Fun with metrics

With AJAX, streaming video and other technologies making page views a less and less meaningful metric for Web businesses, Jeremy Zawodny asks what is the best metric for Web 2.0?There is no single metric that works across all sites.

Of course, that’s not the answer Wall Street, reporters, analysts or the boss wants to hear. A single metric makes it easy to compare things and to put together PowerPoints. Never mind that the data is often not what it purports to be.

Every time I dig deep into the details of comScore methodology, I’m stunned by how bad it is. For every comScore report I look at, I can tell you why Yahoo, Google, AOL or whoever is doing better or worse than the data show. (And I’m not talking about sampling versus actual measurement.) Of course, these numbers are quoted far and wide, both in the press and in internal company presentations.

The biggest problem with a single metric is that it can easily be manipulated to achieve the desired outcomes. Want more page views on your news site? Take a single story and split it across four pages. It’s a worse user experience and makes it harder for people trying to find articles with search engines, but you’ll get more page views.

The Post had a non-industry read on manipulating metrics:

“To eliminate unneeded cars, the county established a minimum annual mileage — 4,500 — and told its 11,500 employees and supervisors that any cars with odometers that did not meet that figure would be taken away.”

What happened?

Fairfax Employees Run Up Odometers To Keep Their Cars


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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