Nielsen Replaces Page View Ranking With Time Spent, Swaps One Problematic Metric For Another
1 min read

Nielsen Replaces Page View Ranking With Time Spent, Swaps One Problematic Metric For Another

Nielsen took a big step towards accelerating the death of the page view by announcing it would rank websites by time spend on the site instead. But time spent is an equally problematic metric that assumes that more is better, which isn’t the case with web applications designed for efficiency, like Google search.

Ranking top sites by total minutes instead of page views gives Time Warner Inc.’s AOL a boost, largely because time spent on its popular instant-messaging software now gets counted. AOL ranks first in the United States with 25 billion minutes based on May data, ahead of Yahoo’s 20 billion. By page views, AOL would have been sixth.

Google, meanwhile, drops to fifth in time spent, primarily because its search engine is focused on giving visitors quick answers and links for going elsewhere. By page views, Google ranks third.

The problem is that the web is not a monolithic medium. Reading a blog, using instant messaging, and using web search are utterly different — the idea that one metric can be used as a yardstick to compare them is absurd on the face of it.

The simplest common metric that would be meaningful is returning unique visitors, i.e. how many people use the site/service everyday, every week, etc.

Oh, but wait…you can’t measure unique visitors on the web, because people clear their cookies, use different computers, and do all sorts of things to defeat the technology.

Makes you wonder what the point of this obsession over metric is.

Oh, right, so that advertisers can figure out where to advertise and investors can figure out which sites to overpay for. Well, maybe we should look at the metric used by one of the most successful sites from both an advertising and investment perspective — what metric does Google use? Page views? No. Time spent? No. Unique visitors? No.

Oh, that’s right, those are OLD media metrics — proxies for things that matter, like actions. Google makes money by selling actions, i.e. clicks.

No wonder more than half of all online advertising revenue goes to Google.

Maybe it’s time we dropped the obsession with old media metrics and started thinking about Web native metrics.

Or we can just let Google run away with all the money.