Nielsen/NetRatings announced today that it will no longer use page views as a measure for website traffic rankings. This is a big deal for the publishing and advertising industries, who for years have used page views (and unique visitors) to determine online ad rates. In its place, Nielsen will begin tracking total time spent and number of sessions for all visitors, which most webheads agree provide a far better indication of a site’s popularity in this age of Ajax applications and video content. Here’s a quick snapshot from AP on what this means for the most highly trafficked sites:
Ranking top sites by total minutes instead of page views gives Time Warner Inc.’s AOL a boost, largely because time spent on its popular instant-messaging software now gets counted. AOL ranks first in the United States with 25 billion minutes based on May data, ahead of Yahoo’s 20 billion. By page views, AOL would have been sixth.
Google, meanwhile, drops to fifth in time spent, primarily because its search engine is focused on giving visitors quick answers and links for going elsewhere. By page views, Google ranks third.
It’s silly to count instant messaging sessions toward site traffic, and I’m sure there will be other kinks to work out as the industry makes this transition. But this is a smart (and overdue) step toward more rational metrics for the online world. (My pal David Churbuck has been ranting on this for a while.) The big issue now is getting the various measurement services to agree on audience measurement standards, since they all report different numbers and no one can agree on who’s right. That nut will take a bit longer to crack.