Time-based metrics are having a moment. A small number of publishers have been getting attention for the idea of selling based on time readers spend on their sites rather than clicks, as a way of reversing the downward pressure on ad rates. Many others reportedly are considering selling this way. But what exactly are time metrics, and can “engaged time” really save online publishing? Here’s a handy explainer.
What is it?
In general terms, time-based measurement just means measuring the time a user spends with digital content. From there, it gets complicated. A new report by Digital Content Next (formerly known as the Online Publishers Association) shows that the stat that publishers most frequently share with advertisers is average time spent per visit.
Sounds simple enough
But wait. Increasingly publishers also share time spent per visit per user, average time spent on page and average time an ad was in view. So there’s little agreement on what the single most important time-based metric is. Also, publishers are all across the board in terms of vendors, with 95 percent using more than one to measure time spent on site.
Where do advertisers come down in all this?
For now, it’s mainly the publishers (and, most vocally, the ones that have the most to gain, such as The Economist and Financial Times) that are pushing time metrics. It’s easy to see why; selling based on pageviews, which are infinite in supply, has eroded ad rates to an unsustainable level, while in theory, attention is finite and publisher can at least in theory charge a premium for it. The enthusiasm among publishers isn’t matched by the ad-buying community, though.
Because right now, advertisers have their hands full with just making sure their ads are being seen. Also, there’s no agreement on what and how to measure time spent. Agencies question whether time spent has measurable benefits for advertisers. Some would still buy the cheapest impressions possible and adjust the campaign from there. Depending on whether marketers want to get their ads shared as much as possible or get people to take an action like buying or subscribing, the best metric will vary. “It still remains to be seen that time is the best indicator for success, [that] an article that someone spends time with is necessarily better for the brand,” said Edward Kim, CEO of SimpleReach, which measures content performance. Kim believes time is a key measurement, but that pushing to adopt a new currency could cause confusion and slow the movement of dollars to native advertising. All this means that for all their enthusiasm about time metrics, 36 percent of publishers surveyed believe they won’t replace the click.
What happens next?
Observers don’t see advertisers focusing on time metrics until they’re comfortable with viewability. “In 2015, advertisers are going to say, ‘I’m not going to buy inventory that’s not viewable’,” said Jonah Goodhart, CEO and co-founder of viewability measurement firm Moat. Then, the next question will be whether their ads are working. “The problem is, viewability doesn’t equate to effectiveness.”
Well, what does?
Ultimately, said Jon Anselmo, svp, managing director of digital innovation at MediaVest, ad buying won’t be based on one metric or another but bespoke to each client. “I think engaged time will be a lever we have to pull. But we’re going from a world where everything’s a single metric to where there’s a number of different metrics.”
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: A timeline of media unions’ actions this quarter
Media unions are working to get contracts signed by the end of the year, and are using strikes, pickets and rallies to try and accomplish those goals.
BuzzFeed, Hearst, other publishers, replace lavish holiday parties with more subdued celebrations
BDG, BuzzFeed, Hearst and The Washington Post will host in-person holiday parties this year, though they will not be the stereotypical soirées.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: The latest media agency estimates for 2023 revenue are out and they remain, well, upbeat
Two holding company media agency analysts continue to hold a more positive, if slightly tempered outlook on 2023 given strong results for 2022.
SponsoredHow Comscore is simplifying pre- and post-campaign measurement for advertisers
Produced in partnership with Marketecture The following article provides highlights from an interview between Greg Dale, Comscore’s general manager of digital, and Mike Shields, co-founder of Marketecture. Register for free to watch more of the discussion and learn how advanced advertising measurement is providing advertisers access to the deep data they need across all platforms. […]
The case for and against publishers continuing holiday-specific commerce coverage post-Black Friday weekend
Black Friday is over but publishers are up in the air about whether or not to continue covering holiday sales in the lead up to the holidays.
Why PMG’s Nike win doesn’t seem all that unusual for the indie media agency
The Texas-based independent agency continues to grow its roster of clients after landing Nike's media AOR business for North America.