Page Views Are Already Dead!

The Ajaxian is asking: Death of Page View Metrics? based on Steve Rubel’s prediction that the metric has four years to live.

The page view metric (PV) is already dead! Not everyone got the memo though…

Page Views (PVs) have never been a great metric (better than hits though). It is easy to architect a site to generate more PVs. Mike Davidson explains how MySpace is abusing this. And it’s also easy to game the system for example with a hidden iframe.

In fact, a higher number of PVs indicates low usability. If more PVs was better than there would be no Ajax! Remember how online maps used to work? High PV count. Compare this to how they work now with only one PV.

Steve Rubel mentions several Google products but I believe Yahoo! Mail* could actually spearhead the change. Take the largest email provider with its huge number of PVs and see the numbers drop as more and more users migrate to the beta. I believe this should be visible in the October/November numbers – see ComScore. We will see a declining number of PVs while the number of users is growing.

This is not the first time this topic comes up. evhead, Zawondy and others wrote about it before. I think the geeks understand the problem. However, it takes more time for advertisers, press and Wall Street to understand that the game has changed. I believe the transition will happen in two stages:

  1. Page view metric is declared dead after losing significance over time
  2. A new metric is introduced as unique users and time spent are not sufficient to measure engagement

It will be a slow transition to a better metric. I sure hope it’s not going to take four years though!

I’m surprised by the reaction (or lack thereof) of the metrics companies, mainly ComScore and NetRatings. Their entire business model is based on the page view metric (unique users and time spent are closely related). They’re only slowly starting to understand and acknowledge the problem.

The only usable metric today is unique users/visitors. But even that metric has to be taken with a grain of salt. (Don’t get me started on the accuracy of their current metrics…)

* Disclaimer: I work for Yahoo! Mail. The thoughts above are obviously mine.