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Pageviews Versus Engagement

Evan Williams recently posted a much-blogged article titled Pageviews Are Obsolete. This is something Cameron and I have been arguing for at Yahoo! for a long time now, but from an almost mostly different perspective (our interest is not advertising, but social metrics for measuring the success of a site in various areas). Evan primarily talks about how AJAX-y interfaces and RSS have limited the technical ability of pageviews to be an accurate measurement – something true no doubt, but AJAX calls and RSS feed pulls can (and should) still be instrumented and measured by a competent web presence.

But pageviews aren’t just a poor technical solution to measuring engagement due to rich interfaces – they’re also a fundamentally flawed way of looking at user engagement on participatory media / social software websites. What’s the comparative value of a user who spends two hours a day on your site passively browsing various media content, versus a user who spends twenty minutes a week on the site, but spends that time uploading interesting content and/or actively commenting on other people’s work? I’d argue the second user is not only more engaged but also more valuable to the website (and their advertisers) in the long-run.

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