Andy Beal and Bryan Eisenberg are both asking good questions about the new “time spent” metrics that Neilsen/Netratings is introducing. Andy wants to know how time spent is calculated (good question) while Bryan assumes that it is time spent in the browser and asks more good questions. Are we missing the boat on metrics here?
I think so.
“Time spent’ is an attempt to treat Web viewing the same as TV viewing, but I think that’s misguided. We don’t measure the time spent watching TV shows because it is a good measurement, but rather because it is all we have. We’re far better off modeling Web metrics around a direct marketing approach that counts the number of impressions made by a message, along with the number of times the reader selected that message and eventually converted.
I talked about this in a Biznology newsletter a few months back, and I still think it’s the right way to think about measurement. The problem with measurements is that we use different ones for every tactic, instead of unifying online marketing metrics so that everyone understands them. Using the direct marketing approach makes our marketing a lot more measurable than trying to equate “time spent” into some kind of business value that CEOs understand. “Time spent” is just marketers talking to other marketers. We need to do better.