Views of TV content online is notoriously hard to compare to traditional Nielsen ratings. Unique viewers don't mean squat, according to Artie Bulgrin, senior vice president of research and analytics at ESPN. "It's a meaningless stat. All it tells me is a person came in for a minute at any time during the month."
That's why the sports network has started pitching its advertisers on the concept of "total minutes" spent on espn.com, a measure of audience multiplied by time spent. It's more akin to a TV rating and it reflects the true mindshare a site can claim. ESPN is using the metric to sell online and TV packages in tandem.
With total minutes, Bulgrin can compute how much of the online sports audience espn.com corrals, compared to the competition. In December espn.com attracted 20 million unique visitors who spent 53 minutes on average on the site, comScore said. That gives espn.com a 22 percent share of the sports audience online, Bulgrin says.
"This is important because as video continues to evolve, video measurement on the Web is no different than video measurement on TV. You want a measure that's going to tell you when people spend time with the video, they are indeed spending time with the video," he says.
"For media buyers," Bulgrin adds, "this age-old formula gives the advertiser a much better indication of the potential audience at the time an ad runs."