Step Aside Pageviews: Media Buyers Are Demanding—and Receiving—More Granular Metrics From Publishers

Digital sites are getting creative with KPIs

Every metric is important to consider as long as media buyers realize each is only a piece of the pie. Getty Images
Headshot of Sara Jerde

Media buyers are in the digital market to buy more than just pageviews and impressions. They want to know readers are engaged with a post, that their advertisements will feel familiar to consumers and that, ultimately, their buys result in actual trackable outcomes.

Publishers are stepping up and offering different metrics to meet those needs and pique media planners’ interests, presenting them with more granular consumer and audience data on the readers and customers who are shopping, socializing and sharing in the same space as the content exists: online.

Every metric is important to consider, according to experts, including pageviews and impressions, as long as media buyers realize each measurement is only a piece of the pie.

“If all you’re doing is buying impressions, you’re wasting your clients’ money,” said Barry Lowenthal, CEO of The Media Kitchen, a media planning and buying agency. “There are far better metrics than impressions.”

There’s still a gap between how readers are looking at, discovering and sharing content and how publishers are monetizing that interest. To make matters worse, there’s no universal language between publishers and media planners to explain all of this, said Josh Schirle, director of paid media for Engine Media.

“And that is clearly translated in media plans when everything is based around, essentially, an antiquated form of measurement, which is an impression,” Schirle said, later adding, “By saying that one size fits all for measurement, are we even doing ourselves any good?”

Here are the metrics media experts say they want to see publishers use:

Time spent

This includes anything from the amount of time spent on a page to the scroll depth of a post—meaning how far the reader scrolls down the page—and whether the reader interacted with the content. It’s one of the variables Russell Schneider, head of sales and business development for 9GAG, a publisher of viral content, considers.

“Did the consumer actually take the initiative to replay something or perform some type of action rather than just view it? Those are really important metrics,” Schneider said.

Branded content

Branded content can be effective, but it has to match what the audience wants to read, said Frank Puma, managing director of digital investment at Mindshare.

“To really create content that’s beneficial, there needs to be a reason to be there. And it has to feel authentic,” Puma said. “Our consumers are OK with advertising as long as it doesn’t pull a fast one over them.”

Knowing when to serve an ad

Schirle said knowing when to serve an ad, based on the readers’ actions, is also meaningful. And that goes beyond just scrolling down the page, he added, but determining when they’re going to take another action.

“When they’re x-ing out to leave the site, that tells us that they’re actively engaged to consume something else and are seeing that being used as an advertising opportunity,” Schirle said.

Proving outcomes

“We’re moving away from the era of exposure to the era of outcome,” said Lowenthal, who added he wants to know actual outcomes from a media buy, such as new account openings, hotel bookings or apparel sales. Lowenthal further predicts that advertisers will have to “retool their business model” to understand how media influenced the purchasing experience.

More digital publishers, such as The Daily Beast and Mic, are trying to understand, and measure, how content affects their audience, how those emotions make them feel about a particular brand or product and how those feelings drive actions.

Audience-specific demos

Impressions will always be part of the conversation, Puma said, adding they are important to track to “know you have an audience,” but publishers need to go a step further now and know who that audience is, where they’re coming from and what they’re reading, as well as be able to relay that information to media buyers.

Vox Media pulls these figures for advertisers.

“We serve the curious, the super-fans, the people who care to go deeper type of audience and, therefore, we need deeper engagement metrics,” said Mike Hadgis, svp, head of revenue and partnerships, Vox Media. “For example, what’s more valuable: to reach an audience that viewed an eight-minute video 1 million times with an average of 10 seconds of time watched? Or an SB Nation audience that viewed an eight-minute video 500,000 times, but has an average of 6:42 of time watched?”


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This story first appeared in the June 4, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.
Publish date: June 3, 2018 https://stage.adweek.com/digital/heres-what-metrics-media-experts-want-to-see-from-publishers-its-not-just-impressions/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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