Robert Scoble’s asking a great question today about how to measure “engagement” at a website as opposed to just a visit. This issue was recently addressed at some length in the big debate over Comscore metrics for Myspace that Danah Boyd challenged as questionable.
As I suggested in that debate and Scoble is saying now, there’s an important difference between a user who simply loads a page and leaves the site immediately vs a user who engages with the site.
Experiments are needed, since it may be as simple as taking a ratio of total unique visitors to total time online to get a sense of how engaged the visitors are.
Of course that does NOT necessarily translate into somebody who’ll buy from advertisers which is the type of metric that sponsors are most interested in. We wouldn’t see much Golf on network TV if traffic was the metric, but when you count the fact that golf watchers come from a great demographic for big ticket items it works out for the networks who can sell to a key group (e.g. sell Lexuses, Diamondses, and ringses …..my precious!…..)
Even more complications with metrics are here in the form of RSS syndication, extensive duplication of information (e.g. this blog is auto duplicated over at Facebook), and the new gadgetification of the desktop where mini applications are going to run wild all over the place, making a “page view” less relevant, or irrelevant, for many websites and advertisers and measurers.