Attention Metrics: The Future of Measurement in Marketing

There’s no doubt: Marketers are constantly looking for metrics that matter.

For many, however, page views, link clicks, unique visitors, and even social interactions—such as likes and favorites—just aren’t cutting it anymore. “A metric is meaningful when it provides you insight that allows you to take some action,” says Mark Yackanich, CEO of video tech company Genesis Media. “Today, metrics can measure anything.”

Still, anything and everything doesn’t necessarily translate to meaningful and valuable. In fact, Yackanich says that shallow metrics tend to measure volume rather than consumption of content. He says marketers should no longer want just clicks but rather viewers’ time—and most important, attention. “As an industry, and to create a more sustainable economic model, we need to think about the real quality of [marketing messages],” Yackanich says. “Ask yourself ‘What holds people’s attention?’”

Yackanich insists that marketers today need to focus more on attention metrics—or those measurements that track the “total time audience members spend with content and their level of engagement.” Chris Stark, SVP of product marketing at Grapeshot—a platform that analyzes Web pages to place relevant ads—expands on Yackanich’s call for change.

“The scale of volume has always been a valuable indicator [of interaction and engagement]. There’s nothing inherently wrong with volume, per se,” Stark explains. “But now we’re able to recognize that the quality of volume is a dimension we can start to consider. So measuring if the content was actually consumed is now that sort of second dimension.”

Stark says that attention metrics enable marketers to delve deeper into the subjects, trends, motives, and values that are top-of-mind for the audience. “Attention is mindshare,” he continues. “Attention means that some amount of thought is diverted toward that message or product. It’s when you apply a little bit more of your consideration—that spectrum of thought that someone gives toward something.”

But exactly how do you quantify attention?

“You can start by measuring viewability and longevity of content,” Yackanich says. Viewability is simply the metric that’s used to determine whether a message was seen; longevity is the time spent with content.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) sets the standard for video viewability as an ad that is at least 50% in view for at least two continuous seconds. For display impressions, it’s a minimum of 50% of pixels in view for a minimum of one second.

So, rather than a click-through rate, Yackanich suggests marketers measure other attention-centric metrics, like the view-through rate—or the percentage of people who play videos in their entirety. In essence, measure completion and engagement.

Stark and Yackanich warn marketers, however, that no single number can measure attention. “We can point to probably 30 or 40 different components that can represent attention—primarily a synthesis of behavior information,” Yackanich continues. “And it’s very important to monitor the environment that the results are running in.”

But despite the relative newness of attention metrics, Stark says they’re the measurements of the future.

“Marketers are very much interested in attention metrics. It’s the next evolution of marketing metrics,” Stark says. “The important thing that we can’t lose sight of is making sure we create metrics that translate into something meaningful and material. That’s why the attention metric is so exciting; we’re figuring out dimension in addition to duration. It’s a new level of capability.”

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