Yahoo reports that Nielsen/NetRatings will be scrapping the pageview-based rankings system that’s long comprised the industry’s webpage yardstick, in favor of tracking the length of time visitors spend at sites.
The move comes as new technologies, such as online video and AJAX, chip at the relevance of pageviews. AJAX in particular is tricky, as it automatically populates sites with new information without a user having to refresh the screen or pull up new pages. This technology renders the pageview yardstick virtually worthless. ComScore Media Metrix, a Nielsen rival, recently developed a new metric to weather changes in site value led by AJAX. “Site visits” count the number of times a person returns to a site with a break of a half hour or more. “Based on everything that’s going on with the influx of Ajax and streaming, we feel total minutes is the best gauge for site traffic,” said director Scott Ross of Nielsen’s product marketing. He added that Nielsen is “changing [its] stance” on how data should be used. Nielsen already measures the average time a user spends at a given website, as well as the average number of sessions per visitor. It will begin reporting these units to help paint broader pictures of site use for investors, advertisers and analysts. In terms of time spent, Time Warner’s AOL will see a more positive ranking, because its instant-messaging software now gets counted. AOL logged 25 billion minutes in May, a score ahead of 20 billion counted for Yahoo, making it number one. Via pageview count, AOL ranked sixth. Yahoo leaps ahead of MySpace and other Fox Interactive Media sites for both pageviews and time spent, logging over twice the time spent at Fox. It was ahead by less than 10 percent in pageviews. And while MySpace forces users to pull up new pages every time they have to update data, Yahoo utilizes AJAX to draw new data without the user having to leave a given page. Google will see a drop to fifth in time spent, simply because its search engine is intended to guide users elsewhere as quickly as possible. It ranked third in pageviews. Nielsen/NetRatings will continue to provide pageview data but will cease to formally rank them. Ross explained that time spent on a site is a better gauge for the level of engagement users experience with a site. The company is expected to announce the measuring shift on Tuesday (MarketingVOX).