Is tracking engaged time the secret to measuring media effectiveness, or is it just another blind alley?


As media companies and advertisers search for better ways of measuring the effectiveness of content, a lot of attention has been focused on what some like to call “engaged time.” Designed by companies like Chartbeat, the publishing-analytics company, Upworthy — which recently open-sourced its “attention minutes” measurement — and the Financial Times, these metrics try to measure the time that a reader actually spends with a story instead of just tracking clicks. But is engaged time a red herring? ProPublica general manager and former Wall Street Journal assistant publisher Dick Tofel thinks it might be.

Tofel lays out his argument in an essay he wrote for the Media Impact Project, a venture launched by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism that’s trying to improve the theory and practice of media measurement.

In a nutshell, Tofel argues that while “engaged time” might be an improvement over…

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