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Are Page Views Dead? Digital Advertising Screams for New Assessment Measures

Date posted: June 19, 2013

In a thought-provoking post on saydaily.com, the assertion is made that “page views are dead.” For advertisers with a history of evaluating digital media by unique page views— as well as publishers who continue to sell this way— the news must be a little disconcerting.

The blogger outlines the problem:

Advertisers are still, despite all the research into online habits, buying into supposed impact strategies. The worst of these are homepage takeovers (often found on content site homepages – the traditional portals and media properties). Never mind that the average time spent on these content pages can be fractions of a second. If you go to MSN’s homepages, you’re probably there to go to Outlook (formerly Hotmail), similarly with Yahoo! or AOL. If you’re on a showbiz gossip site… you’re busy scanning down the page for headlines or images that catch your eye. And this is where the false logic of numbers comes into play. The unique visitor scores for these kinds of home pages will look reassuringly high, even though there’s little quality time spent with the content. Advertisers like the idea of a campaign that’s “impactful” (even if it isn’t a real word), and by “impactful’ they mean big.

Big numbers, but maybe meaningless ones. An interesting question arises from this numbers fixation: why is so little value attached to how long people spend with the content? The post points to the value of premium content, the reason SAY Media has made a strong emphasis on point-of-view publishing.

An earlier post on the site lists the tenets of this publishing orientation:

People want stories.

They also want a strong and compelling point of view.

No one likes a one-sided conversation.

There needs to be great writing or production quality for readers to feel good about sharing stories.

For publishers, this means being human, creating compelling content, and investing in distributing the content. “Finding a way to get people to invest the time required to move from considering a relationship with a brand to being an advocate is one of the biggest challenges advertisers face,” says Daniel Tokheim, senior vice president of media solutions at SAY Media. “The best way to do it? Create content they’ll treasure— and have a distribution plan that takes in account media consumption habits.”

I agree with this more engaged orientation, but it still demands new metrics to validate it for advertisers. If you have any ideas about this, or know of someone that does, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.