Nielsen//Net Ratings & comScore DustUp

Quite of a lot of discussion regarding Nielsen’s (and previously comScore’s) decision to add “duration of visit” as a metric used to rank sites for the display advertising buyer.  They played the engagement card in the press release, the implication being longer duration = higher engagement.  This ticked off the web site analytics side of the house.  A thread in the web analytics group (scroll down for all messages) has all the gory details of the debate on this.

My take is this move really has nothing to do with how you analyze a web site for navigation / actions / conversions and so forth.  The web analytics folks are over-reacting and misinterpreting the intent.  They point out “duration” is not a particularly good metric for many web site analysis applications.  But that’s a different issue.  This move is not about the way we analyze behavior on the site, it’s about:

1.  The display advertising purchase model
2.  A ranking of web sites for that model

It’s not hard to imagine the longer you are on a site, the more likely the display advertising would be seen and an impression registered in the brain.

It’s about being engaged with *display advertising*, not being engaged with your web site or your business.  Buyers of that kind of media would like to know duration, because it makes sense to them and is used with other electronic media.

Whether Frequency or Duration is a better measure for web display advertising has yet to be seen, but I’d bet on the latter as being the best – for exactly the same reasons the web analytics community thinks duration is a bad idea for site measurement.

Briefly, the argument against using duration for web site measurement is along the lines of usability – the longer it takes to accomplish a task, the worse the web site is at satisfying visitors.  But I would argue when you are task focused you’re not nearly as good a target for display ads, are you?

The only mass media that doesn’t use duration as a measurement of audience quality is print.  The macro conclusion you could make – based on what these measure-ers of all things media are doing – is that display advertising on the web is more like TV and Radio than it is like print.  That makes complete sense to me.

For more info on why it makes sense, you can check the web analytics group for my post.

Interested in bigger picture on this?  Check out my posts in the web analytics group on defining online engagement and how to use it.

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4 thoughts on “Nielsen//Net Ratings & comScore DustUp

  1. Can there be any real harm in reporting this metric? It would appear to me that there are as many issues with other metrics as this one. There is no Silver Bullet – on one true metric.

  2. John, I can’t see any harm and personally I find a high correlation between visit duration and quality of visit.

    I think the community is reacting to the inaccuracy of duration metircs in general with web analytics. I’d argue while there’s a lot of reasons they can be inaccurate, they do tend to be precise (same wrong answer over and over) so for this kind of “ranking” exercise, for this specific application (buying display advertising) it’s at least as good if not better than using Frequency / Page Views.

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