Pageviews do not measure the quality of a piece of content or its ability to hold and engage an audience; it’s a measure of the provocativeness of link copy. That’s it. It’s highly gameable, and by separating the metric of success (clicking on the link) from any relation to the content itself, that means the cheapest, most provocative link creator will always have the advantage.
Here’s the thing though. When you actually sit down with publishers, across the board there is an enormous degree of consistency around what their goals are and what really matters to them — and it’s not pageviews. What matters is building an audience who knows who you are, likes what you do and most importantly comes back to you again and again…
When you eschew chasing pageviews and make building a loyal audience your goal, it not only aligns commercial and editorial goals, but also dramatically increases the pace of cultural change within newsrooms. It turns out that what loyal audiences care about is what good editorial teams care about too: great articles that capture time and attention.
Tony is right that pageviews is a poor measure of article quality. Sites that optimize for pageviews inevitably publish provocative headlines and populist content. But time on page (which Chartbeat provides) isn’t a solution, because shorter articles aren’t necessarily lower quality or less valuable. This is particularly true in finance, where investors want information which has maximum signal-to-noise ratio, is fast to read, and is delivered instantaneously. Like this.
So what’s the right way to measure content quality for us?