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Sep. 06, 2017

Duration is not attention

BY Rami Dudin

In 1836, French newspaper La Presse had a strange and unprecedented idea: charge businesses to put messaging in their weekly edition. They were among the first to realize readership equals attention and that attention can be monetized.

Nearly two hundred years later, technology giants like Google, Facebook and Apple continue to commodify attention. But what is attention, and how can we accurately measure it? Despite what many data enthusiasts may tell you, we still know very little about the quality of attention that brands are receiving.

The gradual move toward digital video has led us to measure attention through duration. Duration allows us to measure the time people spend consuming content in a way we couldn’t previously with television. However, duration alone does not tell the full story because attention has two dimensions: intensity and duration. Currently, marketers use duration to describe the intensity of how consumers viewed a piece of content, when they’re two separate metrics altogether.

Since digital video has increasingly become unskippable, using duration to measure intensity is becoming questionable. Because like television, unskippable ads make measuring duration difficult as viewers no longer have a choice to watch. In this situation, duration will no longer be indicative of intensity and as a result, it will not matter as much anymore.

So how do we accurately measure attention when viewing duration becomes irrelevant? For marketers, the view alone won't tell the story. The impact will only be measurable in the residual effect on the brand. And that will take other studies like tracking to complete the picture.

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