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The Death of the Page View and the Ongoing Challenge of Monetizing Websites

Steve Rubel has posted a post titled The Imminent Demise of the Page View which puts into words a conversation that I’ve been hearing an increasing amount of publishers talk (and worry about).

The crux of it is that with the rise of pages using Flash and Ajax pages are refreshing less and less and with it the importance of the ‘page view’ as a metric for measuring the success of a page is lessening.

This has a number of implications. For starters it’ll be harder to brag about how many views your blog gets over a beer at the next blog meet up. But more important than this – the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) ad will become less and less popular to publishers.

For example – check out Popsugar’s live comments page that automatically shows readers the latest comments on their network. In the coming months we’ll see more and more of this type of page (in fact it’s quite a basic version of what we’ll see in the coming year). Similarly blogs are starting to experiment with ajax comments that post comments to a blog without the need for a page refresh. More and more of this type of feature will appear on blogs – in each case the page view potentially becomes less important and monetization them becomes a little more challenging.

While I’ve heard a few publishers lamenting this and even going as far to say that they are thinking of getting out of web publishing as a result – I don’t think all hope is lost for a number of reasons:

The rise of CPA ads - even over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in the options for ‘Cost per Action’ ads. Google is testing in the area and other ad networks are doing quite well with them. Advertisers like them too as they don’t pay for clicks that don’t convert into some measurable action.

New Ad Systems - I predict that we’ll see advertising networks start experimenting with new ways of displaying ads that will adapt with the non refreshing page environments that web users will demand. I’m not sure what systems we’ll see but perhaps it’s time for CPS ads (cost per second) or Ajax Auto refreshing Ads…. or perhaps CPM ads will simply adapt and start paying more to compensate publishers for the lower numbers of ads.

Non Refreshing Pages as Valuable Real Estate? – as I write this post I also wonder whether popular pages that don’t refresh will actually become more valuable in the eyes of advertisers. To be able to dominate and monopolize a page like Popsugar and have your message shown for long periods of time could actually become something that an advertiser will be willing to pay a significant amount of money for. Perhaps such ad positions will be sold for set periods of time. While I don’t have ajaxy pages on any of my blogs I do know that advertisers like Canon and Adobe have paid me great money to have total run (for months at a time) of the banner position on my photography blog at different times – perhaps we’ll see more of these types of deals.

Lastly – I suspect that more and more advertisers won’t be as interested in CPM ads anyway. With the rise of CPA and CPC ads where they only pay for the ad when the reader takes some action towards them I suspect the sweeping CPM system will appeal to less and less advertisers.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really know how it’ll happen – but I’m pretty confident that while page views will lessen (they won’t disappear and I doubt it’ll happen as quickly as some say) that between CPA ads and other new emerging ad technologies that it’s probably not time to jump ship on online publishing!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jim Kukral says:

    Never thought about cost per second ads, interesting thought Darren.

    I think the reduction of cpm’s importance is a very good thing, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in the cpa business :)

    Really, it’s time to start shooting for results based advertising, not just throwing countless mobs of cash (ads) at a ton of people in hopes they they get enough eyeballs. Never made sense to me.

    Results people! :o

  2. Richard says:

    This thought of ajax can also be applied to “refreshing” the ads on the page too. (or ‘active’ ads) nothing new to see here, move along… pageview, adview, I guess it’s the results that really matter.

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    just remember where you heard it first Jim :-)

  4. jhay says:

    Ajax commenting has been one of my worries since SEO experts (the ones who helped me out with my blog for free) told me that pageviews do suffer from that commenting feature. Right now I’m at the crossroads of whether to drop ajax from my blog or to stick with it since I do get some decent clickthroughs on my Adsense ads.

  5. Marc says:

    Couldn’t be more wrong. The page view has plenty of life in it. People get bored looking at a page, and auto refreshing content is not the answer. This is just my opininion, but it’s based on observing lots of web surfers from a somewhat priveledged position. Auto refreshing content is an annoyance the greater share of the time and people love to go to new pages. A page view is generally fresh and exciting to the viewer and forces a reorientation that increases the chance of noticing ads. No amount of partial page Ajax and flash can replace tthe page view. People are page view happy, not Ajax happy. So reports of the page view’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. I hope Rubel is willing to post a retraction in 2010, that is if his blog is still around to publish it. I think all these guys need to get away from examining the habits of other Tech Crunch subscribers and go out into the web wilderness.

  6. The Geek says:

    CPM ads are only useful for extremely high traffic websites anyway. You have to be bringing in a million page views / month before you start to see any decent cash from them, and you have to sell your own cpm ads before it really pays off.

    There’s a reason why doubleclick and all those other banner networks from the late 90s didn’t succeed. CPM ads are usually annoying, and only really benefit the advertisers when they can flash their blinking images in front of a large-ish portion of the population.

  7. Marc Ohmann says:

    It all depends on the analytics software a site is running. It is difficult (impossible?) to track AJAX calls with a Javascript analytics package. However a server side log file analytics application can still record AJAX requests. An AJAX request is an http request to the server and can be tracked. What is the definition of a page view? Simply increment your page views after every AJAX call.

  8. Stuart says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for CPM to go out of fashion Darren – there are far too many companies big and small queueing to get their ads up on high traffic sites.

  9. Andrej says:

    Cost per second is not very easy to measure, now that all major browsers have support for tabs. How do you know that your reader is actually looking at your page. Maybe he just opened your page in a new tab but isn’t actually reading it. I usually have 5 or 10 different tabs open with pages that i want to look at.

  10. Allan says:

    CPM has never been very reliable and the revenue for the smaller guys is downright criminal.

    When I first saw pay per (day/month/year) I realised that this was going to become popular. It rules out worries about impressions and click fraud, I don’t know why it hasn’t become more popular sooner.

    Banners are really a relic from the real world (poster advertising/adverts in glossy mags) and aren’t particularly suited to the web especially before broadband came along.

    I believe text advertising, in particular where it is not based on impressions or clicks is the way to go.

  11. James Denyer says:

    If you’re concerned about the impact of Ajax on your page views and/or the monetisation of your website – don’t use Ajax. It might be the latest developer buzzword, but it’s not a requirement to include it in your site.

    As discussed above, new advertising methods which are better suited to an Ajax environment will be developed – then consider using Ajax in your site.

    Your income is far more important than the latest web tech.

  12. drew says:

    James Denyer Says:
    “don’t use Ajax. It might be the latest developer buzzword, but it’s not a requirement to include it in your site.”

    For certain sites AJAX is a must-use technology. For example, take a look at one of my most popular sites:

    http://mapwow.com

    Certain tools, like CrazyEgg can be helpful in getting better analytics for web2.0 sites. The idea of refreshing ads using Javascript triggers is a good one, and I’m sure we’ll see more ad tools come out in the future to address this need.

  13. James Denyer says:

    @Drew
    Agreed, Ajax dependent sites such as yours are reliant on Ajax friendly ad technologies being developed.

    I guess I was getting at sites that use Ajax for Ajax sake. Ajaxifying the comments on a site does not really add any value to the site.

  14. Great article. The problem strikes me that of the two “newer” developments on the web the metric really benefits one and hurts the other.

    Social Network sites create huge amounts of page views. Blogs create very few. So all the bloggers I read tend to want to do away with page views as a metric ;-)

    Yet SNS sites really do well when they focus on “branding” and a key metric there is amount of time on a site. Here, blogs should compete well with SNS sites (10 minutes + per session is good going to great for an SNS metric)

    Are sophisticated bloggers (who can use leverage to set playing field) focusing on that?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Technology Dec 2 at 9:09 am by Thord Hedengren -Darren Rowse picked up on Steve Rubel’s post on the imminent death of page views as an ad measuring method. In short, it’s all about the fact that Web 2.0 websites use Ajax to reload part of the page content, which results in a lot less page loads, and therefore also page views. And if you’re selling your ads based on how many times they’re loaded (viewed) then that’s bad business. [...]

  2. [...] Darren Rowse argues that from period to period millions of users will begin to like these services. They will like how they can finish so much in short time, without ever having to do useless things. While a few publishers are lamenting this and even going as far to say that they are considering of moving out of web publishing as a result for some reasons: [...]

  3. [...] There is an indication that the top site’s less page refresh might even boost their ad real estate value. Since the ad will stay longer and dominate the space. Darren Rowse have an interesting article on this. [...]

  4. [...] ProBlogger – The Death of the Page View and the Ongoing Challenge of Monetizing Websites [...]

  5. [...] Page View is Dead ? Are you sure about that ? By Reaper-X, December 14, 2006, 3:25 am I’ve seen an interesting post from Steve Rubel about The dying page view metric that is posted on Search Engine Watch and Problogger. And here’s some important part, quoted from Steve Rubel post : [...]

  6. [...] The “death of the page view” conversation, while interesting, is starting to go too far when otherwise smart people begin to predict things like “we’ll no longer bother to collect pageviews by end of 2007.” While you can make the case for using unique visitors in comparative situations, I sincerely question statements like “[the] page is no longer considered a metric worth looking at.” Is it me? [...]