Last fall Windham Hill Records set up its Web site, and marketing director Roy Gattinella made sure he could track its popularity. "Just as with a print ad, you want to know the audit numbers to compare the cost per thousand," he says.

But most Web-service providers offer "hit rate" information that reports only the number of inquiries at a site rather than the number of people who visit: for example, three quick visits by five people in an evening register as 15 "hits." So Gattinella made sure that his Web-page-service provider, IntersÉ, in Sunnyvale, Calif., could provide daily "user feedback" reports that track the site's 1,000 daily visitors.

To Gattinella's satisfaction, he's found that he can learn much more about the effectiveness of his Web site than he can about the effectiveness of a print campaign. "On the Web we know what ads people look at, for how long, and how involved they get. We can break the data down by sections -- each recording artist's page," says Gattinella. "That tells me who's more popular." Furthermore, he explains, the Web customers can sample products then and there by downloading a song, or even place orders. Compare that with a printed ad's "call to action, which is just an 800 number and a list of local retailers. That's it."

Windham Hill pays for a number of Web listings, or hypertext links, that let users click directly to the company's Web page. So Gattinella particularly values the section of IntersÉ's report that details the directories his visitors used to find Windham Hill's site.

The company spends less than 5% of its marketing budget on the Web site. That's roughly the cost of a limited national print campaign, but Gattinella views the Web as an investment in the future. "We make daily changes at the company based on the feedback we get on-line as well as through letters or the phone hot line," he says. "We've been alerted on-line to cities where artists should play and have scheduled successful concerts there."

The reports have also uncovered some unintentional marketing errors. User printouts indicated that artists whose names started with A's and B's were significantly more popular than others. "So we're going to rearrange the list -- from alphabetical order to an order that emphasizes whom we want to market," Gattinella says.

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Not every Web-service company can distinguish between the number of hits and the number of users who visit a site. To supplement the service of those providers that can't, a few companies are marketing software packages that track user rates on home pages maintained by any Web-service provider. One of those new offerings, from Internet Profiles, in San Francisco, charges a scaled fee based on traffic.