Time-based ad trial measures engagement, not clicks

The head of brand and communications at data and analytics company Chartbeat, says that new time-based ad data allows online publishers to present audience engagement figures to advertisers, rather than simply click data.

The Financial Times recently announced a partnership with Chartbeat, which has seen the paper’s digital edition trial an ad sales platform that structures deals on time-based audience exposure to ads, as opposed to clicks.

Lauryn Bennett, who is based at Chartbeat’s New York office, said that the company’s data is able to provide information on the quality and engagement of a news site’s content, rather than measuring solely how many people go to a page. She says time-based data provides advertisers with statistics on a reader’s activity on a page and their direct exposure to an ad.

“Numerous studies show that active audience exposure time correlates to things like brand recall,” Ms Bennett told The Newspaper Works.

“By understanding and valuing the amount of time your audience spends actively reading your content and actively being exposed to ads means you can tell the difference in an impression/buy that’s working for you and one that’s not.”

Chartbeat also provides data and analytics for other other prominent media brands like Gawker Media, Al Jazeera, Time, Forbes and NBC.

To collect the time-based data, the company sets up interfaces on publisher’s pages and in their ad slots that use JavaScript to pull data on how long visitors are exposed to a specific page or ad. Ms Bennett also said that the company’s systems try to provide a larger explanation for the data and what it means for the publisher’s clients.

“While the metrics themselves are incredibly important, our main focus is less about data pulls, lots of numbers, or raw analytics and is more about surfacing the unique story about a publisher’s audience through this attention data,” she said.

The Financial Times’ commercial director of digital advertising and insight Jon Slade, told The Drum that this model more closely resembles that of television advertising, which is based on time exposure.

“We can now report back to a client and say ‘we served you a thousand ads, and of those, 500 were seen for one second, 250 were seen for 10 seconds and 250 were seen for 30 seconds,” he said. “The next obvious step is to sell blocks of time.”

“We can sell a thousand hours of exposure to a chief executive audience in Germany, for example, or we can give clients 500 hours of exposure to finance directors in Belgium. That currency has a lot of merit.”

Time-based measuring of audience engagement is relatively new and is “tough to build”, which is why Ms Bennett says that at this stage many online publishers have not transitioned over to using this metric as their ad sales currency, when dealing with advertisers.

“And the concept makes sense — the idea of buying time with an audience isn’t new, as TV and radio have been selling 30-second and 60-second spots for decades,” she said.

“But the ability to be able to tell the return on that buy, if those 30 or 60 seconds did their job in reaching people, holding their attention, that’s something that our technology finally allows them to do in a simple, understandable, usable, scalable way.”

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