Will Google Instant Kill the Page View?

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Almost as outdated as “hits” as an audience metric, page views have somehow managed to hold on far after their time.  ComScore and Nielsen still report them, agencies still look at them, and publishers that are heavily rich media-oriented struggle to derive “page view equivalents” from their audience numbers.  All for a metric that had relevance when we lived in a world of HTML 1.0, but really, not so much today.

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/richy/93436194/sizes/o/in/photostream/

During the process of creating the IAB’s audience reach measurement guidelines last year, page views were on the table, but the consensus was that in the rich media world of today’s web, it does more harm than good to reduce things to “pages.”

Now Google’s made the page view even more obsolete with its new Google Instant Search capability.  If that catches on and becomes the way most people use Google’s search engine, Google’s page view counts will plummet:  instead of a search page and a search results page, both the query and the results appear on a single dynamic “page.”

I realize that Google’s revenue model doesn’t depend on the page view metric, so it probably doesn’t care what Instant Search will do to its page view count (By the way, it’ll also be interesting to see what Instant Search does to Google’s time spent metric.) But as the web continues to get richer, UI changes similar to Google’s will proliferate in large and small ways on other publishers’ properties, and page view counts will grow ever more misleading as a way to understand audience size, activity level, and advertising opportunities.

I’d love to see agencies, measurement vendors, and publishers overcome the collective industry inertia that seems to resist abolishing the pageview.  Clinging to it just because it’s the metric you looked at last year (and the year before that) isn’t a good enough reason to keep it around when so many better and more representative metrics are available.  Granted pageviews do have a legitimate use as a metric for comparing between server-side analytics and panel-based measurers—but that’s a wonky, internal reason to keep them around, andt doesn’t justify their use to assess how media companies are doing, or as a part of the planning process. 

Anyone want to defend the pageview?  Or suggest a good replacement for it?  I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to post your thoughts here.

Joe Laszlo is Director of Research for the IAB