Measuring time spent at a site rather than hits

August 19, 2007

In July, Nielsen’s NetRatings changed its web traffic measurements to focus on time spent at a given site rather than the traditional page views, and page views per user (PV/UU). Since then, many web 2.0 sites, including communities, gaming, video, etc. have received this change as the Holy Grail of web ratings, even those whose ranking went down.

While it is true that time spent at a site increases  exposure to ad display, and possibly CPM, the time-based measurement paradigm is only applicable to countries with deep internet and broadbrand penetration. In countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, South America, Africa and South-East Asia, much of the population still connects via dial-up modems and hits are a much better metric. The ability to watch streamed audio and video in these markets is very limited; gaming is not responsive enough; and the engagement in  social networking is rather limited. Or as Yahoo Peter Daboll put it: "You're never going to have one metric that's the holy grail of Internet measurement."

The sad thing about Nielsen's NetRatings change from hits to time spent has not been the change itself, but all the FUD around it. This is one of the things about the internet, and an annoying one, evil viral marketing takes over is significantly less time than on the non virtual world where the power of scrutiny stops the FUD.

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