The Media Rating Council in the US has announced the certification of a number of attention time metrics used for online ad sales, in a move that could see a significant shift in the way that publishers and advertisers price ads.
Web analytics firm Chartbeat is the developer of the 21 metrics recently certified by the MRC, the body responsible for ensuring that audience measurement in the media industry is “valid, reliable, and effective”.
The certification follows moves by the Financial Times and The Economist to trial attention time, or time-based metrics. The aim of the metrics are to offer alternative ad currencies to cost-per-1000 impressions (CPM), with a focus on audience engagement and time spent in front of a digital ad rather than overall clicks.
Under this currency, articles that attract certain kinds of readers and for longer periods of time will carry more value for the publisher than under currencies that solely measure total unique page visits, and hence find value in articles that generate a ‘clickbait’ effect but may not engage readers to the same extent.
In a post announcing the certification, advertising product specialist for Chartbeat, Alex Carusillo, wrote that this development should help heighten the value of in-depth content for advertisers and publishers.
“We’ve been driving this idea for a couple years now – we’ve always believed that the click and the impression are not the way advertisers should value content,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
“A heady piece on global policy in the Financial Times is just a fundamentally better opportunity for an advertiser (and for the internet in general) than one on some clickbait blog. It just is.
“But before this accreditation came through it didn’t matter how much you believed in that ‘attention is valuable’ story because you still couldn’t sell it.”
Director of research for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia, Gai Le Roy, said that the association had been reviewing time exposure for ads as part of its overall review of the move towards viewable impression tracking in the market. She said that time is an important metric and that the IAB supported the expansion of metrics that “make sense to brand advertisers”.
“Anecdotally there is evidence the longer that a consumer is exposed to an ad the better it performs on brand metrics, which makes sense, but I would like to see further testing to review the difference in impact for different time periods.”
“It is significant that the main publishers pushing this metric to date, the Financial Times and The Economist, have high quality audiences and they are obviously confident that time data will support their sales proposal.”
In May this year the Financial Times announced that it was trialling Chartbeat’s attention minute metrics for selling ads on its website, and that it would fully roll that product out to market later this year. Last week The Economist made a similar announcement, with president of The Economist’s group media businesses, Paul Rossi, telling The Wall Street Journal that the company needs to “find ways to highlight to advertisers that there is a different level of engagement they get from our readers…we are not a content farm.”
Ultimately, the media organisations that are pushing the implementation of these metrics are those that want to monetise quality, depth and the attention they get from readers perusing their site. Having 21 Chartbeat metrics accredited for meeting the requirements of the Media Rating Council’s Minimum Standards for Media Ratings Research is a major step in making this type of ad trading currency established in the market.
Ms Le Roy said that the industry needed to be careful to ensure that it correctly labelled and explained metrics like “attention” and “engagement” , to ensure that there was a clear understanding of what they mean, as “different providers and publishers have different approaches”.
“However time spent either on content or viewing an ad as an extra diagnostic metric for advertisers is in general, technical issues aside, is a positive move for the industry.”
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