Buzz meter

Buzz is an elusive creature — especially when it's flying around on the Internet. But companies are finding that quantifying their online buzz is becoming increasingly important as marketing budgets tighten.

Buzz is an elusive creature — especially when it's flying around on the Internet. But companies are finding that quantifying their online buzz is becoming increasingly important as marketing budgets tighten.

Enter Biz360, a start-up that attempts to measure the success of a client's marketing efforts.

"In a hot market, no one cared about PR [public relations] measurements, but now companies are cutting back, and the first place [they are reducing spending] is an area they can't measure," says Keith Goldberg, Biz360's vice president of marketing.

Can buzz be measured?YES

Biz360 tells clients how often they have been mentioned in online news, press releases and message boards. But it goes one step further by analyzing its findings: A company can learn whether the news was good or bad, tell how high up on the food chain a cited executive is and see how buzz in the press compares with the buzz on message boards. Biz360 can also compare the publicity in an article to the price of an advertisement that might have provided the same exposure.

The Biz360 service can even tell companies which journalists are ignoring them while writing about their competitors, and can figure out which analysts and other sources those journalists quote the most. Since it measures only online activity, Biz360 is first targeting technology companies, which are likely to have the most written about them online, Goldberg says. An annual subscription to Biz360's service costs $20,000 to $100,000.

Moreover.com — a search engine that indexes a limited set of Web sites to deliver "real-time" information — and Yahoo! each offer marketers products that monitor buzz, but don't analyze it. Nick Denton, Moreover's CEO, says there isn't any demand for analysis of Net buzz.

Companies typically use Moreover's Business Intelligence Solution to discover inaccurate reports that have been published about them, and also to see which posters on message boards speak highly of a company. "Companies need to track brand evangelists, so they can be fed positive information," Denton says. Moreover's basic buzz-monitoring service starts at $30,000 per year.

Yahoo! does not disclose the price of its service, called Yahoo! Buzz Index, which measures the unique users who search for specific items or terms on its site. Yahoo! includes the index in its Yahoo! Fusion Marketing programs, but marketers can also buy it separately. Other companies that monitor the Web for company mentions include Burrelle's Information Services and WebClipping.com.

For 3Com, Biz360's service was the optimal solution. "They are as comprehensive as anything is right now," says Brian Johnson, director of corporate media relations at 3Com. "We understand where we are and what our profile is faster than ever before. We're able to see trends that we've never seen before."

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