It’s not just eyeballs, darling, it’s how much the eyeballs like it

nzherald.co.nz has signalled a strategic change in direction, moving away from page impressions as a predominant measure of a site’s success and towards metrics that provide greater transparency to advertisers.

Spencer Bailey, general manager at nzherald.co.nz, says the way page impressions are measured no longer effectively represents advertising impressions.

“This lack of transparency makes it very difficult for advertisers and their agencies to place a real value on the media they are buying. We aim to fix that by focusing on the quality of user engagement, not the quantity of page impressions reported.”

In 2009, he says it became possible for publishers to report a new page impression if half or more of the viewing screen was updated, without necessarily delivering a new advertising impression. As these in-page interactions became more popular, publishers have been able to report higher page impression numbers, without delivering any additional value to advertisers or users (StopPress has already waded into the at-times confusing realm of online advertising and particularly whether foreign eyeballs were a curse or a blessing).

Instead, nzherald.co.nz is focusing on improving truly important advertising metrics such as audience reach and delivering transparency to agencies and advertisers without hampering user design.

One of the measures nzherald.co.nz will be looking at is how readers can be encouraged to stay longer on each page. Improving the average page duration creates greater value for advertisers as users have more exposure to their advertisements. Domestic Average Page Duration at nzherald.co.nz was up to 71 seconds on the first full day of results since the change was made last Friday and, while a few weeks of data will be needed to see what the trends are, Sarah Marshall, marketing manager at nzherald.co.nz, says “common sense would suggest this will only continue to go up as we launch more features”.

Nigel Tutt, acting group head of digital at Fairfax Media says the company ultimately takes its direction on metrics from clients in an attempt to meet their needs. And the metrics for stuff.co.nz make for fairly good reading (if you’re from Fairfax).

“Since overtaking [nzherald.co.nz] in July 2009 as New Zealand’s most popular news and entertainment site, Stuff.co.nz has extended its lead to 321,812 domestic users to reach a massive 2.26 million New Zealand browsers.”

Over the last year, he says average daily domestic unique browsers has grown 43 percent, monthly domestic unique browsers have grown by 73 percent, monthly domestic page impressions have grown by 138 percent and average session duration has grown by 17 percent. 

Back at nzherald.co.nz, Bailey says the decision to change the model was simple.

“We could have competed in the muddy and often confusing battle for page impressions, or make a clear stand in the market with a major focus on delivering a better experience for users, and a more engaged audience for our advertisers. For us the choice was obvious.”

In other news, nzherald.co.nz has also been named as one of only five mobile news sites in the world to be awarded Official Honoree status at the Webby Awards (check out a few other Kiwi Webby nominees/honorees here)

The Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15 percent of work entered that exhibits remarkable achievement, with Webby Award organisers saying the mobile Webby Awards Honorees “have shown the foresight and ingenuity to excel within a quickly changing and increasingly fragmented Mobile Web universe”. And with nearly 10,000 entries received from over 60 countries, Bailey says the award is a massive achievement for the site.

“To be recognised as an honoree by the leading digital awards in the world, alongside organisations such as The New York Times and CBS, is something we’re hugely proud of. To receive that recognition for our mobile site truly highlights the work we’ve done to provide innovative ways for people to access their news – whenever they want and wherever they are.”

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