Choose Daily Unique Article Views – over Page Views

Should News Media Publishers Optimize for more Page Views or more Article Views ?

I was spending my weekend in Albany having good positive day long discussions with a publisher about whether one should optimize for more Page views per visit (PPV) or more Article views per visit (APV).

I have strong opinions about the importance of setting proper KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and applying appropriate subsequent optimization goals. I believe it is fair to suggest that Article Views are a much stronger metric than Page Views. Some of my reasoning for choosing Article Views (AV) over Page views (PV) are

  • Article Views are more true to the actual atomic product of a News Media publisher
  • Article Views are more directly aligned to the actual publisher cost structure
  • Article Views are more directly related to the value the reader obtains
  • Article Views are likely to be items in for-pay structures in the not too distant future – and thus more directly aligned to revenue.
  • Article Views are not as easily gamed as a metric as page views are

It is easy to come up with a dozen ideas on how one can game page views and we see this all the time, from aggressive pagination of articles to aggressive use of galleries. Not only that, there is a strong possibility, that by gaming page views, you might subsequently de-optimize more true KPIs.

If I were to run a News Media organization, I would choose Daily Unique Article Views as my primary success metric. Think about it – and do let me know why your organization is not using Article Views over Page Views ?

Cheers :-)
/ Dennis (@dennismortensen)

  • S.Hamel

    If the news publisher revenue model is ad-based, shouldn’t the ultimate goal be optimization of ad views (if paid by CPM) or ad click-through (if paid by CPC)? Any action aiming to optimize the website would have to take into account the right balance of ad impressions/effectiveness: how to split a long article, ad placement, traffic quality, ad quality and relevancy, etc.

    One could argue that Page views or Article views could be increasing but profitability be doing down at the same time (especially under CPC conditions).

    However, CPM/CPC optimization might be to far from “actionalibility” (just like saying revenue is ultimate KPI for ecommerce – it’s too distant from tactical actions and moves too slowly to be a really good KPI). Just a thought, maybe I’m totally off track here…


  • Dennis R. Mortensen

    Hi Stephane,

    We are in agreement. And I think we might actually just attack the issue from different angles. In the perfect scenario, I might go for a Profit-per-Article metric, as the optimum News Media KPI (depends on the organization of course).

    Today though, I am not sure I would personally go for an ad-views metric (when talking about News Media), as it disregards the Reader and it makes you dependent on a business-model that might change or need experimentation in the short term. Also having in mind that ad-views might be slightly too aggressive a metric for a news media organization – and if not used wisely, we could see an opening for optimizing towards the lowest common denominator.

    It is a splendid metric for more traditional publishers – AND I think you are very much on track! :-)


  • Bertwin

    It isn’t hard to gain more page views / article views: just write something about some so called “model” like Paris Hilton and / or nudity, and your page- and article views will go sky high (this one’s on me Dennis ;-) ).

    Profit per Article does come a little closer to what publishers should drive. But the value of an article depends on the subject (it shouldn’t, but it does): an article about the housing market is more valuable than an article about a cat that had to be rescued from a tree, just because advertisers in the banking world pay more than advertisers who sell ladders.

    I think publishers should look at something like “quality per visit(or)”: When someone writes a reaction to an article, he’s more likely to come back, write some more reactions, read a couple of new articles, click a banner. Besides that, it would be nice if visitors tell their friends about the articles they read (via mail, facebook, etcetera). All these actions will result in more visits, page views, money.

    Something like Article views or Profit per Article drives focus to the article, instead of focus on visitors…

    This of course, all in the perfect world..

  • Dennis R. Mortensen

    Hi Bertwin,

    HA! :-) We are yet to define a technical term for this phenomena, but we call it the “Britney Spears effect” around the office, so I think it is safe to say that we are very much on the same page. However, I personally tend to differ between an Organizational KPI (which reflects and drives the overall objectives) – And a quality metric, which is used either as a direct proxy for before mentioned KPI or simply as a metric to optimize it.

    Because, as you so rightfully say, a proper organizational KPI and goal could (should) be something around a Lifetime Visitor Value metric, but in working towards making that better, I do think that Unique Articles Views are a well defined metric that can actually help in doing so (notice the Unique part, which is a visitor grouping component). Definitely a whole lot better that Page Views.

    Great input. Thanks Bertwin.

    We really need to define this “Britney Spears effect” – So any suggestions on what to call it, is appreciated!

    d. :-)

  • Bertwin

    Hi Dennis,
    On the “Britney Spears effect”: how about the “babe effect” or the “beautiful babe effect” (bb effect). Personally I think the Babe effect is better, since one can argue about a babe being beautiful or not :p

    I do agree that publishers should look at article views over page views, but I’m still not completely convinced about the “unique” part. What’s unique in this matter? When I visit a news website three times a day, me myself and I can be three unique visitors on the same day. Which would be true in the case of suffering from schizophrenia.. But I’m pretty healthy. Anyway, I think we’re getting close to something awesome (the holy grail of online publishing?), but we’re not there yet :-)


  • Tim

    I really like Article Views as a KPI over Page Views. Like you pointed out Page Views can be gamed many different ways. And even if you are not trying to game the metric it can be misleading. If your site is confusing a users can drive up your page views because they can’t find what they want and end up clicking more pages than necessary which leads to a poor customer experience and less likely to repeat.

    Even though advertising is the primary source of Revenue for media websites we need to focus on what that foundation is built and sustained on: Valuable Audience. Not all audiences are created equal. If youa re able to attract and retain an audience that is not duplicated elsewhere you can drive your Rate Card up and therefore drive more Revenue over the long-term. And the more engaged and responsive your audience is to your content and advertising within your site the easier it is to retain your advertisers as well.

    A large page view number might attract advertisers but a highly engaged audience will retain them. And what ultimately drives retention of audience? Content. And how do you measure the value of your content? Engagement of your audience with your content. And not forced engagement with page turns but engagement driven by customer interactions like Views, Comments and Shares.

    Thanks for the great insight!

  • Dennis R. Mortensen

    We are obviously VERY much on the same page Tim. Thanks for the insightful comment!
    d. :-)