New Zealand Internet rating system eyed worldwide

Red Sheriff has already heard from other countries interested in the new Internet ratings scheme that it will be providing along with Phoenix Research, says Philip Whinnen, vice president of Red Sheriff south Asia.

"They're watching what we do in New Zealand with interest," says Whinnen.

Red Sheriff, which began life in Melbourne but which has moved its head office to New York, monitors traffic through a website by adding a small script to each site's code base. The script, less than 2KB in size, is either Java-based or CGI if the browser doesn't support Java.

But Whinnen says such traffic monitoring is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We find out where they've been, where they go next, how long they're on a site, how long they're on a particular page even. We also know what screen resolution they're using, whether they're broadband or narrowband, what color palette they're using, what browser. It gives the customer a great deal of information about their users."

Such information is dependent on which level of service the customer chooses, however Whinnen says entry-level packages for websites in New Zealand will start at NZ$100 (US$48) a month.

"At that price we can attract the smaller businesses that want to be included in the scheme, but who aren't interested in the really detailed information we can deliver."

Red Sheriff and Phoenix Research won the contract to supply user information to a consortium of online publishers and other interested parties that includes IDG Communications, publisher of this website. Whinnen says already the New Zealand Red Sheriff office has been contacted by numerous businesses beyond the ranks of the consortium that want to be included.

"We've been talking to financial institutions, banks even to government departments like the Ministry of Economic Development about joining the program."

Whinnen says while Red Sheriff in Australia has a panel-based demographic capability, he sees no need to introduce one to the New Zealand market.

"With the software implemented across the consortium's sites and with the other sites coming on as well, we get an extensive picture of all the users across the board, including those using newer technologies."

Panel based approaches will typically miss out on wireless laptops or handhelds, WAP-capable phones or other yet to be implemented devices, whereas adding the software to the website means any visitor to the site is recorded.

"We filter out all of the web's creepy crawlies as well, so spiders and bots and things like that don't get recorded. It only kicks in when someone opens the page and it fully loads."

Whinnen says Red Sheriff offers a range of modules that are beyond the scope of the consortium's brief.

"We have an e-commerce package that tracks transactions, be they purchases or even reading a story or applying for an email newsletter, whatever."

Red Sheriff can also tie in online ratings with the offline world with things like point of sale transactions, CRM packages and even real world stores.

"We can track customers through a shop and correlate that with web advertising, that sort of thing."

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