Mediaturf.com, which acquired Microland's one-year-old Media2India in April, is set to launch Internet Meter, the answer to AC Nielsen's Netratings. Disclosing this, V Ramani, chief executive officer, Mediaturf Worldwide, said, "We are launching it in collaboration with a large research agency, the name of which will be announced shortly." Currently, indiameter is the only company that provides web-rating services for India, and it has been doing so for the past three months.
Mediaturf's Internet Meter takes the form of software that sits on an Internet user's computer and tracks his surfing habits on a real-time basis. The data is further linked to the surfer's demographics, purchase patterns and product use/ownership profiles. The Internet Meter has one key difference with Nielsen's Netratings, which, Ramani believes, holds the key to its superiority, and possibly acceptance. "Most software today cannot differentiate between active and passive screens (whether the computer user is working on the Internet or has merely opened the Net screen in the background). Our software does not report passive screens, thus giving you a more accurate picture," explains Ramani.
Mediaturf is hoping to launch the product by mid-August. The company has been making presentations lately. One prospective advertiser, who saw the demonstration, came out rather unimpressed. "Nothing new. It's a lot of hype and much less substance," he felt.
For people associated in any way with Internet advertising, such retorts usually mark the beginning of a post-presentation question-answer session. Internet advertising has been a tough march. The market remains weak, estimated by Media2India at barely Rs 25 crore last year (optimistic) compared to the Rs 9,000-crore advertising industry per se. A growing number of ad-server networks, a consequent growth in the 'digital' outfits of traditional advertising agencies, the subsequent dot-com bust, dropping click-through rates (average down to an estimated 0.44 per cent from 2.12 per cent in 1996, according to Nielsen) and thus, a drooping interest in online advertising, have forced players to think alliances and consolidation.
Just when Mediaturf clinched the Media2India deal, the market was rife with talks of alliances at two other prominent firms - Intercept, and Bridgeovertw. Both confirmed talks but refused to divulge details. Nothing substantive has come till date. For Mediaturf though, the buyout brought in some key skills and valuable businesses in a market filled with more people and less businesses. Among them is the exclusive MSN Hotmail relationship. Mediaturf will now manage all advertising that is posted on Hotmail.
To put things into perspective, Mediaturf operates on the advertiser side. That is, it advertises on behalf of a client on various sites, which it tags so as to obtain pertinent traffic and behaviour statistics. Among the new clients it as acquired in the last 10 days are NIIT, Wipro (corporate), Ford (working with HTA, Chennai), Philips and Titan (with O&M, Bangalore).
The acquisition has also resulted in the rechristening of the company to Mediaturf Worldwide. If you are bemused by the suffix 'worldwide', here's Ramani's reply: "Close to 35 per cent of our business (revenue terms) is outside India and we are actively looking at the NRI population today." Having closed 2000-01 with claimed revenues of Rs 9.4 crore (on annualised basis, since Mediaturf was formed in June 2000), Ramani expects the company to achieve revenues of Rs 18 crore this year. With the added businesses, that may be achievable.
Helping him out will be a new all-India sales head and senior vice-president, scheduled to join soon. Staff strength is up from 21 to 31 (excluding L S Krishnan, former No 2 at Mediaturf who left for ESPN-Star Sports only to leave it recently). Of the 10 people who have come from Media2India (total staff strength of 26), only three are in the senior management. Pankaj Sethi, Media2India's CEO, is no longer part of the new set-up.
For all that the media reported as a "strategic alliance" between the two back in April, the reality appears to be a clear buyout. Sure, Pradeep Kar, chief of Microland, the company behind Media2India, will assume chairmanship of Mediaturf, courtesy Microland's fresh investment in Mediaturf (other investors being eVentures and Euro RSCG). When asked why Ramani doesn't use the term buyout for what almost looks like one, he said, "Let's not try looking at it that way or any other way."
He insists, "Let it be the way it is." Point taken.
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