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Archive for 'The Engagement Project'

Our Engagement Metric in use at Philly.com

Those of you who have read my blog for long know that I have written a tremendous amount about measures of visitor engagement online. In addition to numerous blog posts we have published a 50 page white paper describing how to measure visitor engagement and every year I give a half-dozen presentations on the subject. Unlike some people who seem to fear new ideas and others who disapprove of anything they themselves do not create I have long been a champion for evolving our use of metrics in web analytics to satisfy business needs.

But don’t take my word for it, read about how the nice folks at Philly.com are using a near complete version of my calculation to better understand their audience.

Cool, huh?

The thing I love about this article is that Philly.com is openly talking about their use of my engagement metric.  What’s better is that their sharing prompted another super-great organization (PBS) to comment that they too have been using my engagement metric for years.

Awesome.

I have been honored to work with several companies in the past three years who have implemented my metric and variations thereof but most treat the metric as a competitive secret. Given that most are in the hard-pressed and hyper-competitive online media world I understand, but I’m certainly happy to see Philly.com and Chris Meares share their story with the world.

Anyway, check out the article and, if you’re brave, download our white paper on visitor engagement and give it a read. If you are in media and are stuck trying to figure out how to get web analytics to work for you (instead of the other way around) give me a call. I’m more than happy to discuss how our measure of engagement might be able to help your business grow.

Published on October 26, 2010 under Articles, Engagement, Presentations, Research, The Engagement Project

Visitor Engagement + comScore = Audience Engagement!

About six months ago the management team at comScore approached me with some questions about my Visitor Engagement calculation and the Web Analytics Demystified engagement framework. Their Chief Research Officer, Josh Chasin, had taken an interest in my work and wondered how it may be extensible across multiple properties using the comScore dataset.

It was an excellent question, and today I’m happy to give readers a preview of what we believe to be an excellent answer. Today we’re announcing a measure of Visitor Engagement that, thanks to comScore, can be used to compare levels of engagement across multiple properties in a similar category.

Brand Marketing’s New Measure: Audience Engagement

Audience Engagement is a simple modification of Web Analytics Demystified’s Visitor Engagement calculation that focuses on the core site behavioral attributes, measured through the comScore panel. If you remember, the Visitor Engagement calculation is:

Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li + Bi + Fi + Ii)

The components of the Visitor Engagement calculation are:

  • Click Depth Index: Captures the contribution of page and event views
  • Duration Index: Captures the contribution of time spent on site
  • Recency Index: Captures the visitor’s “visit velocity”—the rate at which visitors return to the web site over time
  • Brand Index: Captures the apparent awareness of the visitor of the brand, site, or product(s)
  • Feedback Index: Captures qualitative information including propensity to solicit additional information or supply direct feedback
  • Interaction Index: Captures visitor interaction with content or functionality designed to increase level of Attention the visitor is paying to the brand, site, or product(s)
  • Loyalty Index: Captures the level of long-term interaction the visitor has with the brand, site, or product(s)

(More information about the measure of Visitor Engagement, including the details behind the calculation and several example use cases, can be obtained by reading the white paper that Joseph Carrabis and I recently published, Measuring the Immeasurable: Visitor Engagement which is freely available on this web site.)

The Audience Engagement simplifies Visitor Engagement by applying a “zero weighting” to the Brand, Feedback, and Interaction indices. By removing these values from the core calculation we are left with Click-Depth, Duration, Recency, and Loyalty:

Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li)

In English:

“Audience Engagement is a function of the number of clicks a visitor generates at a site, the amount of time they spent at the site, the frequency at which they return to the site, and their loyalty to the site as a member of the category for all of the sessions to that site during the reporting period.”

We’ve selected these four indices for one very simple reason: When scored using category-level thresholds (with the exception being the Loyalty Index, see below) comScore is able to automatically generate Audience Engagement values and engagement distributions across all of the sites they track.

The result is unique view into the relationship visitors have with the thousands of web sites comScore tracks around the globe. Now, for the first time ever, marketers and advertisers are able to gain insights into the level of engagement using a much more robust measure than session duration, page views, or recency alone.

Using Audience Engagement we can say with a high level of certainty that a greater percentage of Internet users find CNN more engaging than MSNBC and Yahoo! News:

More importantly we can also say that CNN has a larger population of “highly engaged” visitors to their site (22.5% of visitors at CNN versus 15% at MSNBC and less than 10% at Yahoo! News.) We believe that assessment of the audience distribution will provide advertisers an entirely new way to evaluate sites, focusing on audience quality over more simplistic measures of quantity.

This same type of analysis applied to popular network sports sites yields similarly interesting insights:

Here we can see that ESPN, while trailing Yahoo! Sports across all traditional measures (page views, sessions, minutes spent, active days) dominates Yahoo! from an Audience Engagement perspective. A closer examination of these two sites shows that ESPN’s dominance is driven largely by the frequency at which their audience members return to the site (Recency Index of 47.2% versus Yahoo! Sports at 27.0%) — an insight that has clear value to advertisers looking to create brand awareness and drive brand impressions across a sports-minded audience.

While comScore and Web Analytics Demystified are still working on how this data will be packaged and presented, another way of visualizing the relationship between two sites or a site and the category average is using a spider chart:

This chart visually tells the same story as the table above — ESPN has a higher level of Audience Engagement (bigger footprint) that is largely driven by Loyalty and Recency.

We believe that brand advertisers, advertising planners, and marketing managers will be able to use this data to make better decisions during the ad planning and media buying process. The whole debate over the definition of engagement manifest largely from advertisers desire to find more engaged audiences juxtaposed against a lack of faith in the simple measures being proposed as proxies for engagement. Thanks to comScore, these simple measures are about to become a thing of the past, giving way to a significantly more robust measure of the level of Attention audiences are paying at advertising powered sites around the world.

Interpreting Individual Data Points

In case you don’t want to spend the time reading the 50 page white paper I wrote recently on the subject with the mathematician and cultural anthropologist Joseph Carrabis, I’ll provide a brief summary of how the data comScore is reporting can be used.

Here is a sample of sites from comScore’s automotive category:

The first line in this table says that 42.8% of the audience to KBB.com is appreciably engaged with the web site. Engagement at KBB.com is largely driven by visitors clicking deeply into the site and spending an appreciable amount of time doing so, with nearly 85% of audience members exceeding the category Click Depth threshold and over 60% exceeding the duration threshold. Finally, using the distribution data, we can also see that 63% of the audience is highly engaged versus less than 3% who are only poorly engaged.

Audience Engagement data provided by comScore can also be used in a comparative context. Looking at the most and least engaging sites in this group, the data suggests that the audience going to KBB.com is over 400% more engaged than the audience going to About.com Autos (42.8% versus 8.5%.)  This is not to say that advertising at About.com Autos is a bad idea — over 90 percent of the site’s audience appears to be moderately engaged and in some instances a moderate level of engagement may be exactly what the campaign is looking for.

A Technical Note about Audience Engagement’s Loyalty Index

In the Audience Engagement calculation, the Loyalty Index is calculated differently than in the Visitor Engagement calculation because of an advantage conferred by the comScore system. Instead of simply counting the number of times a visitor has returned to the site as we’re forced to do using a site-centric data model, comScore allow us to better approximate loyalty as more commonly used: a measure of your likelihood to prefer a single site or brand over all others in the category. This model is essentially a “share of requirements” model used traditionally in the brand advertising industry and is calculated as:

Li(AE) = Visits to Site / Visits to All Sites in the Category

So, for example, if a comScore panelist is going only to eBay in comScore’s “Auctions” category, their Loyalty Index for eBay would be 100%:

Li(AE) = 10 visits to eBay / 10 visits in the “Auctions” Category

Conversely, if another visitor goes to eBay half the time and Bidz.com half the time, their Loyalty Index for eBay would be 50%:

Li(AE) = 5 visits to eBay / 10 visits in the “Auctions” Category

The result is a distribution of Loyalty Index scores for auction sites tracked by comScore in September that looks like this:

As you can see, eBay’s Audience Engagement component indices are higher than those of their competitors, but their Loyalty Index is much higher and tells us that nearly visitors in this category strongly prefer eBay to their competitors.

One of the challenges comScore and Web Analytics Demystified face regarding the Loyalty Index is the refinement of categories. Some categories like “Auctions” are well defined and represent logical competitors in a sector; others, like “News/Information” include diverse sites like Weather.com, Discovery.com, and Court TV Online. Over time we hope to refine these categories in partnership with comScore clients to provide the most accurate view of category loyalty possible. If you’re interested in participating in this work, please contact me directly.

Next Steps for comScore and Web Analytics Demystified

This is the first time we’ve been able to apply the Web Analytics Demystified Engagement construct to a syndicated audience data base.  We’re just announcing this work today, but we can already see possibilities for the measure’s evolution. Potential next-generation enhancements could include:

  • Allowing comScore clients to provide a set of branded search terms to support the inclusion of Visitor Engagement’s Brand Index (Bi)
  • Allowing comScore clients to provide a set of key site interactions designed to promote visitor Attention, supporting the inclusion of Visitor Engagement’s Interaction Index (Ii)
  • Incorporating third-party data sources measuring more qualitative aspects of the audience relationship with the site, supporting the inclusion of Visitor Engagement’s Feedback Index (Fi)
  • Allowing comScore clients to define their own competitive set in order to drill down into a more specific engagement profile in support of the advertising sales process
  • Providing comScore clients access to the details behind the Audience Engagement calculation for their site and category
  • Providing comScore clients custom access to Audience Engagement data, to provide a measure of Visitor Engagement in situations where the web analytic technology deployed does not support direct measurement

These are just a handful of examples of where this data offering can go. We’re presenting this model and starting the conversation because we want to hear from you. Regardless of whether you’re a current comScore or Web Analytics Demystified client, we would love your feedback regarding the calculation, the data, and the type of insights Audience Engagement is likely to provide to your organization.

Want to Know More about Audience Engagement?

Any reader of this blog knows that I have a passion for talking about the new measures of success on the Internet. I’m tremendously excited about this announcement and happy to talk if you’re interested in how you might be able to leverage Audience Engagement data.

Also, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have concerns about how we measure Audience Engagement or, in the extreme case, don’t think engagement can be measured at all. I firmly believe that the measures of Visitor and Audience Engagement I have proposed and the work I’ve done with Mr. Carrabis and now with comScore are only the beginning of the search for more useful measures of success on the Internet. Because these measures attempt to approximate something we agree is difficult to quantify, we believe that these measures will evolve over time; nothing is set in stone.

But we also believe that Visitor and Audience Engagement are better measures than “page views” and “average time spent” and far more useful to the measurement industry as a whole than simply sticking our head’s in the sand and exclaiming “engagement is an excuse” or worse, taking a Luddite’s view and declaring that complex measures are destined to fail.

For the time being, comScore is previewing additional details on the measure of Audience Engagement with their clients selectively.  If you’d like more information about how to be added to comScore’s list, or would like to discuss the measure of Audience Engagement with me, please email me directly and we can arrange a time to chat.

Published on October 19, 2008 under Engagement, Research, The Engagement Project, Vendors, White Papers

Our white paper on Visitor Engagement is now available

A lot of you have been following the thread in my blog about measures of engagement on the Internet. Over the past year we have certainly had a spirited discussion about the topic, and for the most part people’s interest in the subject has not apparently subsided. About six months ago I started working with Mr. Joseph Carrabis from NextStage Global on the engagement calculation and the byproduct of our work is now available as a somewhat lengthy white paper on the subject freely available to all.

You can download the white paper from the Research > Published Research section of this web site:

http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com/link_list.asp?l=Research

The white paper includes a great deal of information about the calculation including background on it’s derivation, the calculation itself, it’s use in a business context, and the underlying mathematics.  I welcome your feedback on the paper and am more than happy to discuss the contents via phone or email.

The direct measure of a Visitor’s Engagement with a web site or set of properties is still a work in progress to be sure.  And despite some naysayers, I believe that all of us working with this or similar calculations are quite excited about the possibilities associated with moving on from more simple measures and beginning to combine metrics to create a more interesting (and potentially more valuable) view of visitor interaction on the Internet.

Let the debate begin again!

Published on September 16, 2008 under Engagement, The Engagement Project, White Papers

European webcast on measuring visitor engagement

Since I am on the record as being supportive of the web analytics community around the world I wanted to make European readers aware of a webcast I will be doing next week.  Coremetrics has asked me to reprise the presentation I did on measuring visitor engagement that I did at their client summit last Fall.  The good news (for Europeans) is that the webcast is open to everyone and will be presented at 10 AM London time!

You can register for this free event at WebEx.

For those of you who can’t make the event because of holiday, or because like me the presentation will happen while you would normally be asleep, I am told that Coremetrics will be recording the presentation.  Assuming I am coherent at 2 AM my time and the recording comes of well, you should be able to download the webcast within the next few weeks at the Coremetrics web site.

I hope those of you in the European web analytics community will be able to join us next week.  I will try and leave plenty of time for questions and answers as well.

Published on July 8, 2008 under Engagement, Presentations, The Engagement Project

Measuring Online Engagement: Step One

Following up on my post from Monday of this week announcing that Joseph Carrabis of NextStage Evolution will be joining “The Engagement Project” and bringing his mathematical expertise to the table, Mr. Carrabis has summarized what he’ll initially be doing for the chef in all of us.

According to Mr. Carrabis:

“Eric’s already posted that I’ll be working with him to make the formula more applicable to a wider variety of interfaces with greater general use features. I also know that I can always use help and have repeatedly and publicly stated that I don’t know web analytics.

So, first steps? A semantically exact statement of what we’re hoping to measure. I suggest this step because it’s much easier to know if your variables will result in the desired solution if you are exact in what the solution looks like and what you have to put into that solution.

Think of it this way; You want to make some chicken soup and you use your grandmother’s recipe. I want to make some chicken soup and I use my grandmother’s recipe. But your grandmother is Irish and mine is Italian. I’ll bet we’d use different spices, different vegetables, different noodles (if indeed we both did).

But I’d bet we both use chicken stock as a base. And is your chicken stock from the leftovers of a roast chicken? What spices did you use there? Or is your stock from bullion?

So the first step is to decide what we all mean by “chicken soup”. One of my mentors was a genius of an author who use to write “speculative fiction”. I would ask, “What is speculative fiction?” and he’d reply “It’s what I’m pointing at when I say it.” This is a great anecdote and an undefensible statement (except in cultural anthropology). If one person “owns” the definition of “speculative fiction”, “chicken soup” or “engagement” then that definition is only valid so long as there exists a market for that definition.

However, a definition that says something like “Basic Chicken Soup”, that is something I can start with to make “Italian Chicken Soup” and allows my Irish friend to extend it to “Irish Chicken Soup”? Now that’s a good definition.

I snuck the concept of “extendable” into the above. “Extendable” means the definition accommodates special cases (Italian, Irish, etc). Think of a recipe for Italian Chicken Soup that begins “Step 1: Make the Basic Chicken Soup. Step 2: Now add garlic, oregano, …” That “Step 2″ part means that the original definition isn’t limited, that it can be extended to incorporate specific features to make it unique to a given environment (Italian, Irish, …).

The concept of “extensible” has two parts; First, you can substitute one thing for another if they share some basic properties. For example, you can substitute a glass of wine for a glass of water in the recipe because they’re both liquids. You can’t substitute a lamb chop for a glass of water, though. Mathematically, this means that if we want to include “clickthroughs” we can use whatever product A calls clickthroughs, whatever product B calls clickthroughs, etc., so long as they all meet some definition of “clickthroughs” (I’ll let the WAA worry about things like that).

Second, “extensible” means new spices, new vegetables, new types of noodles, etc., can be used to make the chicken soup better. This means that you can add a new spice to your recipe in addition to the existing spices already in it. Extensible (in this sense) means you’re doing what you already do to make your style chicken soup and now you’ve discovered something more you can add to it to make even more “your style”. You’re not watering it down or adding more vegetables to make the soup go further. That’s scalability and the equation should be scalable without needing to define it as such.

The sum of these two concepts of “extensible” translates to “the equation is valid across all interfaces including those we haven’t thought of yet.” Mathematically extendability and extensibility form the axes of a very rich solution space.”

Joseph says “Basic Chicken Soup” and I say “a measure of the depth and degree of visitor engagement online” … clearly he and I both have our work cut out for us. If you’d like to join us in our quest for a better measure of visitor engagement online, please let me know.

Published on March 11, 2008 under Engagement, The Engagement Project, Web Analytics Demystified Business

 


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