An advertising blitz has touched off a war over ratings, one that would be almost funny if it weren’t for the tenuous state of Internet advertising.
X10.com, a Seattle-based seller of electronic gear, has gone all out with a new form of Web ad: a “pop-under.” The ad doesn’t appear on top of a Web page; depending on your point of view, it waits patiently or lurks ominously underneath, becoming visible when the Web surfer closes the current window. The company has placed the ad so aggressively that Jupiter Media Metrix ranked X10.com fourth in total site traffic in mid- July, just behind AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Competitor Nielsen//NetRatings counts those ads simply as ads, so X10.com didn’t show up in its top 100.
Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester Research, asks the question that has bedeviled philosophers through the ages: “Are those pop-unders a Web site, or are they an ad?”
No comment from Jupiter or Nielsen//NetRatings, but accounting methods may be revised.