For years, the way advertising has been bought and sold on the internet has been fundamentally flawed.
Advertisers pay publishers based on how many times people load the web page featuring their ad, regardless of how much time a person spends looking at the ad. In actuality, it’s estimated that 38% of people who visit a web page close out of the page immediately after it loads.
To combat this issue, The Financial Times is experimenting with a new currency that, if adopted across the internet, could change not only how web media companies sell ads, but how they produce the content those ads run beside.
In an interview with Contently’s Sam Petulla, The Financial Times’ commercial director of digital advertising Jon Slade discussed the business news site’s plan to sell ads based on how long readers spend on a given web page.
He told Contently that the program is in a trial run, where the FT is selling advertisers blocks of reader time by the hour with a minimum purchase of 5 seconds.
The site is also testing the efficiency of its new metric with the hopes of showing brands that their ads are more effective if people spend more time looking at them.
“We have a hypothesis we want to prove: that the longer you show somebody a piece of brand creative, the more resonance that piece of content has with an audience,” Slade said in the interview. “That’s normally not how we value advertising; we’re talking about an attention economy.”
To be clear, FT’s test run is not evidence of an industry sea change just yet. After all, it has more leverage than other publications to run such a trial because its large paid subscriber base makes it less dependent on ad revenues than publications without subscription services.
And, Slade says, users spend six times as much time on the site as other business publications, meaning other sites might not stand to gain as much from making such a shift.
Still, it’s possible advertisers could find value in such ads and, over time, push other sites to follow suit.
In addition to the web analytics firm Chartbeat, which is working with the Financial Times, there’s WebSpectator, a Brazilian company that sells ads based on time spent and has worked with TMZ and the Portuguese business publication Economico.
If the time-spent movement continues to grow, it could force publishers to focus more on keeping people on their sites with longer, text-heavy stories, as opposed to photo-heavy content designed for people to click through and share with their friends in short order.
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