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Digital Glossary

Classified Ads

These are traditional classified ads for anything from jobs to used cars that once were common in newspapers but have now largely migrated to the Internet.  Craigslist is the most popular place for free classified ads, but these ads appear on lots of websites.


Cookies are small text files that are placed on users’ browsers when they visit a website.

Banner Advertising

These ads include text and some kind of image such as a company logo or a photograph.  These ads can include some kind of flash animation or moving image, but the user’s interaction is limited to clicking on the ad. There are, in the broadest sense, two types of display ads: targeted and non-targeted.  Non-targetd display ads, referred to as Run of Site (ROS) Display by Borrell Associates, refer to “dumb” banner ads that are placed on sites without any relation to the content of the site or user.  Targeted display ads, on the other hand, are display ads that are targeted using various information such as key words, information about users previous web habits, or user demographics.

E-mail Ads

These are ads the users receive through their email.

Lead Generation

This term refers to a kind of advertising in which users are required to fill out some kind of personal information to receive a free or trial offer from the company hosting the ad.  The level of information can be as little as an e-mail address, but can also include more information such as gender, age, home town, etc.  This kind of ad is lucrative for advertisers because it requires users to have a higher level of interactivity with the brand because they have to fill out personal information first.  It also allows the company to archive the data that the user fills out and can be used later to get a better picture of what kind of people are interested in a particular product and therefore can help the company target ads better in the future.

Local vs. National online ads

In this discussion of “local” and “national” online ads Borrell associates divides the country up into different markets.  By this measure a “local” online ad is any online ad purchased by a local business within the market where the ad appears.  An ad is considered “national” if it is purchased in a specific market but by a business that does not operate in that market, such as a national chain.

Pay Wall

Blocks access to a website (or a part of a website) without payment.

Rich Media Ads

This refers to ads that include animation or video, but also include a more complex user interaction.  These are ads that a user can interact with in various ways, including stopping or starting a video that may be part of the ad or playing a simple game that is itself a lead into the advertisement.

Search Ads (Text-Based Ads)

These are the most common kind of ad, and the kind of ad that a search engine like Google makes most of its money on.  This is an ad that contains only text and a hyperlink to the product the ad is selling.  Text ads of this kind are ubiquitous and show up in various places on the Internet. Google has integrated these ads into its search engine, e-mail service (Gmail) and YouTube, as well as all its other Web-based services.


These are ads that users receive as text messages. SMS refers to “Short Message Service” and are ads that include text only.  MMS refers to “Multimedia Message Service” and ads of this type can include photo, video or audio content.

Unique Audience (Visitors)

The number of unique individuals, not including webcrawlers, that view a website in a given time frame (normally in a month).  This is calculated several different ways by different measurement services, see analysis below.  The most effective way to measure this is by making users log in to a site every time they use it; however, since most sites do not require a log-in, the most prevalent way to measure this is through the use of tracking cookies.

Video Advertising

Video ads appear before, after or during a video clip that a user has chosen to watch and are video’s themselves in the vein most users are used to seeing on television.

Sponsorship Ads

Sponsorship ads refer to cases where entire sections (or just entire articles) are “sponsored” by a product or company.

Native Ads

Native ads are a term that is essentially the digital equivalent of an “advertorial.” In this case the actual content of an article is a promotion, but it looks like an article by the publication.


Analysis of Nielsen, Hitwise and comScore Rating Services

Measuring traffic on the Internet has become increasingly complicated. A number of methods have emerged, but no single methodology has been accepted as a standard.

Nielsen and comScore use a panel of Internet users to estimate total U.S. Internet traffic. Just as a telephone polls contact a sample of Americans, Nielsen and comScore contact a sample of Internet users who agree to share how they spend their time on the Web (comScore recently updated their methodology, discussed below). Internet users who participate then download software on their computers that tracks their online visits without attaching any personally identifiable information to the traffic data to ensure anonymity.

Nielsen uses a random sample of Internet users by collecting its panel with telephone calls, the method used by most pollsters today. Achieving a random sample of participants for the panel is a key advantage. With a random sample, Nielsen can take the traffic data and more effectively generalize to U.S. population of Internet users as a whole. Nielsen runs two panels – one consisting of people at work and the other of people at home – for a combined total of 30,000 people.

Nielsen in 2008 began testing a product that tracks how television viewing and Web browsing interrelate. It combines existing Nielsen methods for measuring television viewership with Nielsen Online’s sample-based system for estimating Internet usage. During the year, NBC tested a system called Total Audience Measurement Index that was designed to measure and analyze traffic and viewership for the network’s Olympics broadcasts and webcasts.

ComScore recruits what it calls a convenience sample instead of a simple random sample by offering incentives to participants. ComScore then applies statistical methods to adjust, or weight the results to reflect the demographics of the actual online population.

In addition to its traditional panel-based methods comScore has updated its methodology to include some server side measurements, similar to Hitwise, to better reflect internet usage habits.

For example, after it obtains traffic data from a panel, comScore analysts may discover they have a smaller percentage of males than the online population at large. They then add more results from males so that they are correctly represented. ComScore says this gives it an advantage because it uses more people (about 150,000) and maintains three panels – at work, at home and at universities — to ensure that the data capture how students are using the Internet differently from adults at home or at work.

Hitwise takes a wholly different approach. It does not gather data directly from individual computers as comScore and Nielsen do. Instead, it gets the data from Internet service providers (ISPs) who aggregate traffic data across all the individuals to whom they deliver Internet access. Hitwise provides ISPs with proprietary software that allows ISPs to analyze website usage logs created on their networks. To ensure the data is representative, Hitwise says it collects “from a geographically diverse range of ISP networks in metropolitan and regional areas, representing all types of Internet usage including home, work, educational and public access.” The sample of ISPs, however, is not a purely random one.

Hitwise feels its data offer some advantages. First, it reports data using specific website addresses (like ComScore and Nielsen report data that includes all related websites (like, a definition that can change over time. Hitwise data also put a premium on anonymity. Because it collects aggregate data, it never has access to the personal information of Internet users.