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


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


’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


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


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


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,, and the Carlton Online sites (the games site, for example) ’is still bubbling under’, Bradford says.

’Page impressions are relatively low at present, although 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.


     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!                Portal/directory

4=   Excite               Portal/directory

4=   Line One              Free ISP

6    CricInfo              Sport/community

7    Microsoft Network              Portal/directory

8    BBC News           News

9    Freeserve           Free ISP

10   SoccerNet           Sport

11   The Telegraph        News

12   Bloomberg         Financial

13   Virgin Net             Free ISP

14      Sport

15   The Times         News

16   ESI                     Financial

17   Sporting Life     Sport

18   FT                         News

19   UK Plus              Directory

20   FHM                     Entertainment

21   Sky                     Entertainment

22=           Sport

22=  CarlingNet            Sport

24   Beeb                     Entertainment

25=  ITN                     News

25=  Auto Trader       Automotive

27   Guardian

     Unlimited          News

28=  NME                      Entertainment

28=  Loaded               Entertainment

30   Dotmusic             Entertainment

31   Irish Times        News

32=  Interactive

     Investor                Financial

32=  Railtrack         Travel

34   This is London      www.thisislondon           News/entertainment

35=  Scoot                 Directory

35=  Loot                   Classified

37   Moneyworld       Financial

38   Yellow Pages             Directory

39   ITV F1                 Sport

40   Teamtalk             Sport

41   The Mirror           News

42   Economist           News

43=  QXL                       Retail

43=  Bargain Holidays    Travel

45   The Independent      News

46         Retail

47=       Travel

47=  Megastar           Entertainment

49   VNU                       Computing

50   Exchange and Mart  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


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   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


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=        9            Formula 1 site with the latest

                                      racing news

22=  CarlingNet          9            The Official Premiership site with

                                      live news feeds and archived


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


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


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


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


43=  QXL                 4            An interactive online auction


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


46      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=    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


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

                                      for sale

Source: Carat Interactive.