Nielsen/NetRatings Total Minutes metric. Sounds nice, how does it work?

magnifying-glass.jpgMaybe I’m missing something. In all the breathless, “the pageview is dead” stories that came out last week surrounding Nielsen/NetRatings’ press release that they will include “Total Minutes” as part of their ranking methodology, I couldn’t find any information on how the measurement would work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of trying to nail down a metric to succeed the Page View which (rewards poor site design and discourages linking away) but I want to make sure that we don’t replace it with something worse. I often have multiple browser tabs open at any time and if I’m working on something like email, the whole browser goes into the background. Surely any urls that are “out of focus” are not being counted towards any kind of total time spent right?

The Nielsen/NetRatings site is almost useless with only two page marketing .pdf about the NetView product which will carry the new metric. I could ask our metrics gurus at Yahoo but I want to call this omission out publically so others can benefit from the answer.

I left a couple of comments out there pleading with someone with more time to call up Nielsen to find out more but nothing yet.

ReadWriteWeb : Tyranny of the Page View Nearly Over?

AllThingsD : Fun with Numbers

I’ve also emailed Nielsen PR and will post what I find out.

Here’s a list of FAQs forwarded to me by Netratings PR:

Is time spent a new metric for NetView?

No. We have reported Time per Person for several years. The only change is that we now report Total Minutes in addition to Time per Person.

How do you measure time spent?

Time spent tracking for a URL or application begins at the same instant where Unique Audience is credited. For a site, it is when the user-requested page call (text/html) loads. For an application, it is whenever an application is in focus on the browser.

Time is credited to the URL or application as long as either the browser/browser tab including this site or the web application itself remains ‘in focus’ and there is no more than a 30 minute break in activity. If there is a 30 minute break in activity, we end the internet session and dial back the time spent for the last page or application to 1 minute.

What does ‘in focus’ mean?

‘In focus’ refers to an application’s status on a user’s desktop. By application, this could include anything from a web browser to a Microsoft Office product to a web application like Instant Messenger.

An ‘in focus’ application is in the foreground of the desktop. While other browsers and applications may be visible to the user, the ‘in focus’ application is the application that the computer knows to direct any keyboard or mouse activity. Therefore, only one application can be in focus at a time.

What if a panelist has multiple browser tabs open?

Only one browser tab can be in focus at a time for the same reason that one application can be in focus at a time. So it does not matter how many tabs are open, we only credit the tab that is in focus.

If another application besides the browser is in focus (IM, Microsoft Word, etc.), none of the URL in the browser tabs are being credited for time.

How do you measure this ‘in focus’ status?

Our patented desktop meter resides on the panelist’s desktop so it is able to detect what application is in focus and appropriately credit time. Other metering methods – like a web proxy or site tagging – are generally only able to detect web calls and need to make assumptions on visibility/in focus status based on these calls

What if someone leaves their computer?

If a panelist is inactive for less than 30 minutes, the last site or web application in focus would receive credit for the accrued time. If more than 30 minutes elapse, the time would be dialed back to 1 minute.

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