Now, of course, as our expectations for a new, sophisticated sort of new-media New Math have been stoked, nothing adds up. Nothing! Traffic stats from competing metrics firms are vastly, bafflingly different. As former Ad Age columnist Randy Rothenberg, now chief of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told my colleague Steve Rubel last week, "We are further than nowhere, less than somewhere" on measurement. Feel better now?
It seems that the only way we'll be able to wring any sort of meaning from new-media measurement is by drilling further and further down into the true essence of the bulk numbers. To find, in other words, the real data lurking within the mushy data. In that spirit, I'm proposing the following expansion of the lexicon of new-media measurology:
Pavlovian Uniques (PU)Technically unique people who actually act in dog-in-a-cage-like unison, clicking on something -- almost involuntarily pressing a lever, if you will -- because, say, Digg told them to, thereby temporarily inflating the number of visitors to a given site. PUs are in contrast to OUs -- Organic Uniques, a tally of unique visitors to a web property that are the result of stunt-free, organic audience interest in the editorial content of a given web property.
Lindsay Lohan Nudity-Related Click Rate (LLNRCR)A rapid surge in traffic, often driven by 14-year-old boys and dirty old men, that is prompted by the promise of getting to see Lindsay Lohan's nipples. For example, see nymag.com's February Lindsay-Lohan-as-Marilyn-Monroe nudie extravaganza.
Page Snooze (PS)Desperately-seeking-more-nipples page views by 14-year-old boys and dirty old men that correlate to web pages that are entirely free of Lindsay Lohan nudity and are therefore totally boring to them. See, for example, 99.99% of everything else on nymag.com.
Zengagement (ZE)A form of engagement -- a supposed measure of depth of consumer interest in a given site -- in which visitors are so anesthetized by an editorial gimmick that they slip into hyper-relaxed, coma-like states, causing them to linger an unnaturally long time. ZE is commonly prompted by slide shows that progress only with repeated clicks, as well as by listicles (see below), thereby padding page views and time-spent stats.
Listicle Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Engagement (LOCDE)It's well-known that lists -- particularly top 10 lists -- are not only catnip to OCD-addled web surfers but an opportunity to score, for example, 10 clicks off each of these poor completist bastards if the list is divided over 10 pages. Chain Listicle Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Engagement (CLOCDE) involves offering links to other lists at the end of a given list.
Nut-Job Scientology-Video-Related Engagement (NJSVRE)Engagement that's directly related to creepy, weird-ass videos of cackling Scientologists -- for example, Tom Cruise -- which can cause otherwise distracted web surfers to spend shockingly long amounts of time (five minutes or more!) on a site. See Gawker.
Underemployed Unique Engagement (UEUE)Unique visitors who really are visiting a given web property out of enthusiasm for the content but who spend waaaaay too much time on the site -- often obsessively reading and adding to the comments -- because they are unemployed; underemployed, freelance writers avoiding deadlines; shut-ins; lonely people; or some combination of the above. UEUE is a measure of how much a site's inflated engagement will result in a corresponding drop in, say, click-throughs on banner ads.
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