Are page views and unique user metrics passe? - a question recently posed by CNET News.com
Page views, along with unique-visitor counts, are currently the main way to measure Web site traffic. But new technologies like AJAX allow users to get more information from a Web page without reloading, which can throw off traffic data. Now, some industry figures are calling for new metrics.
I think there's an even more important issue: when did page views/impressions and monthly unique users become relevant? who decided that? because it's not very closely matched to marketer needs compared with the measurement your average radio station can deliver.
My view is that before the interactive industry collectively votes on the next new wave of measurement, we should seek to understand the objectives of marketers and then meet and beat the measurement capability of offline media - the places where marketers currently spend 10x what they spend online.
I was chatting with David Smith of Mediasmith last week about this very topic - he's been working with clients since 1989 on cross media planning, from TV through to search, so he's about as good a person to opine on this topic as anyone. If you're a start up with an ad supported web site, you should read his material or listen to him or hire his firm. The money he represents is more important long term than the VC money you covet :)
Before online publishers collectively decide on some alternative metric like "sessions" or "duration" to pitch clients, it might do us some good to get to the root of what our customers are looking for:
By and large, brand marketers are looking for reach, frequency and engagement: (this is clearly different than a direct marketer who's looking to drive immediate sales).
- reach measures the number of individual people (not cookies, not sessions) (more is better given a target group of influencers or a desired demographic segment)
- frequency is the number of times a viewer sees the advertisers' messages (Dave reminded me of a major disconnect here - more below)
- engagement is the action taken as a result of the message that moves a viewer from awareness to consideration or from consideration to preference or from preference to sale.
There are tens of billions of dollars currently spent by marketers seeking to influence brand preferences and sales - those dollars are spent in broadcast, newspapers, radio, outdoor and magazines.
Most, if not all of the money spent outside of the web is given reach and frequency measurements while most web sites cannot and instead offer up impressions.
Marketers are wanting us to deliver solutions that:
a) take advantage of the interactivity, integration and innovation that the web has to offer,
b) they are able to buy in scale (as much as we all love the long tail and influential bloggers, few marketers want to spend $50 million in units of $20k - it doesn't work well)
c) come with measurements that are comparable with the rest of their budgeting (reach and frequency).
Dave's reminder is that on web sites, most ad systems are set up to "rotate" advertisers, which means that unless an advertiser buys all of the impressions, they aren't getting the reach of the site, they are getting the reach and frequency of their campaign.
So it stands to reason that figuring out a dependable, 3rd party system for measuring campaign level reach and frequency should be a major priority.
Then our next challenge would need to be how we measure engagment.
If our industry can deliver something simple and better than other media, and we can be more effective and innovative and deliver optimization etc, without the confusion and complexity and ineffiency that clouds online spending today - then we deserve the next $20 billion.
However, if we simply vote on other metrics that don't match marketers' needs, then we don't deserve a dime.
I'm going to try to figure out who's doing what More posts as I learn more. Comments are welcome.