Time Spent should mean more to Publishers than Unique Visitors

By February 7, 2017Marketing

The online media industry has historically used quantity as the main success indicator—where “who has more unique visitors?” mattered most. The market has seen monthly stats as the principal metric. Consequently a unique user who visited a site five times a day, and spent an hour in total, was placed on par with a user who visited once a month and stayed for five seconds.

However, what value does the latter user have for advertisers? What is the probability that a user who sees an ad for one second will notice, absorb and ultimately make a conversion compared with a user who is exposed to the ad for X minutes? Is this interpretation of data consistent with modern digital trends in an environment where everyone seeks to minimize acquisition costs and the media fights for users’ attention? Of course not.

Quality over Quantity

It is essential for online media and advertisers to stop looking at users from the quantity point of view only, and look deeper into quality, with metrics such as time spent and visitor bounce rate. What is more important?: ten visitors who enter your store only to leave in three seconds, or one visitor who comes to browse your shelves for an hour, adds items to the cart and completes a purchase?

Media relying on display ads not only tend to compete in terms of monthly visitors, they also pass on more and more money to Facebook, from which they buy cheap clicks. They optimize their sites and publishing strategies to generate maximum impressions. The result is high bounce rates, short time spent and dependency on Facebook and Google. As far as their clients are concerned, such publishers generate impressions, and that’s it. But as users hardly see the campaigns for more than a split second, marketing specialists struggle with high conversion costs.

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Time-Based Marketing

What would happen if we chose quality as the determining factor? What if the most relevant metric was time spent on site and clients purchased display seconds instead of impressions?

In time-based marketing, users would see less click-baiting headlines and more interesting content, since publishers would focus on quality and engagement. This strategy would increase users’ trust in the media and consequently boost direct traffic, as users would be more motivated to look for quality content directly on media sites.

Media owners would also make more money. By introducing time slots, such as 10/15/30 seconds, media would be able to monetize their quality visitors better. They would sell more slots and a particular page wouldn’t be all taken by a single banner.

Advertisers would also benefit from guaranteed visibility. They would only pay for what users actually see, not for below-the-fold formats that will never be shown, or for banners displayed just a second. Marketing specialists would achieve better results and increase their trust in this type of advertising.

At the same time, time-based marketing would motivate publishers to invest in developing new formats, for example, content marketing and native advertising. These types of articles and videos are popular among users, and they generate significantly higher engagement, more time spent and lower bounce rate than display ads. Users don’t block native advertising, and advertisers are willing to pay more for a format which brings better visibility and higher conversion rates.

Time for Change

Unique users rankings and display-based pricing haven’t changed for the last ten years. Meanwhile, the Internet has moved on. We have so much content and so many options that we got spoiled. We are able to measure and evaluate data exactly in real time. Clients ask about conversion rates, track and compare the effectivity of different formats. If we switch focus from quantity to quality our industry will create more value for both users and advertisers. And we would become less dependent of platforms like Facebook and Google, taking the lion’s share of all digital advertising budgets.

Filip Kuna, Country Manager Strossle Slovakia