It’s not All About the Quest for Pageviews

I wrote yesterday about sensationalist reporting at The Verge regarding the iPhone 5 mockup hands on. We all know they’re doing it for pageviews, the real unfortunate part is that advertisers are paying for pageviews.

When ever a client talks about pageviews while we are discussing the goals for a new site design I always tell them it’s a mostly useless metric. Would they rather have 10k people come to the site, or 2 new clients come from the site?

If we take the same example to this blog and rephrase the question a bit to match the goals of the site we get.

Would I rather have 10k visitors or 2 new subscribers a day?

I’d rather have 2 new RSS subscribers a day. 10k extra visitors a day does me little real good. They use up my server cycles and potentially slow my site down providing a less than desirable experience. 2 new subscribers a day means I now have two more people that are interested in what I have to say and are more likely to share my content.

A great example from this site is my recent Hacker News experience. An article I wrote about DHH got a bit of notice and increased my traffic 200%. Out of that I got no subscribers and about 10 emails on grammar critiques (typically including I must be a moron to make those mistakes and should just stop writing at all). The benefit to me was little if anything.

True, my experience with Hacker News put my content in to the path of a bunch of extra people. Getting in the path of these extra people a few times increases the chance that they will become subscribers. Even with that knowledge I’m not convinced that all the traffic from Hacker News was really worth it. I suppose if I had adds on the site that paid based on pageviews it would have been a great day.

At some point I expect advertisers to realize that pageviews mean little. What they should be looking for is a highly engaged audience that actually purchases products or services based on the recommendations of a site. We’re headed that way, and I think we’ll see sites like The Verge have to change revenue models when their advertisers make the change.

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