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Hot Time On The Web

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What defines a content Web site? For those of us at Adweek Magazines, the definition changes as the online landscape evolves. For this, our second annual Web Site Hot List, we are refining the types of sites we consider as we examine the plethora of offerings on the Internet.

As we did last year, we looked at sites that create content, as opposed to aggregating it. So major portals, such as AOL and Google, are not considered in our findings. However, we will look at the distinct content properties within those portals—GoogleVideo, say, or AOL's TMZ.com. This year's list includes four sites that rely, for the most part or in whole, on user-generated content, the biggest online trend advertisers currently face.

As these new business models on the Web evolve, so do the factors we consider as we put this list together. For instance, last year we put a lot of stock in growth in key audience metrics. We wanted to show advertisers which sites were getting large numbers of unique visitors and page views. This, we reasoned, is what appeals to advertisers. That remains true, to a degree. But as advertisers become more sophisticated about the Web (read "Growing Interest" by Catharine P. Taylor, on page 32), they are looking for ways sites can help them foster deeper connections with consumers. Innovative technologies, ad placements and distribution strategies: these go a long way in drawing ad dollars to the sites. Growth remains a factor. But if we get a whiff of the potential for growth, that site gets points, as well.

To determine this year's list, we reviewed data on approximately 400 sites from Nielsen/NetRatings AdRelevance. We looked for growth over the past six months in either unique users or time spent per person, then took into account the seasonality of sports sites, and the vagaries of entertainment and culture news on other sites. Once we whittled our list down to about 40, we went further back in the numbers to get a better idea of growth.

But this is not just about numbers. We also invited several interactive media directors and clients to weigh in, providing that ephemeral "buzz factor" and giving us their thoughts on which sites they believe are doing it right.

What you'll see is a list that mirrors what is happening on the Web: community sites mix with traditional media properties. Some of the oldest sites stand side-by-side with the newest.

Acknowledging the fact that the Web will continue to evolve, we also have chosen five sites to watch. We know they have got something up their sleeves in terms of what they will be able to offer advertisers. These sites, we predict, will be the new innovators on the Web.—The Editors