A new unit to measure digital advertising?

The Financial Times has recently joined in a new trend by introducing a new means of selling display ads on its website: based on engaged time spent rather than the current industry standard metrics of clicks, pageviews or CPM (cost per mille or cost per thousand impressions).

The ‘Pink Un’ argues that its super-engaged audience of high-level businessfolk should be rewarded with better advertising rates.

This follows some new thinking around the world of online content and digital advertising: that the click is not the only means of measuring online attention. Welcome to the Attention Web, where it’s no longer just your clicks they want, it’s your time and attention.

The new concept for advertising within this new way of thinking is called “engaged time“, which has been developed by analytics consultants Chartbeat. This concept aims for a more complete measure than just how long a page is kept open. Engaged Time focuses on where the audience is spending their time, the point on the page they stop reading, what they’re watching, and who comes back for more.

According to the Financial Times’ online marketing team, speaking to Content.ly, FT.com readers use the website for six times as long as rival business sites. They say the “engaged time” spent by CEOs on the The Financial Times should therefore be better rewarded.

Only a small band of website are using methods like engaged time – yet. But they are growing, and include some of the more progressive sites on the web like Upworthy and Medium.

And Jon Slade, commercial director of digital advertising for The Financial Times, admitted that this is still an experiment:

We have a hypothesis we want to prove: that the longer you show somebody a piece of brand creative, the more resonance that piece of content has with an audience. That’s normally not how we value advertising; we’re talking about an attention economy. I quite like it because it says to me that all of the time we spend engaging with our audience building great experiences, putting a great environment in place, remains the focus of our game, the card we’re playing.

Slade adds that the company’s trials twofold: operational and on brand impact.

Operations-wise, how do they find the inventory and deliver it efficiently, with an initial hypothesis that one hour is their new currency, with a minimum of five seconds of exposure. “So we could sell you 720 impressions at five seconds or other lengths of exposure, depending on the total time you would like.”

Secondly, they’re looking to see, after using this new method for a period of time, whether there is a greater impact for the brand. Current tests will determine how much engaged-time has the best bang for the buck for the brand compared to the older pageview metric.

Yes, it’s an interesting concept, but it’s still in the testing phase.  The ‘death of the pageview‘ has been heralded before and the digital advertising industry is, it should be, always edging forward. This new idea is an interesting one to follow.


Written by

TIW's head of content. He writes things, mostly content for clients but also TIW blogs. Client content ranges from bespoke web copywriting to business and sports journalism for the likes of ITV, Digital Look, Reuters and the Olympic News Agency.

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