Let's be honest. The real reason that Neilson Boxes track TV watching patterns is to ultimately report Advertising reach to they people paying for the TV programs - the advertisers. Neilson reports to the stations what shows were watched and when. This data is correlated with the commercials and fancy charts are produced when the station is wooing a new advertising client.
The problem with the internet is, while we know a lot more about advertising impressions, we also know a lot less. When a commercial comes on the TV, consumers watch only the commercial. It's eyeball monopoly. When an ad is placed on a webpage, the ad is competing with the content on the page for attention. Eyes bounce over advertising with great ease.
But what if you could track a person's eye on the webpage? This would be valuable information. It would not only give feedback to the effectiveness of the placement and layout, it would also provide another valuable metric - eyeball attention.
There are two ways to track eyeball movement:
- indirect using the movement of the mouse. People read with their mouse, so just track the movements of the mouse
- Use the computer's built in iSight to track the person's eye movements on the page.
All Mac computers bought over the last few years come pre-equipped with a webcam facing the user. iSight is the colloquial name for this webcam. The webcam is present not just on Macs these days, but also on Dells, Lenovo's and most other home computers.
Why not pay users a small fee to watch them as they surf the net?
Sure it's more intrusive than a Neilson Box, but the information would be immensely valuable. Even today we don't know if the person was actually in the room when the ad played on TV. Tracking eye movement on a webpage (and correlating it to the window position and the contents of the viewport) is a relatively simple computational task. The big challenge will be getting user adoption.
Would you allow a third-party computer program to watch you as you surfed the net?