For digital media publications, page views are kind of like oxygen.
Services like comScore and Quantcast pick apart uniques, visitors, users and other audience measurement tools, which are then used to measure CPMs, or the rate that advertisers actually pay for digital ads. Tony Haile, CEO of the audience analytics company Chartbeat, has said for a long time that relying on page views for measurement is a terrible idea.
On Wednesday at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif., Haile delivered a presentation that explains what he thinks these numbers miss. As publishers move more and more onto platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles or Snapchat Discover, Haile argues that different kinds of measurement are needed to accurately convey what’s going on.
But that doesn’t mean switching directly from page views to, say, Facebook shares as a way to track how many eyeballs publishers are attracting. Haile says that publishers need to see how long users are staying for, and how they interact with what’s on their screens.
Here are some key observations from Haile’s talk:
- People don’t really click on what they read. Only 45 percent of all people who click on a given link will stay on the page for longer than 15 seconds.
- In the wake of the Paris attacks, an article from the Atlantic that initially ran a few months earlier, “What ISIS Really Wants,” garnered 20 million page views and 55 million minutes of engaged reader time. Haile says that’s roughly the equivalent of 400,000 people watching the new Star Wars movie.
- Desktop and mobile audiences are not mutually exclusive. Yes, more and more people are reading stuff on smartphones instead of computers, but a lot of new mobile readers were never on desktop. Or as Haile puts it, mobile “is not killing desktop, it’s just outgrowing it.”
- Facebook is better at disseminating articles when they get published or when they’re getting recirculated for whatever reason (like “What ISIS Really Wants” and the Paris attacks). Google, however, is still the primary driver of traffic during “lull” periods.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.