Earlier today we wrote about IAB’s efforts to standardize web video metrics. Now, news that Nielsen/NetRatings is planning a major shift in web metrics, moving, according to the AP, from page views as the key metric to time spent on a site. This comes as more sites are using Ajax, which allows updating without reloading a page and has been wreaking havoc with page view rankings. Page views also don’t account for video streams. Nielsen has been measuring average time spent and average sessions per unique visitor. Under the new method, it will report total time spent and sessions for all visitors with the aim of gaging actual site popularity.
This is going to shift some sites’ status considerably. For instance, under the current system, AOL ranked sixth in total page views for May but first in total minutes: 25 billion. Using total time, Google drops to fifth from third in page views. (The reason given is Google’s mission to send people off quickly for answers; that’s probably true but ignores Google’s other mission now, which is to keep people engaged on its own sites.)
— Yahoo has 20 billion total minutes — more than than twice the time spent on Fox Interactive Media — but, as AP notes, only leads in page views by less than 10 percent. Yahoo relies heavily on Ajax; FIM page view generator MySpace requires new pages for every change or profile view. (Facebook also generates a lot of page views by requiring page loads for various changes.)
I’ve always had a problem with page views as a top metric given the way various sites have been able to inflate page views, both by poor design and intentional effort. This shift could help provide a more realistic view although you can still game time spent by making it hard to find things. Now how are Nielsen, comScore — and IAB — going to solve the autoplay
issue where sites jack up streaming numbers by delivering video whether or not a user wants it?