Do you measure up? Why success is determined by session duration vs. pageviews

It’s a tale older than the internet: how do we, as publishers, measure success? Publishers have been asking themselves this question since the internet went live, but it has been a complicated journey to understanding the full capabilities of web analytics and measurement.

One of the ways publishers use web analytics is based on the measures they would use for traditional media like magazines and newspapers via subscriptions, paper circulation, etc. These were then translated online and are what we know as pageview metrics.

Pageviews signify how many people requested to view a page by a browser, including repeats. However, unlike the traditional means of metrics, pageviews fail to measure engagement. Yes, a reader clicked on that piece, but did they read it? Did they follow the discussion? Or was it a one-time click? An accident? Another click on a different device? There are too many variables for a system that was built on variables.

So, how should publishers measure success if not pageviews? Publishers should be taking advantage of their content’s online platform: they should track time spent on a site. Time spent on the site can give more accurate numbers in terms of reader engagement, thus making the content tailored to that reader. In the past, publishers could never know how much time readers spent reading a section or certain types of article—it just wasn’t possible with a traditional paper medium. Tracking session durations is increasingly useful for content creators to measure current success as well as determine future content.

Time on a site is much more valuable to a publisher than a page click, especially for market research. Instead of page clicks, tracking session length can create insights about unique, niche audiences: what content is typically consumed, what content will be consumed in the future, and more. These tracking sessions offer insights into individuals’ habits, and often group habits.

“Which web analytics are more efficient” is a frequently contested debate amongst theorists on the internet, but what’s clear is that the method of metrics should represent the medium. Online publishers need to consider how to fully utilize measuring the success of their platforms.

Measuring metrics: session vs. pageview

By Emily E. Steck Publishers want to know: time spent or pageviews to measure how well they are doing in the digital publishing world?

  • Pageview metrics

    By Emily E. Steck A more traditional method used to measure a nontraditional platform, pageviews signify how many people requested to view a page by a browser, including repeats. Yet, it fails to account for variables.

  • Session metrics

    By Emily E. Steck Time spent on the site assesses reader engagement more. Using this data, content creators can learn what content is typically consumed and what content will be consumed in the future.

  • Facebook continues its fight against clickbait

    By Emily E. Steck Even Facebook, where most publishers look for traffic referral and guidance, is moving to session metrics. It’s also developing a way to measure reader engagement by commenting and liking stories.

Image credit: listentothemountains via Flickr

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