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The Ad Metrics Mess

Nielsen//NetRatings took a step forward today in admitting an addiction to bad stuff: the page view. The rating service dropped the page view as the standard metric of measurement, because quite frankly, in the age of new kinds of technology like Ajax and RSS, the page view just doesn’t give you a good sense of what kind of audience you have.

I have been thinking about this this morning, and frankly, all this seems like is an interim step. Because in the place of the page view, Nielsen is defaulting to total number of minutes spent on a site. The new problems with this are obvious.

The reason these metrics came to be in the first place was in part because advertisers needed a way to figure out the popularity of a site. But let’s look at time spent. Some sites or services that you spend a lot of time on, Yahoo’s instant messaging, for instance, have proven to be lousy places to get any results for ads. Basing any advertising buys on time spent seems like a losing proposition.

So basically, Nielsen took a step into the unknown and probably knows it needs to come up with other measurements that really do show engagament that matters to advertisers.

All these confusion may seem to benefit Google, which sells ads based on clicks and so might have an argument for pushing for that as the standard metric. But it seems to me that that they also want out a measurement beyond clicks, given their push in banner advertising with the acquisition of DoubleClick.

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