Ratings are never easy to calculate. Especially on the web, where visits to sites can last mere seconds. But now Nielsen has released internet ratings that include “total minutes” and “total sessions.” Abbey Klassen, writer for Advertising Age, explains who benefits from the new system.
In the Internet’s early days, we measured the success of websites by counting hits. Then we tallied page views and now we can rate the sites by measuring actual minutes spent there. Recently, Nielsen Ratings added time-metrics to its online audience rating system. Nielsen says that with savvy Internet applications like YouTube video streaming, users log in for hours without tallying more than one page view.
Not only that, but I think if you look at the popularity of online video, that is causing large numbers of people to load pages but stay on them for longer periods of time, so the issue has become exactly how do you measure that kind of engagement. BROOKE GLADSTONE: And now duration of visit is sort of rearing its head as the next best way to measure audience. ABBEY KLASSEN: That’s right. So last week, Nielsen-net ratings introduced a new metric called Total Minutes, and the idea was that this would be able to help out the sites for whom page views were becoming less relevant, video sites, for example. And it would add up all of the minutes that people spend on a site in a month.
Now, this is a great way to measure engagement, in some cases, but I think that’s a very important caveat, because if you think of certain sites like say, information reference sites, Google, or even a weather.com, the whole point of going to that site is to get in and get out with the information that you need as efficiently as possible. BROOKE GLADSTONE: You know, if you count unique visitors, Google comes up number one. ABBEY KLASSEN: [LAUGHS] Exactly. BROOKE GLADSTONE: If you count page views, it comes up third and if you count total minutes spent in billions, it comes in fifth. ABBEY KLASSEN: So there’s a bit of a reshuffling of the deck chairs, depending on what metric you want to use. The good news is that advertisers generally don’t just buy based on one metric, so we see them looking at things like unique visitors. That’s a really good indication of a site’s reach. They might look at Total Minutes Spent, or Average Time Spent per Session, to get a sense of engagement.
You know, it’s never just a single metric game when it comes to media buying. BROOKE GLADSTONE: But when we talk about this new way that Nielsen wants to measure, Duration of Time Spent Online, in your view, will this new data give advertisers a more accurate picture of what’s going on, or at least what’s relevant to them? ABBEY KLASSEN: I’ll be honest with you. I think that this new measure is a little bit more for publishers than it is for advertisers. This is simply a new way to rank the websites, and for websites like Yahoo, which uses a lot of Ajax technology and has said page views don’t accurately show how strong we are, this is a way for them to say, hey, look at how long people are spending on the site.
You look at AOL. I mean, they come up first in terms of total minutes on a site, by a long shot. Twenty-five billion total minutes a month, and you ask, well why is that? It’s because they have a really popular instant messaging tool. BROOKE GLADSTONE: You mentioned that there were billions of dollars at stake here, but at least according to Forbes the total online ad market still accounts for only a small percentage of overall ad expenditures, around six percent. So are we talking about prospective dollars here or real dollars? ABBEY KLASSEN: Well, this year the online advertising market place in the U.S. is expected to be about a $20 billion one. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Wow! ABBEY KLASSEN: But I think what’s key is that it’s growing at a much faster rate than the other media. BROOKE GLADSTONE: One last thing: With TV and radio ratings, we’ve always had pretty much a single set of numbers from Nielsen or Arbitron about how many people are watching or listening. But when it comes to the Internet, we suddenly have a whole range of numbers and multiple ways of looking at each of these numbers.
Do you think that the Internet, with all of its promise of exactitude, will actually end up throwing into doubt the whole enterprise of counting individual audience members online? ABBEY KLASSEN: I think it is very confusing, and I get this question a lot from traditional media folks. We look at the Internet as one medium. I think it’s more like a channel with many different media in it, so if you think about online video, do you measure that the same way that you would measure a static online page, you know?
You’re gonna look at things like demographics of the site, median age, all of that stuff. It’s not just simply, you know, oh, who ranks first when it comes to total minutes. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Abbey, thank you very much. ABBEY KLASSEN: Thanks so much. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Abbey Klassen is digital editor for Ad Age magazine. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]