Screen Time – Part 1

When I wrote a post last month about tracking active time in Google Analytics, I hadn’t yet spent much time working with the collected data. I had been focused on figuring out the best way to get the data into Google Analytics, and any data analysis I had done was limited to what was needed to validate the collection method.

Since then I’ve been running Riveted on a few blogs and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s changed how I think about web metrics.

The thing I had lost sight of—partly because most analytics tools don’t show you this—is the total time spent by all users on a particular website.

Here’s an example.

This is Google Analytics data from one day of traffic on a low-trafficked blog. On the left we have the standard metrics. These are not impressive numbers, to say the least.

On the right we have a measure of the same traffic, but in terms of the total time users spent actively engaged on the site.

8 hours. For 8 hours there was a human looking at this screen. In Internet time, 8 hours is an eternity.

Yes, this is obvious arithmetic. But it’s also a fundamentally different way of thinking about how we quantify digital audiences. The implications for digital advertising are especially interesting.

Over the next few posts I’ll expand on this idea some more. I’ll also be releasing a small plugin that helps you think about your audience in terms of screen time by allowing you to measure active screen time for particular regions of your site.