This post is inspired by recent thoughts from Tony Haile of Chartbeat, Marc Mathieu of Unilever, Gian LaVecchia of MEC, Larry Levy of Appinions Inc., Upworthy, Medium and our friends on twitter. Thank you!  


There’s no doubt attention is a big theme in measurement.  Chartbeat, Medium and Upworthy swear by it, and Upworthy even open-sourced its code for attention minutes.

They’ve got a point. Banner ads get a 0.17% click-through rate today and our average attention span just about exceeds a goldfish memory (we’re now on 8 seconds). As Tony Haile says: “The visitor’s default behaviour isn’t to stay. It’s to leave.”

In fact, attention has become a valuable resource, so much so we now pay for silence. Our attention has been monetised. Audiences choosing to pay attention to a brand communicate value. The more, the better.


Split across channels, devices, content and ads, understanding engagement requires a whole new lens. How do we understand it today?

Chartbeat measures active exposure time, i.e. how long audiences engage with a piece of content. Similar to Medium’s TTR metric (total time reading), this is a good predictor of whether audiences will come back for more. Attention is a step in the right direction.  

Chartbeat’s whole philosophy is “get them to engage, enjoy and return.” Because measuring repeat attention means brand recall. This is key in predicting loyalty and brand affinity.

But is attention enough?

Brands today aim to create loyal customers and communities to drive sales and brand equity. Marc Mathieu of Unilever explains it’s all about building long-lasting relationships with people across the devices and channels we use. Understanding loyalty requires measuring engagement deeper than ever before.

Loyalty, brand affinity and advocacy means being emotionally attached to a brand. But beyond repeat visits and social media mentions, even attention metrics struggle to figure out why audiences pay attention. Is it the content? Is it the publisher? Is it the brand? Is it the message?

We need more depth than attention. We need another level of audience engagement.


As the CEO of Appinions Inc. Larry Levy says, the problem with attention metrics is “we know what’s working according to a certain attribute, but not why.” There’s also too many metrics, channels and platforms to decipher the data from, which makes it hard to create actionable insights for marketers.

Not all attention is the same. Total time reading, ad in view, and mentions on social media all have different flavours, not to mention page views, clicks and likes. These measure quantity, not quality of engagement and tell brands very little about tangible results that show progress and impact.

Larry Levy makes a good point with “what matters more is how audiences react to the content they consume.”

So how should brands put all this attention to work and fold it into a strategy?


We need to take a closer look at the quality of attention.

In his call towards this year’s #NewFronts, Gian LaVecchia of MEC calls for “deeper metrics and high value action, depth of social engagement and sharing.”

Attention metrics is a step in the right direction. It’s here to help us measure progress, business impact, and quality of engagement. But what’s the missing piece? We believe it’s participation. We need to involve audiences in the quest to convert the attention data into insights that truly reflect the thoughts of our audiences. In real time.

As always, we’d love your thoughts! What do you think are the challenges of participation? We'll be exploring it this week.