Let's Choose Our Next Metric Very, Very Carefully

Flipboard, my god. How about a temporary moratorium on new audience measurement standards, just for a few months, to give everyone some time to catch their breath and, I don’t know, reconsider a few things? The concept of “page flips” is perfectly meaningless and self-contained, and Flipboard is struggling, so who really cares. But meanwhile, over at Medium: “[S]ome people are now paid not by clicks, but by the total time spent reading in their collection—another experiment that could change as we learn what effects it has on the types of stories it helps produce, and how people find and read them.”

What if that catches on? It sounds sort of appealing at first—it’s certainly more honest and direct than some of the old metrics—but it also puts readers in a direct battle with publications for time, which is literally the most important thing in the world. It’s interesting to imagine what happens when a publisher’s goal is not to attract clicks or eyeballs or shares, but to seize time by whatever means possible, to maximize the number of seconds it takes to absorb content, whether or not that goal aligns with the ostensible purpose of what’s being published (a diversion should waste time; a breaking news story should spare it). Maybe it’s the best option we have! Or maybe it’s how the internet turns in TV.