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The Most Important Metric for Your Publications: the Average Session Duration


“The only way you can actually look at the amount of value someone’s placed on content is how much time they’re spending with it.”

-Brendan Spain, U.S. commercial director of the Financial Times

Spain’s quote reflects a growing trend in digital publishing. Publishers are no longer relying on once-popular metrics, like page views, to gauge the value of their content. Instead, they’re focusing more on the time readers spend with content as the best indicator of quality. To this end, digital publishing companies are creating more informative metrics like “average time spent” or “average session duration (ASD).”

Importance of Average Session Duration

So why is ASD (average session duration) gaining a fast reputation as the most important metric for digital publishers, even more so than page views? Here are 2 good reasons:

  • Page views are easily exploitable. Think about clickbait. It’s cheap, effective, and an easy way to gain more page views without producing quality content (negatively affecting the entire industry in the process).

  • Average session duration provides an EXACT time of how much readers are spending on pages. Publishers can use this information to see which ones are more popular than others, determine why, and then develop proper content strategies. It’s the perfect starting point to understanding your audience and identifying readership trends.

Don’t get us wrong; publishers can still utilize page views effectively. But its moment-based nature, rather than time-based, undermines its reliability. Moment-based metrics only provide a brief, or momentary, glimpse of a user’s activity. Time-based metrics, on the other hand, provide more comprehensive information on how long readers are actively engaging with the content.

It’s a gradual transition, but it’s happening. Digital publishers are contesting the idea that the page view is king and accepting the notion that time spent is equally, or perhaps more, important. If reader engagement is your priority, a high page view number doesn’t necessarily mean your audience enjoyed your content. Instead, focus your efforts on more time-based metrics like average session duration to better assess engagement.

Joomag’s comprehensive metrics on user behavior

Joomag’s tracking analytics include comprehensive metrics on user behavior, which are critical for shaping future content and providing ROI (return-on-investment) to advertisers. Along with other important insights, such as “daily views”, “number of readers”, and “pageviews” for a specific time period, we also provide publishers with “average session duration” metric! Read about them here.

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