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New metrics for social media sites?

Jordan, a fellow Seattle tech guy, asks: Any comments on this? The New Media Audience Measurement Business Model Conundrum.

Well, Jordan, the problem is – metrics like CPM and CPA aren’t meant to measure how users "connect" with brands – they are simply economic metrics that capture media spend. Beyond CPM, there are other rich metrics that advertisers use, such as demographics, targeting, frequency, pageviews, etc., to measure the effectiveness of a brand sell.

You can see an example of ESPN’s cross-channel media kit, and their research on audience metrics. Sometimes as part of this, people do brand studies like brand recall, message association, etc., with companies like Dynamic Logic or Insight Express.

Thinking that "brand connection" metrics can somehow revolutionize brand advertising points to a serious misunderstanding of the brand advertising industry. Much of brand advertising is NOT based on metrics. No single set of numbers can ever change advertising agencies’ minds about where to buy media, without the human relationships to match.

This is really part of a long pattern of techies encountering different cultures and then assuming they can apply their own techniques to it. For a techies, the numbers are everything – they seem objective, and correct. Surely no one can argue with numbers, can they? So with things like brand advertising (and potentially  their love lives), techies want to boil things down to numbers, and argue from there. But that doesn’t always work, and that’s why many techies are single. (Turns out asking girls’ their SAT scores doesn’t always work)

For example, if a social network were able to show X brand engagement points for a financial audience, and X was larger than the metrics for a well-branded, established site like Wall Street Journal, a logical viewpoint might be that a social network would command a higher CPM. But really, that scenario will never, ever happen. Wall Street Journal will always command more dollars based on their reputation, and relationships, until new media companies are able to establish those. (And doing this involves buying lots of steak dinners, not showing people "metrics.")

As for as advertising goes, Web 2.0 is not special. Get over yourselves, guys. Media companies will figure out ways to incorporate social networks as some % of a multi-hundred million dollar advertising budget, and they will try and buy using common metrics across all their publishers. That’s the way it works, and no amount of Ruby on Rails will fix this :)

In my opinion, Web 2.0 companies need to figure out how to speak the advertising language, and figure out how their websites support what advertisers are trying to do. Connect with the current flow of money, NOT make up new metrics that are hard to understand. That should be the goal.

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