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The Quest for Engagement: Moving Past Pageviews

Posted on July 12, 2007

I was scrolling through the old feed reader the other day (I was a way, way behind on that) and I caught Andrew Parker’s post on the death of the page view. Looks like Neilsen has decided to do away with pageviews in favor of a “time spent” metric. Andrew brings up an interesting point about both of these metrics and what they inherently value which I believe is worth quoting in full here:

But, why would Nielsen replace page views with the “time spent” metric? When everyone focused on page views, it rewarded companies like Myspace for requiring clicking through 10 pages just to update your profile. Now, if time spent becomes the new default metric, then sites like Myspace will be rewarded for their slow, cumbersome interfaces that needlessly waste your time. Whereas, a site like Google would be punished for having a speedy, easy interface that prioritizes getting you where you want to go, not keeping you on Google’s site.

He makes a good point. We need to start figuring out how to measure good traffic instead of just traffic. Advertisers are getting smarter and smarter each day and they are going to demand better from us in the metrics space. I am also sure that advertisers will quickly figure out the major inherent flaw in the “time spent” metric that Andrew points out. That is leaving pages open in general or leaving pages open across multiple tabs in a browser when you aren’t looking at them (which both he and I do each and every day).

Andrew then talks a bit about what we built at FeedBurner (by we I mean our awesome engineering team) and some of the flaws there. He’s spot on since we are really focusing on the feed and our current site analytics are not super useful for people who don’t use a blog platform to publish (but they are very useful for blog publishers). However, I do think the feed will begin to power more and more things for publishers and that is where things get interesting in the way of analytics (see my post “Publish Once” for more).

If feeds are powering widgets, e-mail delivery of content, feed readers, syndication, etc. then we are in a great position to fully measure the audience and its’ engagement and tie things back to the site analytics. We’re a ways out from this of course but it is coming and it should get us closer to the holy grail of audience engagement.

In the meantime, Andrew suggests looking into qualitative methods of measuring the web. That’s an interesting concept and it could add a lot of value to advertisers if qualitative metrics were developed and used in conjunction with quantitative metrics. I am not sure what the qualitative side of things would look like but I’ll keep thinking about that notion.

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