New audience metric needed: engagement

I was just reading Jeneane Sessum’s post about the latest Ze Frank/Rocketboom dustup and she’s right, we need to measure stuff other than just whether a download got completed or not. She says we need a “likeability” stat. I think it goes further than that.

There’s another stat out there called “engagement.” No one is measuring it that I know of.

What do I mean?

Well, I’ve compared notes with several bloggers and journalists and when the Register links to us we get almost no traffic. But they claim to have millions of readers. So, if millions of people are hanging out there but no one is willing to click a link, that means their audience has low engagement. The Register is among the lowest that I can see.

Compare that to Digg. How many people hang out there every day? Maybe a million, but probably less. Yet if you get linked to from Digg you’ll see 30,000 to 60,000 people show up. And these people don’t just read. They get involved. I can tell when Digg links to me cause the comments for that post go up too.

So, why should engagement matter to an advertiser?

Well, as an advertiser I want to talk to an audience who’ll actually DO something. Yeah, I’m hoping to get a sale.

Yesterday Buzz Bruggeman CEO of Active Words, was driving me around and told the story of when he was in USA Today. He got 32 downloads. When he got linked to by my blog? Got about 400.

My audience was (and is) a lot smaller than USA Today, but the engagement of the blog audience got his attention.

How could we measure audience engagement?

Is this something that Steve Gillmor’s GestureLab could do? If he could, that’d be a valuable company that advertisers would die to buy stuff from.

127 thoughts on “New audience metric needed: engagement

  1. Pingback: Matt Deegan Writes
  2. It goes back to the whole idea of mind share that was so hot back in the dot-com era. A site can get a lot of hits, and you can interpret it as a measure of popularity and awareness of the brand. However, does it actually mean anything? Are users actually going to come back or even remember your site? The current system of measuring audience engagement is a throwback to older methods of measuring ratings, but better tools can now be deployed to more fully gauge what something means to an audience.

  3. It goes back to the whole idea of mind share that was so hot back in the dot-com era. A site can get a lot of hits, and you can interpret it as a measure of popularity and awareness of the brand. However, does it actually mean anything? Are users actually going to come back or even remember your site? The current system of measuring audience engagement is a throwback to older methods of measuring ratings, but better tools can now be deployed to more fully gauge what something means to an audience.

  4. Hi Robert (and all other readers).
    I’m the CEO of a NuConomy. You probably didn’t hear about us until now as we were in stealth mode until a few days ago.
    Our offering is a platform for Internet sites that does just that – Gives you a sophisticated generic way to develop your own engagement formulas (we call it ranking for now.
    By using our platform you can rank your users and learn more about your business, and then also run financial schemes upon the results (rewards programs, revenue sharing, etc…).
    I would love to hear what you think about our offering (the good and the bad). Feel free to check out our web site or contact me directly in shahar at nuconomy.com

  5. Hi Robert (and all other readers).
    I’m the CEO of a NuConomy. You probably didn’t hear about us until now as we were in stealth mode until a few days ago.
    Our offering is a platform for Internet sites that does just that – Gives you a sophisticated generic way to develop your own engagement formulas (we call it ranking for now.
    By using our platform you can rank your users and learn more about your business, and then also run financial schemes upon the results (rewards programs, revenue sharing, etc…).
    I would love to hear what you think about our offering (the good and the bad). Feel free to check out our web site or contact me directly in shahar at nuconomy.com

  6. Why has nobody mentioned YouTube in this context yet? I know when I look at a video (before I hit PLAY) I see how many video responses it’s gotten, how many times favorited, how many comments, the star rating, etc, rather than just number of viewings.

    They do an excellent job of articulating the degree of audience engagement for each and every video, I just wish there was some way to search for “most video responses” videos, etc.

  7. Why has nobody mentioned YouTube in this context yet? I know when I look at a video (before I hit PLAY) I see how many video responses it’s gotten, how many times favorited, how many comments, the star rating, etc, rather than just number of viewings.

    They do an excellent job of articulating the degree of audience engagement for each and every video, I just wish there was some way to search for “most video responses” videos, etc.

  8. Robert – add to your equation “relevancy” which people seem to be forgetting. Even if your readers click on my link to Diva Marketing (engagement) they will not stay long, go deep or come back unless the content is relevant to them.

    So while engagement is the first step relevancy is critical and should be integrated into any measurement model. Without it we are counting old fashioned ‘hits’ which may be great for the ego but from a business stance is a big So What.

  9. Robert – add to your equation “relevancy” which people seem to be forgetting. Even if your readers click on my link to Diva Marketing (engagement) they will not stay long, go deep or come back unless the content is relevant to them.

    So while engagement is the first step relevancy is critical and should be integrated into any measurement model. Without it we are counting old fashioned ‘hits’ which may be great for the ego but from a business stance is a big So What.

  10. As someone who has worked in web metrics for the past four years, I can tell you all web metrics are flawed. I can go one further and say all off-line media metrics are flawed as well.

    Metrics are a currency for valuing advertising and media properties. The only thing a metric needs to be is consistent and accepted as a unit of measure between the those selling and buying media properties and advertising.

    That’s way easier said than done. Setting a metrics standard can put the thumb on the scale in favor of one player or another – Rocketboom or Zefrank.

    A metric’s only good if it can be accepted as a medium of exchange.

    This issue is something the web analytics association has been grappling with for a while.

    http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org/

    Enrique

  11. As someone who has worked in web metrics for the past four years, I can tell you all web metrics are flawed. I can go one further and say all off-line media metrics are flawed as well.

    Metrics are a currency for valuing advertising and media properties. The only thing a metric needs to be is consistent and accepted as a unit of measure between the those selling and buying media properties and advertising.

    That’s way easier said than done. Setting a metrics standard can put the thumb on the scale in favor of one player or another – Rocketboom or Zefrank.

    A metric’s only good if it can be accepted as a medium of exchange.

    This issue is something the web analytics association has been grappling with for a while.

    http://www.webanalyticsassociation.org/

    Enrique

  12. Most metrics from enterprise system administrators gage logon’s and time in the system as key indicators of favorable use of the system. Which is bunk, mainly due to it not indicating problems with crashes, analysis stalling, etc etc.

    I agree with the “likeability metric” per user. The system “sucks or not” and reasons why would give better feedback to key developers and CIO’s without the need for costly and ineffective surveys which can be fudged or skewed in favor of the old “what do you want it to be?” guys which may be linked to profit driven support.

    RSS KISS SOS. INNOVATE don’t stagnate. This new conversation media is a step in the right direction to both consumer satisfaction and bottom-line profit if used correctly. IMHO and probably wrong O. No flaming required. ; )

  13. Most metrics from enterprise system administrators gage logon’s and time in the system as key indicators of favorable use of the system. Which is bunk, mainly due to it not indicating problems with crashes, analysis stalling, etc etc.

    I agree with the “likeability metric” per user. The system “sucks or not” and reasons why would give better feedback to key developers and CIO’s without the need for costly and ineffective surveys which can be fudged or skewed in favor of the old “what do you want it to be?” guys which may be linked to profit driven support.

    RSS KISS SOS. INNOVATE don’t stagnate. This new conversation media is a step in the right direction to both consumer satisfaction and bottom-line profit if used correctly. IMHO and probably wrong O. No flaming required. ; )

  14. I’m amazed at all of the web navel gazing here and that no one has stepped back and asked the obvious question. What is the difference between USA Today readers and Robert’s readers? That is the simple Marketing 101 question. Robert’s readers are by definition more technically minded and much more likely to be attracted to ActiveWords as a product. It’s not a question of engagement, it’s a question of segmentation and matching the product’s attraction to the most profitable market subsegments. What Buzz is actually saying is that USA Today readership is a broad market with a low Heavy Usage Index (a measure of the relative intensity of consumption) for the software product category under which Active Words falls. Clearly Scoble’s readers who are largely techs and business people who work for tech companies are focused on the cutting edge and are much more likely to purchase Active Words because they are willing to implement a productivity solution on their computer and futz around with Macros. Engagement? That is a contrived metric because it pretends to say that it measures how willing people are to “engage” with a website, when the reality changes depending on the consumer segment who is attracted to your particular market. The true measurements of interest should be metrics like purchase habits, loyalty, heavy usage index, and segment utilities. When you are able to properly target your products, then engagement comes naturally. So the real question is, how tightly does a website align with the key interests that define your highest potential consumers and how frequently do they come back to it.

  15. I’m amazed at all of the web navel gazing here and that no one has stepped back and asked the obvious question. What is the difference between USA Today readers and Robert’s readers? That is the simple Marketing 101 question. Robert’s readers are by definition more technically minded and much more likely to be attracted to ActiveWords as a product. It’s not a question of engagement, it’s a question of segmentation and matching the product’s attraction to the most profitable market subsegments. What Buzz is actually saying is that USA Today readership is a broad market with a low Heavy Usage Index (a measure of the relative intensity of consumption) for the software product category under which Active Words falls. Clearly Scoble’s readers who are largely techs and business people who work for tech companies are focused on the cutting edge and are much more likely to purchase Active Words because they are willing to implement a productivity solution on their computer and futz around with Macros. Engagement? That is a contrived metric because it pretends to say that it measures how willing people are to “engage” with a website, when the reality changes depending on the consumer segment who is attracted to your particular market. The true measurements of interest should be metrics like purchase habits, loyalty, heavy usage index, and segment utilities. When you are able to properly target your products, then engagement comes naturally. So the real question is, how tightly does a website align with the key interests that define your highest potential consumers and how frequently do they come back to it.

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  17. Engagement is a difficult thing to measure as it is so dependent on time. For me the best way to tell if I have been ‘engaged’ by a site (or anything else for that matter) is to see if I am still using it after 2 or 3 months. Humans love following fads (hence web 2.0!) and I find myself using new sites/products intensively for a matter of days or weeks before moving on to something else. Only a very small minority of these will see me returning consistently over a long period of time. I’ve no idea how you are meant to measure that!

  18. Engagement is a difficult thing to measure as it is so dependent on time. For me the best way to tell if I have been ‘engaged’ by a site (or anything else for that matter) is to see if I am still using it after 2 or 3 months. Humans love following fads (hence web 2.0!) and I find myself using new sites/products intensively for a matter of days or weeks before moving on to something else. Only a very small minority of these will see me returning consistently over a long period of time. I’ve no idea how you are meant to measure that!

  19. One of the important measures of engagement is the ratio between posts and comments as well as the links to post ratio. This can be further determined by some of the attention issues around number of posts bookmarked and number of bookmarkers.

    But I dont honestly know if engagement is the thing – it is a better thing to strive for then reach and popularity, but I tihnk we can do better even.

    Supposedly the big advertising associations are thinking about this same metric (engagement via social media) but I don’t trust them with it. It is kind of like asking the car salesman which bicycle to buy…

  20. One of the important measures of engagement is the ratio between posts and comments as well as the links to post ratio. This can be further determined by some of the attention issues around number of posts bookmarked and number of bookmarkers.

    But I dont honestly know if engagement is the thing – it is a better thing to strive for then reach and popularity, but I tihnk we can do better even.

    Supposedly the big advertising associations are thinking about this same metric (engagement via social media) but I don’t trust them with it. It is kind of like asking the car salesman which bicycle to buy…

  21. Again, I am reminded why I like Chris Coulter. It is because he is smart.

    ‘Engagement’ is difficult to define, not to mention measure. And, truth be told, just going where the herd is directed is very common in the blogoshpere. I remember being pleased to be a popular blogger back in the day, only to be surprised by how little time most readers spent at my blog when they visited. Often, it was not long enough for them to have actually read a single entry in full. On the other hand, merely leaving a page open for a longer time can be confused with being engaged. Often, the person just forgot to close that window in his browser.

    As for likeability, that is an invitation for superficiality. Often people who are intelligent and know their craft well are not particularly likeable. I would rather read or watch that kind of blogger than someone considered ‘nice.’

  22. Again, I am reminded why I like Chris Coulter. It is because he is smart.

    ‘Engagement’ is difficult to define, not to mention measure. And, truth be told, just going where the herd is directed is very common in the blogoshpere. I remember being pleased to be a popular blogger back in the day, only to be surprised by how little time most readers spent at my blog when they visited. Often, it was not long enough for them to have actually read a single entry in full. On the other hand, merely leaving a page open for a longer time can be confused with being engaged. Often, the person just forgot to close that window in his browser.

    As for likeability, that is an invitation for superficiality. Often people who are intelligent and know their craft well are not particularly likeable. I would rather read or watch that kind of blogger than someone considered ‘nice.’

  23. Robert,

    We could not agree with you more.

    Compete (www.compete.com) just released a product that features 13 month traffic trends on any and every site our member community has ever visited… Including two very important components of engagement – Average Stay in minutes and Pages viewed per Visit.

    *Think Alexa on steroids*.

    Disclosure: Compete is my Employer

  24. Robert,

    We could not agree with you more.

    Compete (www.compete.com) just released a product that features 13 month traffic trends on any and every site our member community has ever visited… Including two very important components of engagement – Average Stay in minutes and Pages viewed per Visit.

    *Think Alexa on steroids*.

    Disclosure: Compete is my Employer

  25. hot potato! it is an area oft tread but not thoroughly reviewed nor defined. investigations have been cursory for predefined needs. will look forward to seeing all that this elicits.

  26. hot potato! it is an area oft tread but not thoroughly reviewed nor defined. investigations have been cursory for predefined needs. will look forward to seeing all that this elicits.

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