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Whitepaper: Why engagement time holds much greater value for publishers

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Engagement time is defined as the total time a page is open and a user is deemed to be active, and it’s what forward-looking publishers are starting to focus on instead of looking at more ‘traditional’ viewing metrics.

However, not all extended sessions are created equal! Common actions like opening pages to view later or starting to read a page and then moving away to another application without closing the browser window, can badly skew results.

One of the key benefits of measuring actual engagement time is that it helps publishers weed out these issues and accurately measure reader engagement.

So, how does it work? Every time users navigate a webpage they emit signals in the browser, so rather than just measuring how long a web page is open, these signals can be used to measure when users are active on the page and provide a clearer indication of their engagement levels.

We used this in our own analysis, and found that a surprisingly large number of engagement signals per page view were recorded, with 260 on desktop, 418 on mobile and 349 on tablet. The average number of engagement events rises sharply on mobile devices, due to smaller screens, which necessitate additional scrolling, swiping and touch actions. Despite this, engagement time is similar across all devices.

By recording these signals – or engagement events – we are able to measure how long the user is actively engaged with a page and how much time they were investing in the content, not just how long the page was open.

This revealed a significant gap between dwell time and engagement time, which is critical for publishers and advertisers to understand.

For all sessions, engagement time only accounted for 16% of all dwell time measured. This means users were not actively engaged for 84% of the time. Yet, it’s this 16% of dwell time that users are actively engaged that is the most valuable to advertisers.

To help publishers effectively communicate engagement time to their clients, Sovrn has created a new metric, Viewable Engagement Time (VET), that determines the total time an ad has been viewable (based on MRC guidelines) while the user has been actively engaged.

Download the whitepaper here