By Tracking “Exposure” Over Pageviews, One Startup Could Change How Ads Are Sold Online

Chartbeat, a startup best known for live readings of how many people are visiting something on the web, said today it had been accredited by the Media Ratings Council.

Chartbeat joins other audience-tracking services like Nielsen and Google in being accredited by the MRC, an independent body that sets standards for audience measurement. The company has also been accredited for two measures not often cited: “active exposure” and “lifetime exposure.” While much of the web settles on other measures of engagement, Chartbeat is essentially tracking how long someone is actually reading the site.

The idea is that instead of relying on traditional advertising models — such as selling ads in batches based on the cost per impression (how many people visit the site) or cost per click (how many people click on the ad) — advertisers can begin buying blocks of time where visitors are actively looking at a site. Targeting and tracking data has improved dramatically over time, which has led advertisers to become stricter about the metrics they focus on in terms of delivering advertising performance, and this may represent another new vector to explore.

“What is ultimately true is there is a clear relationship with attention and recall and general advertising performance,” Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile said. “That’s been shown by Google, to Microsoft, to Chartbeat. If you’re an ad agency who is ignoring this kind of attention data, you are misallocating your client’s capital. You’re spending money on ads that don’t work on ads that do work, now you can tell the difference.”

Companies like Facebook have already begun selling advertisements based on “objective,” where the company tries to rank ads in order to maximize the chance that objective is met without dramatically impacting a user’s experience. Sharing, commenting, and liking are all used as metrics for determining engagement, and being able to track someone viewing an ad in real time could prove to be a more effective measurement.

Much of the publishing industry is still searching for life after the pageview, the resilient standard for audience measurement for the past several decades. In a hypothetical future where Chartbeat’s metrics are standard, advertisements would be priced according to how engaged users are on a site, leading to more accurate ad pricing and better targeting.