Beyond impressions

“Too often we measure everything and understand nothing”, said Adam Freeman, commercial director at Guardian News and Media, at yesterday’s ABCe’s Interaction 2009 event. Freeman was quoting Jack Welch, former chairman and chief executive of General Electric, before going on to argue that the constantly evolving nature of online media has resulted in the need for measurement structures to be prepared to change at a similar pace.

Against a difficult backdrop – as Alistair Darling delivered his Budget announcement – Freeman argued that media fragmentation is a major factor in this change. As a result of increasingly fragmented audiences the traditional editorial model has been forced to change “from a monologue to a dialogue,” argued Freeman. The Guardian, for example, has 30 millions users, with over 10 million based in the US. “You have to think about your audience in completely different ways,” argued Freeman. “This has led us to recast the value of our editorial output”.

Outlining one response that The Guardian has made to this change, Freemandiscussed a model known as ‘the circle of love’, a curiously named in-house metric which seeks to show how consumers interact with Guardian content in its many different guises.

Freeman went on to discuss the recent launch of the Guardian’s Open Platform which he admitted journalists were initially uncertain about, but which has brought Guardian content to new audiences in innovative, non-traditional forms. Such initiatives, argued Freeman, meant that the Guardian has been forced “to rethink measurement” and to seek to add value for their advertisers by focussing on quality of engagement as well as the sheer volume of consumers.

“The traditional measures may not exist in three years time”, argued Freeman, suggesting that metrics such as “mood and mindset”, “active versus passive” and “word of mouth value” will replace traditional measures such as “click-throughs” and “page impressions” in the years to come. This process is already under way at the Guardian argued Freeman. “Internally, we’re starting to stop using page impressions as a guide to success,” he explained. “As a tool for measurement it doesn’t work for us anymore”.

So should we give up on the page impression? Are click-through figures irrelevant? It’s an interesting argument – but can we really imagine a future where advertisers would feel happy if media owners presented their results in terms of engagement and word of mouth value?

This will become an increasingly important discussion for the entire internet marketing industry to have over the coming years. Impact, engagement and reaction show the true effect of content and advertising. Much like TV or print, advertisers like to know how many people they reached, but more important are the other factors such as how many people their campaign influenced.

New forms of content delivery like video make this all the more important and it is something we have addressed in our new online video advertising guide, launched next week.

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