Online publishers have been warned that the way websites' success is measured could be about to change in what some bloggers are calling the 'death of the page view'.
This follows Nielsen/NetRatings' announcement that it would stop using the traditional measurement as its primary metric to compare websites. According to some reports, this could hurt the likes of Google and MySpace, but help the likes of YouTube.
Some bloggers noted that the announcement marks the beginning of the end of the page view metric, which Nielsen is abandoning in a nod to the emerging popularity of Web 2.0 sites that don't have to reload web pages to get fresh content. Others, however, questioned whether the internet benchmarking company's new primary metric - time spent viewing a site - is a fair measurement.
Internet marketing strategist Steve Rubel blogged that Neilsen's move means that "the page view is officially dead”.
Richard McManus noted on his Read/WriteWeb technology blog that time spent has become a more meaningful measurement as bloggers post questionable missives to chase page views.
"Especially since the blogosphere is particularly prone to the 'quantity over quality ' problem," he wrote. "It's easy to pump out 20 plus posts a day - and that tactic garners a lot of page views. But are those blogs actually writing for their readers, or writing to get page views?"
Yet, he added that the move by Nielsen isn't perfect, citing sites like Google that are better measured using page view numbers, compared to blogs, which are best judged by measuring engagement.
"But it's at least a step away from page views, which have become too easily exploited - not just by some blogs but by the likes of Facebook and MySpace (which both make the user go through extra clicks to get to what they want)," noted McManus.
Darren Rowse, who runs ProBlogger, a blog site that advises bloggers on how their sites can make money, noted that he measures the success of his site both by the number of visitors who remain to surf through multiple pages and the time spent perusing those pages than simply by page views.
"Page views are not completely dead for me - but they're definitely less important than they once were," Rowse noted. "Page views still are something I do like to build [because] they are still related to income - but I think we'll see more changes in what the ad networks are doing."
IT consulting firm TechDirt contends that measuring time spent can punish sites like Google for simply doing its job well. "Google is incredibly profitable and successful, precisely because it does a good job of whisking users away to other sites, either through ads or its search results," according to TechDirt's blog.
"The idea of penalising it because users don't spend a lot of time on the site is absurd," the blog continued. "When it comes to TV shows, it may make sense to adopt a uniform measurement system, because all TV shows have the same purpose: to sell ads. Websites, however, have a variety of different business models, so trying to define a standard metric of success is going to prove impossible. Ultimately, the most meaningful measure of a site or service is its profitability, which, unlike page views or time spent, isn't so easily gamed."