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Digital Content Next Research Reveals 80 Percent of Digital Publishers Are Interested in Using Time-Based Metrics to Price and Sell Ads

October 22, 2014 | By DCN

More than half of leading publishers see attention metrics as next new standard; Publishers identify lack of standardized metrics and research as biggest hurdles

New York, NY (October 22, 2014) – Digital Content Next (DCN), the only trade association that exclusively serves the diverse needs of digital content companies, today reveals research findings showing leading digital publishers are looking to time-based measurement as an emerging industry-standard metric. The DCN research, based on surveys among 25 members and in-depth interviews with nine members, found that all of the surveyed publishers are already using time-based metrics or have plans to do so — and a full 80 percent say they’re interested in transacting on the basis of time.

The findings of the report, How Time-Based Measurement is Grabbing Digital Publishers’ Attention, were shared at DCN’s Time-Based Measurement Day, a members-only gathering of executives from the leading digital content companies that was focused on the future of audience measurement. The program featured a panel of experts including Josh Schwartz, Chief Data Scientist at Chartbeat; Jonah Goodhart, Founder/CEO of Moat; Daniel Rothman, US Director of Marketing & Insight at the Financial Times; and Steve Ahlberg, Vice President, Advertising Solutions and Product Management at Gannett Co., Inc. Ad Age reporter Michael Sebastian moderated the panel.

“The digital publishing media metric of the future will include some form of attention-based metrics,” says Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next. “Valuing content based on the amount of time consumers spend with it provides a meaningful, cross-platform measurement for brand marketers and publishers rather than counting links and clicks. This has the potential to solve a host of industry problems.”

Findings from the DCN report include:

  • 80 percent of publishers already use time-based measurement in some form, and 20 percent plan to in the future. In addition, 80 percent are already testing or express an interest in transacting on time.
  • 52 percent of publishers say time-based metrics could replace the standard impression as a universal currency for an ad unit; 48 percent say it could also replace click-through rate as a standard. 32 percent feel time-based metrics are not a replacement for any of the currently used metrics.
  • 68 percent of publishers identify a lack of standard metrics and measurement as the main obstacle to adopting time as a currency. 48 percent identify lack of research demonstrating time is correlated to ad effectiveness as the main obstacle; 40 percent identify lack of marketer and ad agency education and interest.
  • 90 percent of DCN members surveyed indicate that they use time metrics to internally evaluate performance of their sites and content among their editorial and/or sales and ad operations teams. Eighty-five percent of publishers share time-based metrics with agencies and marketers.
  • Time based metrics are most often used as proof of engagement/attention or proof of quality of content as part of the sales story.

The research and findings are based on qualitative interviews with senior executives from CNBC Digital, Condé Nast, ESPN, Financial Times, Forbes Media, Gannett Co., Inc., The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Univision Communications, Inc. The interviews took place in July and August 2014; in addition, the research drew on a quantitative survey of 25 DCN members conducted in September 2014.

Perspectives from industry executives at organizations like the 4A’s, Medialink and Simulmedia, are also included in the report. Mike Donahue, EVP of the 4A’s states, “Once we have opportunity to see (viewability) nailed as first step cross platform currency, the sequential next step currency is engagement. Short of scalable, affordable neuro measures (of emotional response), time is the best surrogate to measure engagement.”  ​

The report outlines DCN’s position statements in support of time-based metrics, specifically:

  1. Time-based metrics enforce the need for viewability.
  2. Time-based metrics create an inventory constraint that will introduce scarcity into the market.
  3. Time-based metrics realign pricing with quality by naturally diverting revenue to higher valued content.
  4. Time-based metrics provide a better measure of advertising than click-through rate.
  5. Time-based metrics work across platforms.

The report also features best practices on how publishers can begin to integrate time-based measurements into their own teams and in conversations with agencies and marketers.

This is the first piece of research DCN has produced since the organization relaunched in September 2014 to renew focus on digital innovation and the creation of opportunities for high-quality digital content companies today and in the future.

To download the report, go to digitalcontentnext.org/research.



Founded in June 2001 as the Online Publishers Association, Digital Content Next is the only trade organization dedicated to serving the unique and diverse needs of high-quality digital content companies that manage trusted, direct relationships with consumers and marketers. Digital Content Next produces proprietary research for its members and the public, creates public and private forums to explore and advance key issues that impact digital content brands, and works to educate the public at large on the importance of quality content brands. More information about Digital Content Next is available at www.digitalcontentnext.org.

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Contact: Elizabeth Luke
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