Others Online has been working on some interesting reports for our partners to summarize in aggregate form what their users care about. As a matter of labeling, we've discussed the term "affinity" vs "engagement". The latter has been thrown around the online advertising space quite a bit recently, so I did some poking around the Web to get a better feel for how it's being used. Usually, going with some convention in labeling in more advantageous, rather than creating your own definitions (which markets get annoyed with IMO).
Stumbled upon an interesting and intelligent blog post on How the New Engagement Metrics Can Impact Advertising Decisions. In it, "engagement" was defined as the nature of visitors’ relationship with a site and how that is expressed in the full range of user interaction, involvement and connection. Kevin then went on to describe categories of engagement that effectively describe the kinds of engagement illuminating and differentiating Web sites for advertisers: loyalty, recency, click depth, interactivity, duration, and subscription. I should also point out that Kevin's work leveraged the work of Eric Peterson. Kevin then wrote:
How can publishers collaborate with advertisers to yield actionable intelligence?
“We’ve developed Web technology to the point where we have an astounding wealth of data about audiences. Publishers can tell us what content audiences are consuming and the share of content downloads among competing advertisers. All this has been great. But what does it all mean? How can we turn that information into something we can act on?”
Brandon Starkoff, Vice President/Global Director at Starcom Worldwide
Starkoff’s point is critical to the whole point of seeking to establish a definition and a set of metrics for engagement. What does it matter if, as far as media companies are concerned, it doesn’t produce better insights into what will make advertisers successful with even the most “engaged” audiences? The kind of audience knowledge Starkoff says he is seeking is “predictive intelligence-advice on what kinds of advertising will work with a particular audience or audience segment.”
Advertisers right now think about engagement as a way to distinguish sites from each other.
It was in the last sentence that I realized what I felt was wrong with their line of thinking. It's not that advertisers need to distinguish sites from each other, but rather people from each other. Engagement is a term being applied as an attribute of a site, not a person. That's just wrong IMO. That's online advertising 1.0, not 2.0. As long as the industry continues to think in terms of targeting sites and not people, there will only be small incremental improvements to online advertising performance.
Affinity is a term which we feel best describes attributes of people, and what we actually care about. Since Others Online is all about targeting people and not sites/pages (based on our understanding of what they care about), that's clearly the label we need to use.