I was pleased to see today a headline news story from PaidContent.org, and originally found on AP, focusing on the recent Nielsen decision regarding web metrics and page views. Simply, Nielsen is dropping page view measurements in exchange for time spent on a site. There are several catalysts for this move including the following: page views are too fuzzy of a concept, Ajax technology allows updating a page without reloading (and thus distorts accurate view counts) and video websites, which rely partially or fully on streaming technologies, can garner massive usage that doesn’t show up on view counts.
Websites have notoriously been inflating, intentionally or not, page views for a long time. I had personal experience with this exact issue last year. It also gets difficult sometimes to qualify exactly what page view is meaningful or not since many of the views may not be fully “impressionable” from an advertising perspective. Hence a page view with no ability to display an ad on it is, to most business models, worthless.
I see this being particularly useful to websites like Yahoo or emerging players like Pageflakes and live social media sites including ManiaTV. AOL already is benefitting from the modification via the massive usage that occurs on AIM, another app not appreciated in the former world of page views. Those types of websites have been continually affected by the challenge of measuring actual performance and success by page views which aren’t being defined by their products. It will also be helpful in the increasingly prominent virtual world environments where places like There, Gaia or Doppelganger likely had no accurate way to describe page view activity and thus were stuck presenting their success (or not) via other mechanisms.
My one question around this transition in measurement relates to how this will impact business models and financial modeling efforts going forward. While I fully agree that “time spent” is a more accurate reflection of a sites value to users, what does the correlation look like between “time spent” and advertising dollars? If an integrated or comprehensive sponsorship deal is cut, the point is moot. But, if ads served somehow ties to activity on the site, and banner ads are still a unit being used, I don’t comprehend fully how this applies. Another part of the announced news today relates to user “log-in” sessions being also standardized as a metric. Perhaps that will become a more fundamental tool for modeling purposes and advertisement measurements.
Other than that point of hesitation, this is a positive development and one that I’m sure many websites and tech companies are cheering about now this week.