Page views, R.I.P.

Max Kalehoff writes a beautiful summary (Page Views Weaken As Metric–But Won’t Die In 2007) of the page views debate in today’s Online Spin. For the unaware, there’s considerable weight out there behind the notion that counting page views is dead or dying as a metric for measuring internet effectiveness, especially in terms of advertising.

This is pretty huge, and Kalehoff offers some real wisdom for web publishers (I hate that term — we don’t “publish”):

Even if the page view doesn’t disappear today or tomorrow, its eventual demise is a signal for publishers to start thinking harder–right now–about their most important stakeholder: their audiences. If your audiences are boss, and you’re nothing to advertisers without them, then you must think seriously about shifting your emphasis from page views to the value and usability of your product. Page-view dependence is competitive vulnerability, because it compromises your audience experience.

What do I mean? Aforementioned Web technologies enable far more compelling user experiences, but page-view addiction often stints publisher innovation by rewarding clunky designs which increase page reloads and result in more interruptive experiences. Most major publishers today are guilty of this to some degree, and some far more than others. Sites specifically rigged to deliver high page views often are as disruptive to flow as a television show crammed with too many intrusive commercials. For example, how annoyed do you get when news sites force you to click through multiple pages, all for one story? And worse, when you’re forced to click through multiple pages simply to review readers’ comments to a story? It’s as if we need a TiVo-like device to skip excessive page views! This is but one trivial example of compromised experience, but hopefully you get my point.

I will continue to argue that the money in Media 2.0 is in direct marketing, not mass marketing, and that we need to be developing strategies that make this a viable alternative to the broadcast/page views model. And I agree with Kalehoff that even if the page view isn’t dead as a metric, we need to be operating as if it is.

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