Total Time Reading: The Future of Advanced Content Metrics

It’s safe to say there is an overabundance of content online. As a marketer, I’m inundated with emails, offers and pop-ups seemingly everywhere I travel on the Internet. Marketers like to track metrics such as submissions, conversions, site visits and even visitor flows on websites.

All the things we measure are, well, just that – things – metrics. And we cobble them together to report our increases and bumps and jumps in these metrics. That’s all well and good – but what happens after? After the download, after someone lands on the blog, after someone visits your home page? That’s where I think Medium is on to something with TTR – Total Time Reading.

Are Your Metrics Meaningful?

Think of how many advanced content pieces you download but never read. All the emails you click on for a nanosecond, the blogs you only read the first few sentences of and links that you retweet based simply on the subject of the tweet. When content comes at you through a fire hose – some of it will inevitably splash to the side.

With Total Time Reading, Medium seeks to capture a truly meaningful metric – how much content is actually read. Most content marketers drool when talking about engagement. Engagement (in my mind) is simply time read – TTR.

As easily as we can be buried in a good book, we can be buried in a good blog. For Medium users, TTR is measured on every post by capturing scroll positions. The Medium algorithms can estimate how much time a user spent reading and when they stopped altogether. TTR is very different from time on a page or visits to a page. It actually begins to estimate the actual time a visitor to a post spends reading it through their scroll positions. Sure, TTR still has to incorporate assumptions, but it takes the next step beyond simple user behavior like clicks and visits – and that’s no small step.

What Total Time Reading Can Do For Advanced Content

Think about the value of TTR for advanced content. You may be enjoying an 80 percent conversion rate on your latest eBook, but if TTR for that eBook is 20 seconds, would you still consider that conversion rate a success? Sure, you can say a lead was generated. But will that lead ultimately become valuable and worthy of your time spent nurturing it? Consider the possibility of segmented leads by TTR. Focus on the ‘bookworms’ as opposed to the speed readers or scanners.

TTR, I believe, offers a glimpse into the future of content marketing. We should care about leads that download and extensively read our content. That information will be instructive as to the type of future content we produce and may, based on the content that is read, change the way we sell things.

You may find that leads are honing in on a particular page of your eBook or whitepaper. You may end up building a new infographic based on the page readers seem to be spending the most time on. When you segment your leads by readers and nonreaders, you can offer those who read long form content more eBooks or whitepapers and send infographics to those who read less. TTR changes the way you communicate online.

It’s clear we don’t have all the technology in place to capture metrics like TTR for eBooks – especially if they are downloaded and read offline. It would be wise, however, for content marketers to start valuing metrics like TTR over conversion rates and site visits. Mine the leads that truly care about your content. And the sales will follow.

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