Users are more engaged and responsive to advertising when using news and information content sites than social media platforms, according to a new research study from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

The study 'The New Rules of Engagement' claims to be the first piece of research to highlight "the inadequacies of metrics to measure engagement that the [advertising and publishing] industry currently employs".

The research, conducted by market research agency GfK NOP, examined engagement levels across three site types; quality content sites such as UK newspapers and magazines; portals including Yahoo and MSN; and finally social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace. The research involved 1,340 interviews with UK respondents via on online questionnaire in October.

The results claim that respondents were significantly more likely to trust advertising on content sites than social media sites, with 59 per cent trusting content sites compared to 34 per cent for social networks.

The study also reports that respondents were more than twice as likely to believe that content sites are better than social media sites at influencing positive brand opinion.

"By examining the complex relationship between site and audience, the study also reveals that measures such as dwell time and frequency of visit are not as indicative of engagement as previously thought," the report's press release adds.

"Online is known as the 'accountable' medium, and while direct response is a persuasive metric, this research shows that some indicators, such as 'dwell time', are not an accurate measure of 'engagement time'," Sarah Messer, chair of the AOP's Research Committee and head of commercial research and insight at ITV, says in the release.

"Users will visit social network sites daily and for long periods of time, yet visiting a B2B [business-to-business], consumer or business site and obtaining relevant information or news quickly, doesn't make the user any less 'engaged'. In fact, we've found users are more likely to respond to advertising on content sites than social networks."

According to the study there are five key dimensions of engagement for users, which are based on a site being trustworthy, authoritative, unique, offering community and entertaining.

GfK NOP has also produced a white paper on measuring engagement to accompany the study, which is hosted below with permission.


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