In the beginning was the pageview and it was good. However, The Awl is reporting today that Gawker Media has decided to change how they measure their sites from pageviews to monthly uniques. The metric will hopefully give them, “a new number that more accurately reflects the growth of our audience.” This change is relevant to all online media entrepreneurs and content creators for 2 reasons.
The first is that unique visitors as a statistic to sell advertisers represents something different than pageviews. In fact, it seems like a step backward. The original promise of online advertising was that for each ad impression, someone clicked to reach that page. One page, one impression, two eyeballs. However, as Nick “Pancake Man” Denton rightly points out, while the pageview might be the purest form of measuring eyes-on-page, focusing exclusively on pageviews incentives editors and content creators to squeeze increasing amounts of clicks from the existing user base. Using monthly uniques as the performance metric of choice allows you to represent the number of eyeballs your site has access to, a measurement more like TV’s share of audience or newspaper circulation numbers. An increasing number of monthly uniques demonstrates to advertisers that passed links and breakout stories travel easily from your core audience to the wider web. This is prime bait for mainstream brands, who will always have the largest ad budgets.
The other important change at Gawker announced today that has relevance to anyone managing online content: a change in the way variable pay is distributed and therefore how content creators are incentivized.
As the leaked email describes, “The distribution of the bonus pool will be at the discretion of the site’s editor-in-chief, so some will receive more and some none at all. The lead editor may also decide to ‘bet’ part of this bonus pool. For instance she or he might decide to offer a bounty for a spy photo which would boost the site’s uniques.” Essentially, this move pits content creators against each other in the battle for hit stories, while also allowing editors the ability to source killer content from external sources in the style of the “Netflix prize.” This is a clear improvement over pay-per-pageview systems that can lead content that panders to know groups of active users.
Of course, using the right metrics and having the right incentive structure is only half the battle. But the other half is just building a great team and attracting a huge audience.