Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's Not How Much You Read, It Is How Long You Look

So we have a new method for determining how we compare web sites to each other from one of the most influential measurers of web traffic. Nielsen NetRatings said Tuesday that it has added both "total minutes" and "total sessions" metrics to its NetView syndicated Internet audience measurement service.

Their rationale is that a Web page visitor who spends 20 minutes watching a YouTube video isn't the equivalent of a Web page visitor who spends 10 seconds glancing at a news article, at least as far as advertisers and publishers are concerned.

But they are entering interesting territory as there are beginning to measure apples against oranges. There is a reason that the Audit Bureau of Circulations owns the newspaper metric market and that Arbitron owns radio. They are inherently different in how people consume the news and entertainment and therefore the advertising systems and relationships are different.

But my favorite quote comes from the director of product marketing.
'Total Minutes' is the best engagement metric in this initial stage of Web 2.0 development, not only because it ensures fair measurement of Web sites using RIA [rich Internet applications] and streaming media, but also of Web environments that have never been well-served by the page view, such as online gaming and Internet applications," said Scott Ross, director of product marketing for Nielsen NetView, in a statement. 'Total minutes is the most accurate gauge to compare between two sites. If [Web] 1.0 is full page refreshes for content, Web 2.0 is, "How do I minimize page views and deliver content more seamlessly?'

It amuses me because of the Web 2.0 reference. That moniker continues to mean different things to different people, depending on how they want to use it. I guess here we have to score one for marketing over technology definitions.

In a nutshell, tracking the time spent by users on a Web site may be an alternate way to measure engagement than tracking page views but that doesn’t mean it is better. It is simply different. The value of that difference will be interesting to watch emerge.
Ross goes on to say,
"This is likely to affect Google's ranking because while users visit the site often, they don't usually spend much time there. 'It is not that page views are irrelevant now, but they are a less accurate gauge of total site traffic and engagement.'”

Except that Google owns YouTube. In June, Nielson Netratings ranked ZoomInfo as the number one growth site on the Internet with YouTube coming in second. I would imagine that their new ranking system, with time spent on site being the number one metric, would change the rankings there in Google’s favor.

I am unsure of how many South Puget Sound sites get advertising dollar at a level that would be effected by this, but here are three examples of how local sites keep the viewer engaged without a page reload.

Kevin Freitas is helping us keep cool with Click and a chilly little slideshow (with frosty music).

Exit133 continues to serve up interesting slices of Tacoma people and culture with a video from the Tacoma Museum of Art. is featuring a video from YouTube (scroll down to it) with his entry on a David Pogue Music Video. Even though the video is streamed from another source, the viewer stays engaged on the local page.

I don’t believe anyone in the South Puget Sound gets advertising dollar in the fashion the Nielson NetRatings has reconfigured, but at least according to their thinking, we have our share of web 2.0 people.

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