Measuring the Effectiveness of Measurement

Many have cried about the death of the pageview, largely due to the emergence of video content and AJAX-enabled pages with non-reload updated information. But the pageview isn’t dead. At least not yet. Rather, it’s just being dethroned. In Web1.0 it was the only way to measure engagement. Now it’s becoming one metric of many. Ask someone in online ad sales if pageviews don’t matter today. Of course, pageviews are going to matter less and less over time as other measures emerge, and people have been talking about this fact for months. But I think for a long time coming the act of completely refreshing and loading a new page reflects a deliberate act on the user’s part which signifies a level of interaction and engagement with the web that is meaningful. What is more interesting, however, is not the diminishing stature of one metric, but rather the emergence of others. It’s simply a reflection of the fact that all pageviews are not created equal – and that’s always been the case.

Two weeks ago comScore (with its eye towards announcing its plans to go public yesterday) added the notion of “visits” to its scoring of websites. Peter Daboll of Yahoo subsequently applauded this move (which reboosted their stature in the comScore rankings saying, “This by no means is a silver bullet, as this metric doesn’t count ad consumption and impressions (which, by the way, is also a drawback of pageviews). What it does provide is a valuable reference for advertisers to determine where to increase their ad exposure and budgets.” And yesterday Compete introduced a new metric called “attention” which “fuses engagement (measured by time) and traffic (measured by unique visitors) into a single, more complete picture of a web site’s value.”

Other notable measurement statistics have emerged when innovators take a fresh perspective as the web has evolved with the “new” content type of video. Early-stage startups like TubeMogul (which performs cross-site video and video publisher tracking across MySpace, Metacafe, Revver, Yahoo Video, and YouTube) are trying to make sense of how many people watch video, when, why, and what that actually means. The past few weeks of posts on TubeMogul’s blog have contained some insightful commentary around views of political videos and the effect of those on parties and candidates (see here and here).

Last week Ari Rosenberg wrote an Online Publisher Insider article rightly claiming that we shouldn’t kill the pageview. But his reasoning for doing so is completely incorrect, as he contends that it will hurt the industry with confusion around metrics. I think this is a short-sighted approach to a long term problem about how to effectively measure user’s engagement on the web. As Jeremy Guterman at PaidContent has written, “what do we get with more information? A muddier picture, but maybe a more accurate one.” We’re in the midst of a sticky transition about how we measure actions online – to say that the pageview is dead may be overly sensational, but to contend that we shouldn’t press forward looking for new solutions is myopic.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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