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A New Model for Advertising?

You might have heard the term “time-based advertising” or “time-based metrics” buzzing around recently. The concept is having its moment as the next big thing in the ever-changing world of digital publishing advertising. The idea of selling ad space based on the time readers spend on their sites or in their apps, rather than on clicks, is being explored as a way of reversing the trend downward on ad rates.

Time-based measurement, or measuring the time a user spends with digital content, is a simple concept but the analytics can get complicated because the statistics that publishers historically have shared with their advertisers were based on the traditional ad rate model. The trade association Digital Content Next (DCN), published recent research findings that show that some leading digital publishers are looking to time-based measurement as an emerging industry-standard metric. The DCN research, based on surveys and in-depth interviews with a sampling of their members, found that all of the surveyed publishers are already using time-based metrics or have plans to do so — and a full 80 percent say they’re interested in transacting on the basis of time.

Their report shows that the statistic that publishers most frequently share with advertisers is average time spent per visit, but that is changing. Because it is now possible to track such things as time spent per visit per user, average time spent on a page and average time an ad was in view, it is difficult to discern which measurement is the most important to measure.

The appeal to publishers of this new measurement model is due to the fact that the charging-per-pageview approach has reduced ad rates to levels that are unworkable. The thought is that the “stick” of customers’ eyeballs is a more valuable commodity, thus publishers can charge a premium for it. This idea has yet to be proven. There is currently no consensus on exactly what constitutes “time spent”, and there is no standard for measuring the benefits, if any, for advertisers.

Depending on whether marketers want to get their ads shared as much as possible or get people to take an action like buying or subscribing, the best metric will vary. Time spent has yet to be proven as the best indicator for the success of an ad. The time someone spends reading an ad, article, or curated content may well be a key measurement, but there is no proof of concept at this time.

Perhaps the new pricing model will be a combination of many variables, catering to and being customized for individual clients. The ability to compile data and create accurate customer profiles will continue to improve, and the ability to offer ad packages created for specific audiences is not far off.

Some findings from the DCN report include:

• 80 percent of publishers already use time-based measurement in some form, and 20 percent plan to in the future. In addition, 80 percent are already testing or express an interest in transacting on time.
• 52 percent of publishers say time-based metrics could replace the standard impression as a universal currency for an ad unit
• 32 percent feel time-based metrics are not a replacement for any of the currently used metrics.
• 90 percent of DCN members surveyed indicate that they use time metrics to internally evaluate performance of their sites and content among their editorial and/or sales and ad operations teams.
• Eighty-five percent of publishers share time-based metrics with agencies and marketers.

The DCN’s position is that of support for time-based metrics. They posit that using time-based metrics will provide publishers and advertisers with, among other benefits, a more accurate measure of advertising than click-through rate alone. The report also features best practices on how publishers can begin to integrate time-based measurements into their own teams and in conversations with agencies and marketers.

To download the report, go

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