk         Entertainment

49   VNU                 www.vnu.net                Computing

50   Exchange and Mart   www.exchangeandmart.co.uk  Classified

     NAME                IMPRESSIONS  COMMENT

     OF SITE             (millions

                         per month)

1    AOL Network         141.45       Largest paid-for UK online service

                                      provider with a walled garden

                                      allowing parents to control their

                                      children’s internet usage

2    CompuServe          102.4        Paid-for ISP with own content

                                      areas

3    Yahoo!              62           Largest UK online directory

4=   Excite              50           Another major UK portal

4=   Line One            50           Joint venture online service of BT

                                      and United News and Media now also

                                      offering free access

6    CricInfo            48           Largest cricket site at present,

                                      covering all major events

7    Microsoft Network   40           Microsoft’s portal site

8    BBC News            39.47        The official BBC News site

9    Freeserve           38           First and largest free internet

                                      access provider

10   SoccerNet           17.3         Largest dedicated football site

                                      run by Associated New Media

11   The Telegraph       15.5         The award-winning site of The

                                      Daily Telegraph with exclusive

                                      online editorial

12   Bloomberg           15           Specialist financial site with

                                      latest news from the City

13   Virgin Net          14           Portal site for Virgin internet

                                      users, now also a free ISP

14   Football365.co.uk   12.2         Football site with daily football

                                      news e-mails for its users

15   The Times           11.4         The Times online also encompassing

                                      The Sunday Times and some of its

                                      supplements

16   ESI                 10.5         Electronic Share Information

                                      offers a live feed from the London

                                      Stock Exchange, plus company

                                      information for investors

17   Sporting Life       10.02        Covers many sporting areas as well

                                      as betting

18   FT                  10           Financial Times online includes

                                      paid-for archive service

19   UK Plus             9.8          Online directory developed by

                                      Associated New Media

20   FHM                 9.7          FHM magazine online with fashion

                                      and entertainment news

21   Sky                 9.5          The website for Sky TV with a

                                      number of content areas, such as

                                      finance and sport

22=  Formula1.com        9            Formula 1 site with the latest

                                      racing news

22=  CarlingNet          9            The Official Premiership site with

                                      live news feeds and archived

                                      information

24   Beeb                8.6          The commercial site from the BBC

                                      and ICL covering major programmes

                                      such as Top Gear

25=  ITN                 8            The news website from ITN, where

                                      users can also subscribe to a

                                      daily news e-mail service

25=  Auto Trader         8            Autotrader online offers a

                                      searchable database of used cars

                                      for sale all around the country

27   Guardian

     Unlimited           7.1          A network of Guardian sites

                                      including News Unlimited and Film

                                      Unlimited

28=  NME                 7            The NME online with reviews and an

                                      online shop

28=  Loaded              7            The online version of Loaded

30   Dotmusic            6.5          Music Week’s website

31   Irish Times         6.03         The website for the Irish Times

32=  Interactive

     Investor            6            Financial information from stock

                                      market details to a mortgage

                                      calculator

32=  Railtrack           6            Award-winning site encompassing a

                                      searchable database of all train

                                      times in the UK

34   This is London      5.8          The Evening Standard online with a

                                      searchable restaurant database

35=  Scoot               5.6          Online business directory where

                                      users can search for all

                                      businesses in the UK,

                                      as well as cinema and other

                                      entertainment listings

35=  Loot                5.6          Online classified service from the

                                      London title

37   Moneyworld          5.5          Financial site offering

                                      information on all financial

                                      products

38   Yellow Pages        5.28         Online directory developed by

                                      Yellow Pages

39   ITV F1              5            The official Formula 1 site with

                                      highlights from all the races

40   Teamtalk            4.9          Another football site providing

                                      news from 59 football clubs

41   The Mirror          4.42         This is The Mirror online with

                                      news and sports features

42   Economist           4.02         Subscription-based website of the

                                      Economist

43=  QXL                 4            An interactive online auction

                                      service

43=  Bargain Holidays    4            Travel site put together by Emap

                                      with information on the latest

                                      package deals on offer as well as

                                      some information on destinations

45   The Independent     3.85         Electronic version of the national

                                      newspaper with a number of ex-pat

                                      visitors

46   Lastminute.com      3.8          Transactional site offering

                                      last-minute bargains on airline

                                      tickets etc - also offers an

                                      e-mail update service to tempt

                                      users to travel

47=  Visitbritain.com    2.5          The official British Tourist

                                      Authority site presented in

                                      various languages

47=  Megastar            2.5          Megastar is the Daily Star online

49   VNU                 1.94         A selection of VNU magazines

                                      online

50   Exchange and Mart   1.7          Latest news on all used cars up

                                      for sale

Source: Carat Interactive.



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