August 6, 2007
Another Proposed Metric: Tabulating Engagement Online

And there's yet another way to measure the value of viewers online, tied into the magic industry word of the year: engagement.

The prize goes to WebTrends, the analytics firm which has created a tabulation method that can give you a score on the spot for a specific visitor. That's right, the qualitative processes of engagements can just be narrowed down to a simple metric that you can add up.

While the sarcasm here is directed at how misguided this intense obsession with making everything boil down to some simple number, there are some important points...the site tracks how deep they go into the site, weighting various pages on the site depending on how engaged with the content you are likely to be to view them. More time spent on these pages might help weed out those who are on the phone or involved in other activities while they are on the site.

There are several good quotes in Laurie Petersen's article from Online Media Daily last week. The head of the Web Analytics Association says both that the new metric is not only "on the money, this is the money," following up with, "Now, I know where to spend my ad money."

I think the idea of ranking pages based on the level of immersion one would likely be at to be at that page isn't a bad idea, but I don't know if I've fallen so fully in love with the metrics yet, or at least how it's likely to be used. I still contend that people who believe engagement can be boiled down to a score between 0 and 100 are missing the point. I'm not saying that monetizing engagement is a bad thing for businesses to think about, and certainly not that numbers aren't worthwhile, but the way engagement is being understood right now makes me a little dubious, to say the least.

Related to this, you might want to look back at Eleanor Baird's recent series about the discussion of metrics at the upfront (look here and here. Eleanor says, "Engagement is also one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot, there is lots of agreement that engagement is good, but no clear cut definition of what it actually is. So, for all of our measurement capability, this concept is extremely tricky to quantify."

Also to the point is Eleanor's series "Challenges of Measuring Engagement," which ran last month as well (see here and here). She goes through the OMD group's formulation that an engaged viewer is worth eight "regular" viewers, and brings up many of her concerns at how such an attribution was supported.

Meanwhile, see my recent posts on measuring online audiences here and here.