Say goodbye to the page view as an ad metric

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.

The report comes in the wake of a UK study just released by Nielsen. It was written by Alex Burnmaster, European Internet Analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings

“The page view has been the traditional measure for advertisers to compare which websites provide the most opportunities to display their ads to consumers. The large portals and social networking sites tend to dominate this way of looking at engagement.”

“However, as the technology that publishers use to deliver content to the user moves away from static, reloaded pages to be more streamlined content‑e.g. online videos- the page view is becoming a less relevant gauge of where might be the best place to advertise online.”

“Consequently advertisers will have to look at other metrics, such as time spent or visits, to see where their online ad pound might be best spent.”

“Time covers all web environments and provides an accurate trend in a pre- and post- Web 2.0 world with the increasing use of new Internet technologies, such as AJAX programming, and the changing way that people consume content.”

“Advertisers will, however, need to be aware of the whole picture painted by the different metrics when looking to assess user engagement with a site — and the consequent ad opportunity.”

This was inevitable, because technology is bringing about what’s called by early adopters, the “live” web. Page views were fine for the static web, but that’s going away. Since all digital content can be separated from form, it can be presented in snippets via AJAX and other technologies. This makes for a marvelous user experience and brings about page customization. The problem is that when AJAX updates content streams, it doesn’t register as a static page view.

Moreover, video plays can’t be counted strictly through static page views either, and this is increasingly problematic for both websites and advertisers.

Nielsen’s assertion that time spent is a better metric is also going to be a problem, and I think what we’ll eventually wind up with will some sort of regular visitor count, and that advertisers will buy visitors in the same way they now buy ratings. Time spent is unreliable, because it assumes people open and close sites as they browse along the web. This is not necessarily the case anymore, because people can move content to their own browser via RSS. Also, not everybody closes out a session when they’re done, and that means it will appear people are “on site” when actually they’re not.

Time spent is another metric of the static web, and that’s the real problem.

This is can’t be good news for the big providers of websites for local media companies, especially those that are monetized strictly through page views. This includes many big broadcast companies that rely on centralized control to achieve scale for ads. I’ve seen goal statements that list a certain number of page views as the mission, and this was completely justified in the days of the static web. Not so anymore.

This isn’t going to happen overnight, because the ad community is still immersed in page views, but it will happen. That creates a significant opportunity for those who move down the non-page view path and create their own models to sell to advertisers.

This whole business of web metrics is evolving and changing rapidly, but I think if we concentrate on audience, a.k.a. visitors (unique or otherwise), we’ll be just fine. We’re also going to have to get involved in RSS advertising and follow the trends in unbundled advertising closely. Remember, advertising is content in Media 2.0.

Comments

  1. My only nit is your comment about people being “on site” when they are not.
    I think the measuring software would require a “click out” in order to determine if a viewer left the site, so people who never “close out a session” will probably not get counted.
    Unfortunately, the people who open a site in a new tab, then close that tab will probably also not count under such a solution, as they will not have a “click out” entry in the session logs.

  2. What’s a “click out?”

  3. Bruce Hayden says

    Running Mozilla or Firefox, I tend to have maybe a dozen sites active in a dozen tabs in two or three windows. Should advertisers get credit for displaying in the 11 tabs I am not viewing? Or, if I leave some of the browser windows open and minimized while I do something else, should they get credit there either? Indeed, I have one computer running 60 miles from here with probably a half dozen sites visible, if anyone were there to view them, which there aren’t.

    IE is not as good as Mozilla and Firefox at encouraging you to have a dozen sites active at once, but even there, I often find excess windows open. Indeed, one of the reasons that I prefer Firefox to IE is that the later tends to spawn innumerable pop-up windows. If they are running someone’s video, should that company get credit for the time before the pop-up is killed? I sometimes just let them accumulate in the background.

    That is part of why I think that the author is right that time on-site is not all that realistic a metric either.

  4. Any metric that relies on the HTML attribute “onUnload” will be woefully inaccurate. Since many popup sites use this technique it is one of the first things that popup blockers filter out. and anyone who isn’t using a popup blocker of some sort is so dumb it’s questionable how valuable counting them would be for advertisers?

  5. I see more problems with time-spent statistics from these comments than with clicks.

    1) Is there anyone advocating for this and defending these pretty basic objections?
    2) In addition to possibly a worse solution, it sounds very disruptive == wasted ad money == unhappy advertisers.

    Who benefits from this?

  6. Master William says

    Nielsen only track the tab that is in focus.

  7. Isn’t this going to naturally evolve to click throughs and eventually purchase throughs? Too much noise with other possible solutions.

    Based on that I just can’t see how a website moving forward makes any more than a nice, but relatively small rent. Certainly not a major source of revenue. Except of course of Google who can do the volumes that allow pennies to add up with marginal costs close to zero and the most efficient and numerous server farms on the planet.

    The only possible competition might be Amazon, but it seems they are staying away from this space, for now. Although that might change if they get approached by a coalition of big media with a non exclusive agreement. But I just can’t see it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] You may be familiar with my distaste for metrics fetishists, or anyone who likes to pretend that value lies only in things which can be measured. Anyway, this is welcome news for people like me who have been called crazy, utopian dreamers for saying that the page view was going the way of the do-do: [T]oday, 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. […]

  2. […] Terry Heaton has more details, for those of you without a Wall Street Journal account. […]

  3. […] The problem, naturally with a site like TechMeme — unlike Paid content — is that it must have a very low pageview to unique ratio.  We can say what we want about pageviews, they won’t go away because it’s an easy to understand and use metric for media buyers, which I have addressed in depth here… but what I think Gabe could do that would considerably add time each user spends on his site and dramatically boost pageviews is to allow for comments on his site.  Take the discussion away from the blogs to his site.  Audacious, to some extent, but probably very effective.  Of course, commentors on Valleywag are different than commentors on Tech Crunch etc.  But more importantly, in the wake of pageviews being overshadowed by average time spent by user, is interesting. […]

  4. […] Pageviews not a Web 2.0 Ad Metric Another great post on why pageviews don’t matter in today’s online advertising.  Never heard of Terry Heaton but I like him already.  Nice post Terry.  Death of the pageview has been talked about for some time by industry insiders.  Certainly at PodTech we don’t see pageviews as a viable metric in ‘new media’.  It’s about unique users and their activity (downloads/video views).  Specifically community and influence are key variables in the ‘new algorithms’ that will define Search 2.0.  […]

  5. […] “If your web advertising strategy is built around page views, you’re going to have to find another way to sell.” — Terry Heaton […]

  6. […] A new report by Nielsen / Netratings seemingly has accelerated the death of the pageview (via Terry Heaton): “..as the technology that publishers use to deliver content to the user moves away from static, reloaded pages to be more streamlined content‑e.g. online videos- the page view is becoming a less relevant gauge of where might be the best place to advertise online.” […]

  7. […] Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog: Say goodbye to the page view as an ad metric “This isn’t going to happen overnight, because the ad community is still immersed in page views, but it will happen. That creates a significant opportunity for those who move down the non-page view path and create their own models to sell to advertisers (tags: annonser markandsföring besöksstatistik statistik terry_heaton nielsen_netratings comscore) […]

  8. […] Saying goodbye to the page view is like finally getting rid of an annoying house guest who stayed way too long. Nielsen NetRatings and ComScore will start to emphasize time spent on a site instead. as the technology that publishers use to deliver content to the user moves away from static, reloaded pages to be more streamlined content‑e.g. online videos- the page view is becoming a less relevant gauge of where might be the best place to advertise online.” … […]

  9. […] Terry Heaton says that if your web advertising strategy is built around page views, you’re going to have to find another way to sell. I hope he’s right. That would be the best news for online journalism in years. (See Davidson, above.) […]

  10. […] A new report by Nielsen NetRatings seemingly has accelerated the death of the pageview (via Terry Heaton): “..as the technology that publishers use to deliver content to the user moves away from static, reloaded pages to be more streamlined content‑e.g. online videos- the page view is becoming a less relevant gauge of where might be the best place to advertise online.” […]

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.