Teaching Examples

Pageviews, buh-bye! Better metrics on the way
April 19, 2007, 1:46 am
Filed under: audiences, business, metrics, online

Terry Heaton has the word:

If your web advertising strategy is built around page views, you’re going to have to find another way to sell. We’ve been saying this day would come for a long time, and today, The Wall St. Journal is reporting that Nielsen//NetRatings will drop the page view as a metric to measure web traffic and instead rely more on time spent on a site. ComScore, according to the report, will also begin de-emphasizing page views.

I’ve been saying this for at least a year — and I’m far from alone in that: Pageviews and “unique visitors” don’t measure squat. If you expect to be attractive to advertisers, you’re going to have to show them that people spend more than 30 seconds on your site.

Update (April 19): A few snips from The Wall Street Journal’s article to which Heaton linked:

“Page views as an indicator, or consumption as an indicator, of the vibrancy of the site becomes somewhat obsolete,” said Vivek Shah, president of digital publishing at Time Warner Inc.’s Time Inc. business-and-finance network. “It seems a bit of a relic.”

Peter Daboll, Yahoo Inc.’s head of global market research, said last year that page views had outgrown their usefulness.

“We all need to help to wean the industry off the crutch of familiar metrics in favor of more accurate and representative ones,” Mr. Daboll wrote in a blog.


One of the major interactive-research companies, NetRatings Inc.’s Nielsen/NetRatings, in June will release what it calls “time-spent” data and stop issuing its rankings by page views. The New York company’s rival, comScore Inc. said last month that it is emphasizing a measurement called “visits,” which takes into account the time people return to surf a Web site in a month.

“We don’t expect it to go away,” Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore, said about the page-view yardstick, adding that “we really wanted to provide a measure that really gets towards the engagement of the user with the Web sites.”

The catalyst for the change is new technology that automatically refreshes Web sites. Ajax [also here] — used by Web sites hosted by Yahoo, CBS Corp., Time’s Sports Illustrated and many others — cuts the number of clicks needed to see the same amount of information.

At Time Warner’s CNNMoney, Ajax lets Web surfers follow the ups and downs of stock prices without manually reloading the page. The problem for publishers is that such ability translates into one page view, leaving Web publishers worried about their numbers.

That is the argument that was trotted out by Yahoo when News Corp.’s interactive sites — including the social-networking site MySpace — overtook Yahoo last November as the top Web site by pages viewed, according to comScore, of Reston, Va. Yahoo responded that its page views had dropped because it uses Ajax in its email service to refresh incoming messages.

“Honestly, page views have always had a hole,” said Scott Ross, senior product manager of Nielsen/NetRatings’s NetView service. Page views also don’t measure instant messaging, flash technology and online video. Publishers also can skew their page view numbers by, for example, spreading a long news story into three screens instead of one.

How it will affect the bottom line:

As advertisers ramp up spending on the Internet, the issue will increase in importance.

“Data right now is the holy grail for online advertising,” said Chris Portella, associate media director with Organic, a digital-marketing agency owned by Omnicom Group Inc.

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