News organisations should be measuring site metrics in terms of engagement rather than page impressions, according to industry leaders speaking at the Guardian's Changing Media Summit today.
"The old system of pageviews and eyeballs are outdated," stated Jeff Jarvis in a panel discussion at today's conference in London.The old system of pageviews and eyeballs are outdatedJeff Jarvis
"But where do metrics go from there?"
Lori Cunningham, director of digital strategy and revenue, Telegraph Media Group, noted that measuring meaningful metrics is a challenge for publishers.
"There isn't a single metric we can all agree on", she pointed out. "It's something we as an industry are struggling with."
For Telegraph Media Group, she explained, the most important metric is repeat visits, something they aim to achieve through better engagement.
And the key to better engagement, she added, is to deliver content which is tailored to the individual, especially on mobile which is seen as a "more personal" device.
"It's about knowing who they [our audience] are and being able to customise the experience to them – understanding who they are, where they live, what they do in their spare time, what they do for a living."
Jarvis said digital news operations could take advantage of user metrics such as location in order to take a "more user-centric approach".
"Google knows where I live and where I work," he said. "My local newspaper has no idea."
He noted that for mobile-first news outlet Circa, the most important metric is "follows".
This is a slightly different example of allowing the user to personalise content by tracking stories they are interested in and receiving notifications when there is a key update.
A personal experience
Founder of Circa Ben Huh said engagement was more than just time spent on site, adding that the biggest challenge for mobile was delivering the best value in the least amount of time.
"Time is the only finite resource we have," he said. "However, if you based everything on time, sleeping would be the biggest advertising market in the world.
"You must drive additional value beyond time spent [on site]."
He added that Circa used personal data to inform editorial decisions and "create a better product for the end user".
By doing so, the outlet can see what kind of content its users have read, and what they might like to read next.
"Cicra personalises not on demographics, but on interest," he explained.
However, Jarvis noted that as users become more savvy about how their data is used to tailor editorial and advertising content, it is important for news outlets to be clear how that information is being used.
"We've got to get better transparency about why we're doing that [tracking data] and what the benefit is to them," he said.