Are Pageviews Obsolete?

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:

Myspace and Blogger

But Myspace just crushes Blogger when it comes to pages viewed:

Myspace vs. Blogger

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.

  • Jeff Molander

    Great thoughts.

    I was just alerted via email by LinkedIn (apparently this is a recent decision they made… check the results out… to open themselves up to the Web (search engine indexes).

    Message from LinkedIn:

    “Odds are people searching for you on Google aren’t always finding the real you. Take charge of your personal brand by publishing your LinkedIn profile to the web.”

    HA! How can one say no to that? Somehow I managed to. I use LinkedIn specifically for the purpose of not being “mass” about my network and/or myself. IMO, this is a mistake for LinkedIn — but then again I’m sure they’ll be rewarded financially for this move.

  • Robbin Steif

    Pat, I don’t do MySpace except to spy on my kids. And I still don’t know much about it (I guess I won’t be applying for a job at the CIA any time soon.) But isn’t part of the “problem” the efficiency of page views in a blog (any blog, not just blogger), whereby the home page may include 10, 20, 30 posts, the equivalent of that many pages?


  • Pat McCarthy

    Well, that depends on goals. Many people like blogs because you can read a lot of content all on one page. In that case blogs are pretty usable.

    However, if you’re running ads where the number of ad impressions matters in how much you’re paid, then blogs tend to not generate many page views which means bloggers are leaving some money on the table.

    So, I’m not really trying to say one idea or the other is right, I’m just saying that for some people page views are still a very important metric because it ties directly to revenue. And that while many consider Myspace a failure for the huge amounts of unneccessary page views, I think Myspace is happy that those page views generate revenue and don’t really seem to cost them much of their core audience.

  • Jeff Molander

    I cannot find another means to communicate with you so I am forced to use this form.

    I am wondering why you chose to not accept my comment here. I find your commentary and insights to be rather unique and have passed the URL around lately to respected colleagues.

    Are my comments somehow off the mark?


  • Pat McCarthy

    Hi Jeff,

    Did you post a comment that didn’t show up on the site? I don’t recall deleting any comment from you? I really enjoy your comments and your blog and writing.


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