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Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 15:39 GMT
Websites suffer from wrong impressions
Logging on to a company's internet site
A company's value can depend on just how many people visit its website
By the BBC's Internet Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones.

Doubt has been cast on the claims made by internet firms about just who is logging onto their websites.

An investigation by the accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that every dot.com company it examined had over or under-stated its site visitor numbers.

The accountants stress that the mistakes were not deliberate and called for an industry standard for measuring web traffic.

Internet cafe - person sviewing websites
Many companies are over estimating the number of hits to their sites.

The figures play a vital role in measuring a company's value and are used to work out advertising charges.

Dot.coms which can show that their users spend a long time viewing material on their sites will be able to charge more to advertisers.

The measures used range from page impressions to unique users.

But PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that different companies defined the figures in different ways.

Some included visits from automated shopping comparison sites which roam around the web from site to site.

Others counted repeated attempts to download the same page as multiple visits to that page.

As funding for dot coms dries up, many are now looking to sell their business to established companies and their value depends on just how many people are visiting their site.

Sarah Whitney says PriceWaterhouseCoopers knows of a number of traditional retailers which are looking at buying struggling dot.coms:

"In advising these retailers, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the accuracy and comparability of some of these internet metrics," she says

The accountancy firm says the industry owned organisation ABCelectronic should be recognised as the body measuring internet traffic.

The organisation is used by the advertising industry to verify the figures on net traffic.

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