Pageviews as a Metric are Dead in Two Years

Yesterday’s post on “Will RSS Whither and Die?” was sparked by Steve Rubel as is this one today from his post entitled, “The Imminent Demise of the Page View.” Rubel gives the page view four years to live and says:

“The page view does not offer a suitable way to measure the next generation of web sites. These sites will be built with Ajax, Flash and other interactive technologies that allow the user to conduct affairs all within a single web page – like Gmail or the Google Reader. This eliminates the need to click from one page to another. The widgetization of the web will only accelerate this.”

Four years is too generous. I give the page view two years to live. Why just two years? Ironically it’s due to what I talked about in my post on Tuesday about Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and the enabling tools and approaches that will leap to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness in 2007.

What goes on inside of a Web browser with Ajax, Flash, RIA’s and other approaches will enable almost complete data and content access without page refreshes. I understand that explicit personalization (presenting user-centric information based on their login and what their profile contains) is fairly trivial, but sophisticated content delivery AND the subsequent data analytics is NOT what bloggers and most web sites are capable of using.

Hmmm…so maybe the acceleration in ease-of-building-and-delivering Ajax, Flash and RIA’s will come with a major increase in the difficulty of measuring who is consuming your content so you can report to advertisers?

Lots of questions…

What happens when data and content is delivered to an RIA sitting on a device or desktop where click-streams (i.e., data access) can’t be tracked or measured at the server level? Yes the application itself can store much of this data so will measurement only occur because tracking technologies are built-in to the app? What about real-time or near-real-time data capture since someone could be offline for days, get on the internet and THEN the click-stream data would be uploaded!?! What will the ensuing privacy implications be for application deliverers, advertisers and others whose economic incentives are directly aligned with increased perfect measurement?

Perhaps the work being done on internet identity (dubbed “Identity 2.0”) could allow trusted profiles to be built which also could enable anonymous proxy services. This would allow me, say, to log in to an application with my anonymous proxy credentials — and the application would trust the identity service and know that it was a real human with real identity and trust behind it — so that there could and would be a method to be tracked and measured but still enjoy private and anonymous online interactions.

This measurement problem is even more challenging as our alway-on, always-connected lifestyles accelerate. I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Minneapolis right now putting this post together. People are all around me and many have laptops open using the shop’s free Wifi connection. So even with cookies set and each of us logging in to various sites or online applications, we’re still coming from the same IP address so other analytics to figure out who we are don’t exist.

To illustrate the online/offline application problem that RIA’s will certainly have, I use an offline/online news aggregator called NetNewsWire that sync’s to the online Newsgator and sucks down all the content I subscribe to by RSS. Newsgator understands my subscriptions….but can only understand what I’ve viewed when I’m online again and re-sync (though even THAT isn’t assured since I could just “Mark All as Read” and it would appear that I read everything and thus saw the inline ads in the RSS feed). Newsgator, therefore, is the only intermediary that could act as tracking mechanism for RSS feeds as well as know which pages I launch and view. However, if I discover that Newsgator is tracking my movements and compiling a database of my moves…I’ll switch to another news aggregator.

Oh wait. I use Gmail, Google Calendar and other apps they provide. They’re tracking me. Oh wait. Schwab is tracking me. Ahh…Feedster has my feed data, Apple my music and podcast listening preferences and Amazon my purchase history and click-stream data. So a page view is a moot point and is probably dead right now…but most people don’t know it yet.

If you listen closely you’ll hear the death rattle of the page view. For bloggers and most small-to-midsize businesses, Google Analytics is about the only powerful and viable option (it’s robust and free) but then everyone that uses it turns over detailed analytics to Google for their use.

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  1. Lawrence Standifer Stevens on December 9, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Well, this is just swell! I no sooner get my podcast/blog traffic up to a level that I think advertisers might be interested and what happens? Pageviews goes to hell in a handbasket!

    Okay, so the world hasn’t come to an end. But it WOULD be nice if a podcaster/blogger could hit a moving target. What I REALLY want for Christmas is the ability to figure out how many and WHO listens. Now THAT would be valuable information.

    In the meantime, I’d love to hear from people who either listen to or read the transcript from my podcast. Leave me your comments at Tell me what YOU think is the best way to measure traffic. Google Analytics? Statcounter? Or some other method. It’s your call.


    Lawrence Standifer Stevens
    Off The Dime Podcast

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.