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Time-Spent with Google+ Is Less Than One-Percent That of Facebook

“New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up — but then not doing much there,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Google+ has racked up 90 million registered users, but the average computer user only spends 3 minutes per month on the service. Those same users are spending nearly 7 hours per month with Facebook, 140 TIMES more minutes than the time-spent with Google+.

There are two ways to look at those numbers, I suppose. One, lots of people barely use Google+. Or two, some people love Google+ deeply and use it all the time, but they make up a small group so their power (as measured in minutes per internet user) is diluted by a large denominator. There are some snarky critics who believe the latter; in fact they suspect the small group of Google+ users is pretty much just people who work at Google.

Come on, that just can’t be true! The global internet population is about 2.3 billion. On average they each spent 7 hours last month with Facebook, but since only 845 million of them are actually using Facebook, that means the average Facebook user spent more like 19 hours Facebooking.

If, on average, each of the 2.3 billion internet users also spent 3 minutes with Google+ last month, that’s 6.9 billion minutes, or 115,000 hours. Divide that by Google’s 33,000 employees, and you get 3,485 hours per month per person. Which is pretty darn good, considering there are only 720 hours in a month. This suggests that the snarks are at least a little bit wrong. But if they’re not, and every single Google employee is using Google+ more than 24 hours a day, then Google has a giant hit on its hands — if only they can get more people to use it as enthusiastically as Googlers do.

One-third of Online Display Banners Don’t Have a Chance of Being Seen

Comscore set out to count the percentage of online display ads that never get the chance of being seen by human eyes — ads that are below the fold or are visible for less than a second before the viewer moves to another page. Turns out, 31% of banners fall into this unfortunate bucket. From Ad Age:

The company said at an event this morning that it tested out the software over the last two months on campaigns for 12 big brands, including Kraft Foods, Ford, and Sprint. One of the key findings: 31% of the 1.7 billion ad impressions were never in view. The number is probably not a shock to many in the space, and is the main reason why so-called remnant inventory sells for a fraction of the space above the fold.

In this on-demand world, television ads aren’t faring much better. Perhaps worse. In 2010 the UK’s Guardian published researching suggesting that 86% of DVR users always skip through commercials. More recent research conducted by TV Guide and PaidContent found that people are watching more TV than ever, but they’re migrating viewership to online and DVRs — and among people watching on a DVR-enabled TV 96% now say they are fast-forwarding commercials.

Market research firm Yankelovich estimates that someone living in a city 5 years ago was exposed to 5,000 ad messages a day, up from 2,000 per day 30 years earlier (NY Times). That’s a scary number until you consider that we skip the ones on TV, don’t see a big percentage of the ones on websites, and tune out much of the rest of them. As supply of ad inventory approaches the infinite — on billions of websites, across more and more TV channels, and on every other stretch of public space from urinals to eggshells — it’s easy to find cheap media. As the cost of entry goes down, the percentage of crappy ads is going up, and with it consumers’ motivation to use technology and their brains to ignore more of them.

(Art credit: David Shannon.)

Online Advertisers Spent 23% More in First Half 2011, But They Continue to Want Ads Targeted to Lower-Income Click-Happy Types

According to the latest from the IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers,

Display-related advertising — which includes banner ads, rich media, digital video and sponsorships — totaled more than $5.5 billion in the first six months of 2011. Display increased 27.1 percent over the same period in 2010, substantially exceeding the previous year’s growth rate of 16 percent. Digital video once again commanded double-digit growth — up 42.1 percent over a year ago, and moved close to the $1 billion mark with $891 million in half year 2011 revenue.

Good news, right? The numbers do paint a rosy picture for “display advertising,” which is often considered the “brand advertising” side of digital. Just because the ad unit is graphical, though, doesn’t mean its intent is brand building. (More of my thoughts on the difference between “graphical ads” and “display advertising” here). When you break down the IAB / PwC data based on the contract structure — whether the advertiser is buying impressions (on a CPM basis) in order to affect brand metrics, or it’s buying clicks (on a CPC basis) to drive transactional or direct-response metrics — you get a different picture. David Kaplan at PaidContent explains it this way:

The latest figures for online ad spending looked pretty good for the first half of the year, but as the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s report shows, even though display is rising, the “premium” impression-based ads still have a long way to go to catch up to performance-based ads, which tend to be of the cheaper, “click here” variety.

This is troubling, and not just for publishers who prefer to get paid for every impression they give away to an advertiser. It’s also bad news for the advertisers. If, through the structure of the contracts they sign, they motivate publishers and ad networks to push ads to people more likely to click on them, they are incentivizing their partners to deliver their ads to end users who are less likely to have disposable income to buy their wares. Those click-happy types (Natural Born Clickers, as they are called in a series of Comscore / Starcom studies) — the 8% of internet users that are responsible for 85% of the clicks on display ads — aren’t the audience that most brands want to reach. They are more likely than the average internet user to make less than $40,000 and to visit gambling and get-a-job sites.

A bad, self-reinforcing cycle appears to be underway. Advertisers demand that publishers and ad nets sell them inventory on a per-click basis — because advertising on the internet doesn’t impact brand metrics among the upscale audience they’re targeting. Meanwhile, to make the economics of those CPC contracts work out, publishers and ad nets are forced to target the lower-income (perhaps unemployed) audience that is more likely to click on banners.

Comscore Announces Media Metrix 360

Comscore’s CEO Magid Abraham announced Media Metrix 360 yesterday at the .

Comscore's Magid Abraham

Prior to 360, Comscore estimated site traffic by projecting audience activity from a panel of 2 million web users, an approach that tends to under-count unique visitors, especially at niche sites, smaller smaller sites and application activity inside platforms like Facebook. Cookie-based methodologies, like that of Quantcast or internal server logs, run the risk of over-counting unique audience since one person that accesses a site from various browsers (a home machine, a work machine and a mobile phone, say) is counted as multiple unique individuals. Web users who delete cookies also appear (to cookies-based trackers) as multiple people. From Fred Wilson’s post at :

“So the panel based approach has issues and so does the server based approach. The simplistic way I’ve always looked at it is panel undercounts and server-side overcounts. I’ve always advocated a ‘triangulation’ approach to get to the right number.

“So it’s very big news that comScore has spent the past year building an entirely new approach to Internet audience measurement that combines its ‘gold standard’ panel with server-side numbers reported by web services who install comScore’s beacon.”

Growth of Conversational Media Usage, Per Comscore

Comscore on Growth of Conv Media

Unique users up 17% in the past five months, to around 780 million in August 2008.

People Who Click On Banners Aren't Your Best Customers

New research commissioned by Starcom, Comscore and Tacoda finds that optmizing for clicks likely means optimizing away from building brand with your best customers.

SMG Logo

“CHICAGO – Media agency Starcom USA, behavioral targeting network Tacoda, and digital consumer insight company comScore collaborated on a research study whose results call into question click-through rates as a primary source of accountability for Internet display advertising aimed at brand-building. Called ‘Natural Born Clickers,’ the study reveals that a very small group of consumers who are not representative of the total U.S. online population is accountable for the vast majority of display ad click-through behavior.”

The power clickers have less desirable demographics:

“The study illustrates that heavy clickers represent just 6% of the online population yet account for 50% of all display ad clicks. While many online media companies use click-through rate as an ad negotiation currency, the study shows that heavy clickers are not representative of the general public. In fact, heavy clickers skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40,000. Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Heavy clickers are also relatively more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites –- a markedly different surfing pattern than non-clickers.”

And there’s no correlation between clicks and brand metrics.

“Further preliminary Starcom data suggests no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked. The research presentation suggests that when digital campaigns have a branding objective, optimizing for high click rates does not necessarily improve campaign performance.”

Sez Erin Hunter, EVP at Comscore:

“‘While the click can continue to be a relevant metric for direct response advertising campaigns, this study demonstrates that click performance is the wrong measure for the effectiveness of brand-building campaigns,” said Erin Hunter, executive vice president at comScore. “For many campaigns, the branding effect of the ads is what’s really important and generating clicks is more of an ancillary benefit. Ultimately, judging a campaign’s effectiveness by clicks can be detrimental because it overlooks the importance of branding while simultaneously drawing conclusions from a sub-set of people who may not be representative of the target audience.””

My Space Deal Slows Google's Growth

From Financial Times:

“‘We have found that social networks are not monetising as well as we were expecting,’ said George Reyes, chief financial officer, as Google reported its earnings for the final quarter of last year. Since Google has guaranteed to make minimum payments to a number of social networks that carry its advertising, principally MySpace, the slow growth of the business had left the company out of pocket and contributed to falling profit margins in the quarter, he added.”

And if you look at Nielsen Net/Ratings or Comscore numbers, you see that conversational or social media sites are driving most of the growth in online usage, so it’s fair to say it’s a very big deal. Perhaps Google needs a new approach to advertising within social-networking content.

TV Networks Have Smallish Web Audiences

I’m surprised to see the relatively small audiences Nielsen Online reports for the Big Four TV networks. From PaidContent:

“Nielsen Online counts ABC in first place with 10.6 million unique visitors in October, followed by NBC with 8.1 million uniques, CBS (NYSE: CBS) with 6.1 million and Fox with 3.4 million.”

Even if you assume there’s no duplication of audience (unlikely), the four networks combined are reaching only 28.2 million monthly uniques online. FM doesn’t yet subscribe to Nielsen, but Comscore reports the 125 independent sites that made up FM in September 2007 (it’s closer to 140 now) reach nearly 42 million monthly uniques. More evidence that as audiences migrate from offline to online media, they aren’t necessarily loyal to their former offline brands.

Comscore Says FM Sites Reach 42 Million Readers

At FM’s Conversational Marketing Summit this week, Comscore announced its new methodology to track readership and usage at conversational media sites such as social networks, participatory news sites, blogs and wikis. With the improved approach, Comscore reports that Federated Media’s sites reach 42 millions monthly uniques and Facebook’s audience is about 60 million uniques.