Page views don’t measure audience

Recently, a colleague mentioned that he thinks increasing page views is different from growing an audience. He’s right. Here are a few definitions of the phrase “page view” and the word audience.

Audience: One Merriam-Webster definition of audience is “a reading, viewing, or listening public.” Dictionary.com defines audience as “the persons reached by a book, radio or television broadcast, etc.”

Page view: Google defines a page view as “an instance of a page being loaded by a browser.” The Wikipedia definition is “a request to load a single HTML file (‘page’) of an Internet site.”

So page views measure how many times a page has been requested or loaded, regardless of how many many people (an audience) made those requests.

Imagine each reader as a diner in a restaurant, and each page as a menu item. One person could visit three times a day and consume three hearty investigative reports. She is still one diner. Maybe another patron really likes tasty pictures, and orders 20 of them in one sitting. He is still one person.

But that restaurant analogy only represents one part of a reading audience. What if one person reads three of your articles on his tablet, skims two of your blog posts on his mobile phone, glances over one of your tweets on his work computer and enjoys three of your pictures on his personal laptop. Although he has looked at nine pieces of content – three of which aren’t traditional “pages” – he is still one person.

So if not page views, what do you use to measure your audience? Leave your comments below.

Oh, and make sure to read these important posts about page views as a metric.

Image courtesy of Stuart Mudie via Flickr.

4 thoughts on “Page views don’t measure audience

  1. You forget to mention the unique page view (which assumes a person is not refreshing their browser cookies every day). That's a valuable metric, far more than the non-unique page view.

    • Thanks for bringing up that, Ari. I really think all of these metrics are valuable to a certain extent. Since there are so many dimensions to a web site, its visitors, and the ways that the two interact, it requires multiple metrics to get see even part of the complete picture.

      • A day after reading your article above, I read that USA TODAY is now going to pay its writers a bonus if their online articles get so many page views. Think USA TODAY is nuts?

        • I wouldn't categorize any person or organization as nuts for trying new things, but I do fear the how the use of page views as a goal can lead to "tricks" that end up doing a disservice to the reader.

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