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Time Magazine


 


'Stickiness seems to be something that sites themselves promote more often than advertisers care about'

 

The importance of being sticky

Stickiness is the ability of a site to hold
users, and it's a quality that ought to
make a site really attractive to advertisers.
But few pay attention to this wonderful measure.


By Jeremy Schlosberg


       Stickiness is one of the web’s most significant but seemingly least-valued features. The fact that the actual amount of time users spend on a web site can be measured is nothing less than an advertising breakthrough.
   This should make a difference. But it doesn’t, not completely.
Internet advertising dollars continue to be funneled into web sites offering the largest audiences. While certainly a site such as EBay has exploited its unusual stickiness to move into the top ranks of domains preferred by advertisers, a number of other sites favored by advertisers have no particular hold on their visitors.
    Looking at the most recent list of domains most popular with advertisers, one finds Netscape, AOL, Snap and Lycos in the top 10, despite low relatively low levels of stickiness.
    Clearly, stickiness alone isn’t everything, since many of the web’s stickiest sites have narrow audience profiles—game sites and fantasy sports sites, for instance. But one wonders why Excite, as an example, doesn’t get more credit for its consistent ability to keep users on its site longer than, say, Lycos or Snap.
   According to graphic design expert Edward Tufte, the main user activity on any given web site is fleeing the site. To some extent, people take this for granted. The web is a slippery place, people like to roam around.
      But there is no reason to accept this reality as immutable. In fact, the more people get familiar with the web, the less likely they seem to be to go looking for new places to surf to—unless, of course, the sites they know about don’t offer enough substance to keep them there.
    If the magazine industry could pinpoint and quantify stickiness as web sites can, you’d better believe magazines would be using this information to attract and secure advertisers. After all, magazines have for years gone out of their way to try to show advertisers that their readers spend a long time reading their publications. This has always been considered a positive value for advertisers—the longer someone reads a magazine, the longer they spend in the company of the advertisements; what’s more, this level of engagement is considered to lend more value to the ads held within the pages.
     And magazines have never been able to prove length of time in any objective manner. They have to rely upon reader surveys—basically, how long people say they’re reading a magazine. Such statistics are intrinsically questionable.
    On the web, the information is readily available, and yet advertisers by and large don’t pay a lot of attention.
    "Stickiness seems to be something that sites themselves promote more often than advertisers care about," notes Michele Slack, an analyst with Jupiter Communications’ online advertising group.
   Slack believes that advertisers only care that a site holds users for some reasonable amount of time; she doesn’t want to offer a concrete figure, however, about what that time might be.
   "I think once you hit a certain threshold, then the incremental differences become less important," she says. "And at that point what takes over is the amount of information you have on the user."
    What’s more, it does seem that users are spending increasing amounts of time on these sites.
   Media Life has gathered, from Nielsen//NetRatings, monthly charts for the top 25 stickiest sites on the web going back to February. The time figure on each chart is the average time spent on that specific dot.com per person for the whole month.

 

Top 25 Sticky Sites  in Total Time
Month Hr:min:sec
February 17:51:38
March 19:37:31
April 17:36:44
May 21:31:25
June 25:00:21
July 18:33:41
August 29:27:36
September 28:24:36
Time computed from Nielsen//NetRatings data

 

Top 10 Domains by Advertising
  Week ending October 24

Domain
yahoo.com
ebay.com
msn.com
netscape.com
aol.com
go.com
hotbot.com
snap.com
picpost.com
lycos.com
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

 

25 stickiest sites in September
Domain Unique audience Time

matchmaker.com

185,158

4:11:54

heat.net

282,960

1:47:58

ebay.com

7,073,614

1:46:51

mplayer.com

603,552

1:31:36

ragingbull.com

223,398

1:29:33

rivals.com

254,512

1:27:04

gamesville.com

514,259

1:27:01

sandbox.net

471,924

1:13:29

netradio.net

179,573

1:12:04

commissioner.com

375,157

1:09:13

yahoo.com

28,340,744

1:04:33

smallworld.com

229,216

1:00:42

voyeurweb.com

273,822

0:54:20

netaddress.com

439,847

0:51:01

207.138.178.52

511,566

0:49:38

uproar.com

1,445,915

0:48:28

zone.com

957,039

0:46:03

al.com

176,357

0:44:07

etrade.com

906,935

0:43:23

drudgereport.com

438,157

0:43:16

ameritrade.com

277,425

0:43:06

firstauction.com

277,904

0:42:25

insidetheweb.com

983,819

0:42:18

msn.com

20,119,576

0:38:52

delphi.com

929,853

0:38:41


 

25 stickiest sites in August
Domain Unique audience Time

gamesville.com

443,786

3:22:26

ebay.com

5,960,867

2:25:03

ragingbull.com

276,179

1:46:51

eguard.com

290,661

1:32:43

recycler.com

227,901

1:31:39

rivals.com

229,441

1:18:58

yahoo.com

27,732,521

1:18:42

uproar.com

1,332,028

1:15:58

207.138.178.52

263,799

1:15:11

zone.com

1,236,498

1:07:28

netaddress.com

376,880

1:05:20

smallworld.com

311,818

1:01:18

firstauction.com

370,241

0:58:38

sandbox.net

395,534

0:58:19

excite.com

9,616,404

0:51:33

msn.com

20,445,857

0:50:24

heat.net

325,451

0:49:52

myfamily.com

585,927

0:47:54

prodigy.net

1,179,767

0:46:28

bolt.com

453,510

0:45:49

picpost.com

359,483

0:45:35

genealogy.com

316,757

0:44:25

egroups.com

384,509

0:43:01

realtor.com

1,402,516

0:42:42

etrade.com

1,018,055

0:41:19



-Jeremy Schlosberg is the senior editor for new media.