Thursday, April 5, 2007 twisted "attention" metric

Compete recently introduced a new feature called "Attention", which they simply equate to the time spent on a site versus all other sites on the Web. I've been discussing the concept of attention economy in web analytics for a while and the recent introduction of, although interesting, is too narrow.

I'm surprised so many bloggers, especially those involved in web analytics, jumped on the bandwagon and are giving Compete so much "attention"! Let me explain my point of view.

I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the implicit association that "attention = time". Attention is "the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things". Although the time is one factor of attention, research demonstrated there are very different brain level activity going on depending on the cognitive involvement of that activity.


Let's just take one of the many examples: eBay, YouTube, MySpace. In this example, we clearly see MySpace receives a magnitude more "time" (no, I won't say "attention"!) than eBay, and eBay more than YouTube. First impression: I'm surprised... But my point is the type of "attention" is really different when we look at each of those sites. Do they share the same attention characteristics? Even if you spend an hour in each of those activities, do you have the same experience when doing grocery or shopping for a new MP3 player (eBay), looking at TV (YouTube) or visiting friends (MySpace)? I hope not!

Compete 200

The "Compete 200" isn't much better, saying MySpace receives more attention is just plain wrong. Saying we spend more of our free time on MySpace might be right, but I can guaranty you spending an hour on MySpace is really not the same thing as spending an hour checking my finance status at my online bank! Which one is more voluntary or averse? Which one is involves more brain power (front or back of mind), and of course, which one is more attractive...

Credit where credit is due is not all wrong, I'm not saying that! It does offer a new interesting information that was not available before. At least, not presented that way. I just disagree that attention = time.

What do you think? Am I being to picky? Is there some basis to my argument? Do you agree?