In a bid to improve the relevance of its ratings, Nielsen/NetRatings has announced that it will no longer use page views
as its primary metric for measuring the popularity of websites. Instead, it will focus on the amount of time that users spend on the site. Obviously, there have been a lot of problems
with the current system, as the use of page views grossly inflates the popularity of some sites, like MySpace
, while penalizing sites that aren't refreshed or reloaded as often. As the above article notes, the new system will give YouTube a boost, but will ding Google's main site, which isn't designed to keep users around. Of course, therein lies the flaw with this new measurement system. Google is incredibly profitable and successful, precisely because it does a good job of whisking users away to other sites, either through ads or its search results. The idea of penalizing it because users don't spend a lot of time on the site is absurd. When it comes to TV shows, it may make sense to adopt a uniform measurement system, because all TV shows have the same purpose: to sell ads. Websites, however, have a variety of different business models, so trying to define a standard metric of success is going to prove impossible. Ultimately, the most meaningful measure of a site or service is its profitability, which, unlike page views or time spent, isn't so easily gamed.