Evan Williams of Odeo has a recent post where he theorizes that due to AJAX, RSS, Widgets, and other enhancements that page views are an obsolete metric. Others such as Marshall Sponder have been singing a similar tune.
Are they right? Well, I’d say that page views are less important than they once were, especially when trying to gauge general site reach and usage. As Evan points out in his post, Myspace and Blogger reach a similar amount of users:
But Myspace just crushes Blogger when it comes to pages viewed:
And because Myspace’s “bad” design promotes multiple pages being viewed, it’s not a true reflection of the site’s usage and popularity.
This is all true. But I’m not sure I’ll be so negative about Myspace. As Marshall Sponder writes:
What’s weird is that Wall Street is rewarding the crappy design because some might have looked at MySpace’s PageViews a measure of visitor demand (and eyeballs, to some extent) which it’s not. It’s always strange to reward lousy coding with more money – but I hear it happens(happened) a lot, esp in the late 90′s.
Well here’s the thing, in the advertising world, page views still equal revenue. There’s the big gotcha in this “page views are obsolete” idea. They aren’t obsolete for any site running advertising. Generally, each page view is a new set of ad impressions depending on how many ads are shown per page. So while some chastise Myspace for it’s bad design that creates so many page views, it’s one of the keys as to why Myspace is as valuable as it is.
One might argue that if Myspace just accomplished users goals quicker and in fewer page views that the ads they do show would earn a higher CPM, and it is true that the more ads a user sees the less those ads pay. However, I feel comfortable guessing that if Myspace cut their page views in half by making their site easier to use, their revenue would take a big hit. What you’d have to hope for is that the easier to use site would lead to more people using Myspace, and I’m not really sure that I’ll buy that there is really a large set of users out there not using Myspace because it’s hard to use. I’m betting that the people complaining about Myspace’s design are all technology/web people who probably wouldn’t spend much time on Myspace anyway.
So, am I recommending that site’s intentionally create more page views than necessary to make more ad revenue? No, I’m not. I don’t think that’s a good thing for usability and the general success of the web. However, if your site is going to be used no matter what, it can actually help your revenue to generate additional page views, thus not making it an obsolete metric.
In the coming couple of years the proliferation of AJAX, RSS, and widgets will mean that advertising metrics will also have to change to reflect this change in the ways users interact on the web. The premise is correct, I just wouldn’t call page views obsolete quite yet.