The Evolution of Metrics & Analytics

    December 19, 2006

In a report published today, comScore went into further detail into its earlier announcement that MySpace had passed Yahoo in terms of page views for the 2006 calendar year. In reviewing the numbers, the statistics firm admitted that due to the progressive nature of Web 2.0 technology, analytical methods for determining site traffic would need to be updated in 2007.

Did MySpace really surpass Yahoo as the web’s most visited site? It depends on who you ask, and how you measure the traffic.

If you look at the sheer volume of page views, MySpace comes out on top. The battle for unique visitors, however, still gives the edge to Yahoo. According to the highly popular web portal, the decrease in page views is attributed to the implementation of AJAX into the site’s features, decreasing the number of pages a user would need to navigate in order to access various types of content.

The debate rages on win the online community as well. Catherine Holahan at Business Week writes:

Almost immediately, the results were called into question. UBS (UBS) analyst Benjamin Schachter left voicemail messages for investors and reporters warning against making decisions on comScore’s potentially unreliable data.

Yahoo was still the undisputed leader, measured by other key metrics, including unique visitors and time spent on the site. Besides, Nielsen//NetRatings (NTRT), comScore’s main competitor, still had Yahoo leading page views in November: 33.4 billion, vs. 29 billion for MySpace and the rest of News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media properties.

In further discussion about the evolution of metrics, Scott Fulton of BetaNews seconds comScore’s notion that the standard for gauging analytics must change:

Yahoo’s unique visitor count has not declined, despite reports that MySpace had “dethroned” Yahoo. That fact is leading to an amplification of a months-old debate over whether a “page view” – essentially, the transmission of content in response to an HTTP request with a single URL – is no longer an adequate metric for judging relative readership.

In revised home pages, such as Yahoo’s which uses Asynchronous JavaScript (AJAX), users can change the content of portions of the interior of the page without forcing a refresh, thus reducing consumed bandwidth and improving efficiency.

“The Internet experience today is much more dynamic thanks to Web 2.0 technologies like AJAX,” says Dr. Magid Abraham, President and CEO of comScore Networks.

“While page views will not altogether cease to be a relevant measure of a site’s value, it’s clear that there is an increasing need to consider page views alongside newer, more relevant measures.”

Abraham continues, “comScore is proud to continue carrying the torch as an industry innovator with the development of a new suite of metrics that will effectively address the Web 2.0 landscape by including enhanced measures of user engagement and advertising exposure. We will be introducing these new metrics to the industry in 2007.”

Will other metrics firms such as Nielsen and Hitwise follow suit? With so much advertising revenue depending on these types of figures, the need to develop a system of analytics that delivers a higher degree of accuracy is paramount.

Clicks and page views are pass. Elements such as unique visitors, time spent on the site, and other contextually relevant standards of measurement must be considered when determining the overall popularity and actual value of a web property.

As the methods of delivering content change, so must the methods of measuring the consumption rate of that content change as well.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.