Finding the digital page 94

Posted on 31/08/2011


Getting coverage in the media is often only the start of the battle for communicators. The trick is then trying to understand if people have actually seen, heard or read it.

Measuring in broad terms is easy enough – opinion tracking can demonstrate clearly how many people have seen or discussed your story.

In print and broadcast outlets it’s also relatively easy to use published ‘readership’ ‘audience’ or ‘circulation’ figures to work out that late night discussion programmes on Five Live or a news article buried on Private Eye’s mythical page 94 is less likely to be seen than a BBC Breakfast interview or a page three splash.

But where is the ‘digital page 94’?

Digital experts have tried with varying degrees of success to work out ‘attrition rates’ from the ABCe or published website traffic numbers, decreasing the number of hits depending on page hierarchy.

But, there is now a possible – more scientific – breakthrough.

Specific Media, an ad buying network and new owners of MySpace, has launched ‘eye tracking’ software in the UK which could revolutionise not just online advertising, but web design and how digital PR activity is measured.

Take a look at how this software analysed the viewing hotspots of readers of (you can download a presentation from Specific with higher resolution images):

Mirror online hot spotsClearly, any coverage in the middle bars generates significantly more attention than the smaller links further down the page.

But this, in a similar way to a tabloid print format, is deliberate – and means the onus on PRs is to drive a ‘front page splash’ or use imagery to boost the appeal of the story to readers.

On a more evenly distributed website (in content terms), such as, there was a more even spread of attention. And when a more ‘broadsheet’ website was analysed (the Telegraph), the researchers found the time to ‘fixate’ on a visual advert was significantly less than on the Mirror, due to the fact that the advert stands out more on a more text heavy home page. And this corresponded to an increase in ‘dwell’ time on the images.

So the simple rule is true online as in print: good images + home page headline = millions of impressions for your story.

And Specific also repeated the experiment on social media. Take a look at the hotspots on a person’s Facebook profile:Facebook hotspots

All pretty straightforward, but it does point to two possible areas for PRs to take note of:

  1. Can you develop a campaign to get people to update their personal information, not just their statuses? This would tap into the hot red spot at the top of the page to generate awareness
  2. What will Facebook do with the gap under the (judging by this example) not so targeted adverts – looks ripe for exploitation with a green ‘hot spot’ over blank space.

This research is, at the moment, more geared towards advertising, and I would urge Specific to do some more analysis of the impact of news and social media content on digital sites.

And the first PR campaign which uses this technology to examine how much real people have viewed online news stories and social media activity will have one hell of a case study.