Moving away from clicks and links to attention and quality

By March 17, 2014 3 Comments

Tony Haile, CEO of analytics business Chartbeat has a great post up on Time with the provocative title What you think you know about the web is wrong. His point is that we have all been tracking clicks and links as a proxy for attention and intent, but attention and engagement are what really count. As a result publishers and advertisers often misunderstand their businesses and invest in clickbait and articles that people don’t read that don’t perform for advertisers.

Tony says that smart companies like Medium, Upworthy, and the Financial Times have figured this out and are starting to focus on engagement metrics to measure their own success and value their advertising products. The net result is higher quality content which consumers spend more time reading and which supports brand driven banner ad campaigns with quality creative with high recall rates. The insights here are that recall rates are a better measure of ad performance than click through rates, and that recall rates rise when the creative is good AND users dwell on a page long enough to notice it.

The article is packed full of supporting data, much of it culled from a 2 billion pageviews generated by 580,000 articles on 2000 sites. Here are a couple of highlights:

  • We don’t read what we click on so chasing pageviews is a mistake. 55% of the 2bn visits analysed spent less than 15s on the page. The most valuable customers are those that remember a site and come back. Publishers generating linkbait have to start again from scratch every time.
  • Native advertising only works when the content is great – and today most of it isn’t. On normal articles 71% of people scroll, but for native advertising the figure is 21%. The trick for publishers is to ensure that the native advertising offers an experience consistent with the rest of the site.

The web that Tony describes is an exciting one that I would love to see. Less clickbait and shallow articles and more quality content that holds attention combined with a shift towards higher ad quality creative designed to inspire and be remembered. Sounds great to me.