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Life after page views: Web analytics 2.0

Many agree that the page view is dead, but not about the next Web measurement metric

By Heather Havenstein
February 25, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In a move that many said signaled the official death of the page view, Nielsen/NetRatings last July announced that it would no longer use page views as the primary metric for comparing Web sites. At the time, the Internet benchmarking firm cited the growing popularity of Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, or AJAX -- which can refresh content without completely reloading a Web page -- as the main reason for the change to measuring time spent on a site.

Eight months later, Nielsen now says that it overestimated the impact of AJAX on page-view metrics. Nielsen found that instead, online video is the key reason for the growing irrelevance of page views.

Nielsen is among a growing number of companies grappling with "life after page views," a new Web analytics arena where blog posts, widgets, online video and other emerging Web 2.0 media are changing how companies look to measure the effectiveness of Web efforts -- and the tools used to do the measuring.

"AJAX specifically is a little bit overestimated as far as the breadth of its impact," noted Scott Ross, product director of Nielsen's NetView Internet audience measurement tool. "A larger impact is probably being felt by the integration of more video on pages."

The new metric hasn't led to "widespread benefits" for those sites that heavily use AJAX, Ross added. Rather, the "time spent" metric has mostly benefited sites offering online video and/or slide shows, he noted. "It's a little surprising, but our position was, we didn't quite know where page views and all these technologies were going to go," Ross said. "We just knew as in-page technology would be more and more common that page views were less of an indicator of user activity."

Nuconomy, a new Tel Aviv-based Web analytics company that this month opened a private beta of its Nuconomy Studio technology to several hundred users in the U.S., agrees that the page view is increasingly irrelevant. However, it offers a different new metric than Nielsen does.

Rather than measuring minutes spent on a site, Nuconomy focuses on what CEO Shahar Nechmand describes as a Web site's "semantic layer." Nuconomy's analytics tool measures comments added to blogs, ratings, applications shared with friends, clicks on ads and online video use -- all of which can show how "engaged" a user is with a particular brand or product, he said.

"Page views don't really tell you the whole story," Nechmand noted. "If you have widgets, you don't really have page views. If you do videos, you don't have page views. We actually measure every action that every user is doing and not just the aggregate."

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