I just saw some mind-bending work Chartbeat is about to release about measuring the time users spend exposed to an ad online.
As background, to quote Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile: “Chartbeat monitors activity by checking in with users every second and looking for signals (mouse movement, key strokes, etc) that show they are actively consuming the content in front of them. This means they can measure how long readers spend actively engaged on a page and what parts they’re reading. Because of this Chartbeat knows how long are actively reading while an ad is in view — both for an average user and the cumulative time of all users.” Chartbeat then did some internal research that found high correlation between engaged time exposed and a user’s ability to recall the advertiser’s brand and message. This has many implications:
* Measured this way, ads that appear down alongside the middle of a story turn out to be more valuable than the supposedly premium banners at the top of the page. That’s because people quickly scroll past those banners and all the big hair on the top of the page — logos, promos, and all that — to get to the substance of an article, where they spend time. So inventory that was undervalued becomes more valuable.
* Chartbeat suggests this means that quality content that engages people longer yields better ad performance. That, they say, would be a good thing for better content makers everywhere.
* Now web publishers can sell time like broadcasters — only this is assured exposure time. Advertisers like buying time. Will this make them more comfortable with buying on the web?
* I think this enables publishers to take on some risk for advertisers — guaranteeing them assured exposure time — thus increasing the value of what they sell.
* I wonder whether this spells trouble for the big-ass ads and takeovers we users try to escape as quickly as possible.
* I also wonder whether this spells trouble for the slideshows and other gimmicks that pump page views without increasing time spent exposed to an ad.
* I’d like to think this opens opportunities to find new value in ads next to videos and games and also — this could be important — mobile pages (though don’t think that mobile’s value will come from exposure to messaging; it will still come from knowing people and serving them relevance and value). The longer we spend on a page, the longer we see the ad, the more valuable the ad should be, right?
* I can only hope that this is another nail in the coffin of the dangerous, old-media-like metrics of unique users and pageviews. Engagement will matter more.
A sample report on an ad location:
Those who declare advertising dead are Mark-Twaining-it, I think. There are still many things to learn to find more effectiveness and value in advertising online. This is just one lesson. I say the real value of the net and mobile is in relationships: in learning more about people by delivering them more value so we can be trusted to deliver them greater relevance and value and, in turn, extract greater value from the interaction. More on that later….