A common topic of this blog (as well as a point of focus of the Audience Evolution book) has been the concept of engagement, and how various stakeholders (measurement firms, advertisers, content providers, etc.) are working to create concrete defintions that can function as meaningful performance metrics (and perhaps, one day, currencies) in the audience marketplace.
One thing is certain — business of defining and measuring engagement (regardless of the medium) is a complex and competitive space. We’ve yet to see industry stakeholders adhere around a standardized definition or operationalization.
This week sees the latest development on this front, with market research software provider IgnitionOne announcing that they will be introducing an online “engagement optimization” feature as part of their digital marketing suite. Their product will produce an Engagement Score derived from a variety of criteria related to a web site’s performance, including: frequency of visits, paid views per session, and time spent on-site.
There are a couple of things worth noting in this description of this approach to the notion of engagement:
1) Engagement is clearly being approached as a multi-dimensional concept; one that can only be operationalized via the integration of a variety of measures of a web site’s audience-related performance. This seems to be a pretty standard approach at this point. It’s probably unlikely that we’ll ever see any significant contraction in the range of criteria that are being used to operationalize a concept that is as inherently multi-dimensional as engagement.
2) However, engagement, in this case (as well as in many others that I discuss in Audience Evolution) is being operationalized largely in terms of dimensions of exposure. That is, while on the one hand we tend to think of engagement as some sort of measure of performance that truly takes us beyond exposure; the reality is that very often engagement is simply an amalgamation of traditional exposure criteria. So, in this case, criteria such as frequency of exposure and time spent per exposure are, in combination, being used to represent a concept that one could easily argue should represent a dimension of audience-hood that goes well beyond what can be captured by any combination of traditional exposure metrics, particualrly in a highly interactive context, such as online.
In this way, some aspects of this developing market for engagement metrics really do seem to represent an effort to repackage old wine into new bottles.