Eyeballs still matter.
Ultimately, advertising has two objectives:
- Create awareness that something exists.
- Sell something.
Do pageviews still matter?
Whenever you pull up a piece of content, you are creating a pageview. The frustration that certain marketers have with pageviews are well-placed. Unlike a physical page (in a newspaper or magazine), clever online editors do sneaky things like create slideshows or paginate articles so that consumers have to click through multiple webpages for content that would have traditionally appeared on one page. In short, they've turned one page of content into many. This generates the ability to serve an incremental amount of ads for the same piece of content. Good for the publishers (in terms of revenue), good for the brand (looking to get their message in front of as many eyeballs as possible) and questionable for the consumer (lots more ads and lots more clicking around for a single piece of content). Due to the exponential growth of mobile (driven by both tablet and smartphone usage), content publishers are struggling to figure out what will replace these banners ads and/or how to make their pageviews as lucrative as possible in a post PC world.
The complexity and challenge of new media.
This struggle is real. Publishers are feeling the pressure to generate revenue in a world where print advertising is struggling to return to its former glory. Because of the lack of scarcity in online advertising, online publishers are trying every trick in the book to generate substantive advertising revenue, in an attempt to validate online publishing as a credible revenue model that will match (and, hopefully, surpass) that of traditional print advertising. Still, the reality is the reality. We live in a digital world that has an ever-growing abundance of advertising inventory. It can pushed and manipulated to create more (as needed). The cost of standard run of network advertising is relatively low. Consumers have never been fond of clicking on these ads (so much so that we changed the nomenclature from "banner advertising" to "display advertising" in the hopes of validating the model as an amazing engine for branding purposes). Banners have become digital clutter. Even the most refined of webpages seem engulfed in images that blink, ping and prod for attention in a world where every eye-tracking advertising test to date has demonstrated that consumers have developed a keen "banner blindness" ability.
Is ignorance bliss?
It's hard to argue that most content-based webpages aren't all that annoying, but there is a cost for access and there is a cost for this content that must be paid by the consumers. Whether this is a paid-subscription model to underwrite the profitability of the business or ad-supported as the model, consumers have to accept that advertising and pageviews are going nowhere. Recently, DigiDay ran an article titled, The Pageview is Dead. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Pageviews may be a poor metric. Pageviews may be something that most online publishers manipulate for their own revenue-generating endeavors, but pageviews are as important today as circulation is to newspapers.
We have to suck it up.
Yes, our world needs better digital advertising creative. Yes, our needs the ability to track engagement and create more contextually relevant advertising for consumers. Still, even the hottest forms of online advertising (think native advertising or Google's AdWords platform) still require consumers to generate pageviews. On top of that, while earned and owned media are the new darlings of the new social media world, let's not forget that there is still a vast majority of businesses and brands that absolutely must pay for that quick impression (be it online or otherwise). It's doubtful that a thirty year-old bran cereal brand is going to get much earned and owned media simply because they're launching a new line with dried strawberries in it. All they really need is a hefty media spend and something that will capture the consumer's attention but for a moment. They are paying to share their corporate information.
New media is hard to reconcile.
It's admirable to want the metric of pageviews to die. It's admirable to desire that brands do a whole lot more to engage their consumers, rather than disrupt them, but it's also hard to bucket all brands into one homogenous group. If someone is looking at content and multiple display ads are pushed to them, instead of screaming that pageviews are a wrong metric, perhaps the marketing industry needs to take a greater step back, and ask even more profound questions: are display ads and the pageview model the most compelling way for a brand to create attention online? Is there a better way to create attention in a world where consumers are connecting to content on a myriad of screens in a vastly different contextual experience? Ultimately, the problem may not be the pageview, but rather the entire financial and creative structure that the pageview is simply a minor player in.
What's your side? Do you see a day when the pageview goes away?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here: