Website popularity has long been measured by the number of individual pages loaded by surfers. However, with the adoption of Ajax, which refreshes content without reloading entire pages, and the growing popularity of streaming video, companies need to find a more accurate yardstick for advertisers to use in deciding where to put their dollars. To that end, Nielsen//NetRatings, an Internet media and market research company, announced today it will put less emphasis on page views in favor of total time spent on a site.
"Based on everything that's going on with the influx of Ajax and streaming, we feel total minutes is the best gauge for site traffic," said Scott Ross, director of product marketing at Nielsen. "We're changing our stance on how the data should be" used.
Nielsen will still provide page view figures but won't formally rank them. The new system takes better account of the popularity of websites such as YouTube or Yahoo! Mail which often generate few page views despite persisting attention to the page.
Nonetheless, not every site’s popularity can be measured the same way. For instance, Google, ranked third in terms of page views, would reportedly drop to fifth in time spent, mainly because its search engine is focused on giving visitors quick answers and links for going elsewhere.
Nielsen's rival, comScore Media Metrix, also has addressed the rise of Ajax and video streaming by emphasizing on ‘visits’, tracking users' loyalty to web destinations, rather than page views.