Since the beginning of my professional online career in 2004, my employers have been enslaved by the almighty page view. If you work for a news website – or deal with people who do – you come to measure your self-worth in those metrics.
Gawker, some might say, was one of the big influences in creating the page-view-is-king mentality amongst news execs in the first place. Earlier this month, Gawker changed their preferred method of audience engagement to unique users. I hoped at the time this would be a big red flag to news executives that it’s finally time to change our definition of success.
The Neiman Journalism Lab was also hopeful that this would signal a trend away from the lick to measuring true audience engagement.
Original content and exclusives require far more time and energy than excerpting and aggregating…. The upside is that all that extra effort can create strong relationships with audiences and advertisers alike. Engagement leads to revenue, which leads to sustainability, which stokes hope and other things in short supply these days. A focus on uniques may or may not yield better journalism, but it could create better businesses.
Unfortunately, we haven’t heard as much as a peep from any of the big companies yet – and the pressure isn’t changing overnight in my neck of the online woods, either.
This change should be absolutely huge for everyone in online media, but we as an industry may be uneasy about changing our measurement methods because we’re just so darn comfortable setting ad rates the way we always have. I would think that a measure of unique users would be similar to the good old days, back when we could measure our audience in single copy sales and subscriptions. So why hold on to the page view?