Advances in interface design associated with Web 2.0 will make the page impression even less meaningful than it already is. The time has come for internet to be measured more like broadcast media than press.
I must confess that I do find programmes like the apprentice and Dragon’s Den both entertaining and a good reminder that businesses need to be built on sound principles.
So I was shocked a few weeks ago when the panel got particularly excited about a poker affiliate website that had attracted 50,000 hits. Not one panel member asked over what period this virtually meaningless metric had been counted, let alone how many people that equated to and whether any of them had signed up on poker sites.
It seems funny that 10 years on people are still willing to go on prime time television and talk about measuring a website in terms of hits. However, despite the fact that it cannot be done for flash sites people have still been happy to measure website popularity in terms of pages.
Page impression figures are almost as easy to manipulate as hits because if you want to double your page impressions you can just split the content from one page into a menu and sub-pages. For example, if you have a horoscope page you can split it into 12 pages, one for each horoscope. People may stay on the pages for half the time, but hey you can serve twice as many banners and who’s counting!
Frame-based websites made defining a page impression difficult but the eventual movement towards table-based web design made page impressions easier to quantify and so they’ve been the main currency ever since.
However, the problem remains that if you redesign your site your page impression figures will be completely irrelevant and so it follows that they don’t give the best answer when trying to evaluate which of two sites is the most popular. However, the arrival of Web 2.0 will change everything.
Web 2.0 allows designers to present sites in a far more synchronous way. Whilst the user accesses the page relevant content that might be needed is constantly being requested from the server. The result is a page impression that lasts for minutes and that is generating a constant stream of hits.
How many hits and how long a page is viewed will be purely down to how it has been designed technically.
The solution to all of this is to accept that web is an active media that has more in common with TV and radio than it does with newspapers.
If a sports website has 100,000 unique users and 1m user hours per week, we are able to evaluate that instantly. If we also know that 1m user hours equates to a 5% share of the total hours spent by UK users accessing sport then better still. Panel-based measurement could be used to calculate the total size of the market whilst site-centric measurement could be used for individual sites.
Of course measuring unique users is easier said than done as The RedEye Report proved (www.redeye.com/case_data.html). But these problems are not insurmountable, as I’ll discuss in a future posting, and the result would be a measurement system that allows sites to be compared fairly be they Web 2.0, flash, normal html or video. Better still, you would be talking in terms that offline media buyers could actually understand.
Are page impressions the new hits?