NEW YORK: The concept of 'engaged time' is emerging as a serious alternative measurement to clicks and pageviews with the news that the Financial Times is to sell display ads based on how long an audience spends with its content.

Speaking to, Jon Slade, the business newspaper's commercial director of digital advertising, explained that the approach was still at the experimental stage. "We have a hypothesis we want to prove: that the longer you show somebody a piece of brand creative, the more resonance that piece of content has with an audience," he said.

"That's normally not how we value advertising; we're talking about an attention economy," he added. "Are we honestly saying that there's no difference to the brand between one second of exposure and five seconds of exposure? Logic would say: let's start to value the amount of time spent with a brand."

Slade pointed out that FT readers spent six times more time with the FT site than other business news sites and that was worth something to advertisers seeking quality and engagement. "So we could sell you 720 impressions at five seconds or other lengths of exposure, depending on the total time you would like," he said.

The current trial consisted of figuring out how to find and sell the five seconds of time to C-level executives the right way and how to prove the greater efficacy of the approach.

Other publishers have also toyed with this idea. Viral content site Upworthy, for example, announced earlier this year that 'attention minutes' would become its primary metric, and noted that video site YouTube, blog publishing platform Medium and analytics firm Chartbeat were all moving in a similar direction.

Chartbeat's Doug Benito recently told Street Fight, a site devoted to the hyperlocal, that clicks were really only a measure of the effectiveness of link promotion and said nothing about the user's experience on the piece itself.

Chartbeat's own research across client sites, he added, indicated that "pieces geared strongly toward clicks rather than engaging content ended up with less reading time".

He argued that measuring attention with time "gives a single metric for quality that can satisfy all sides of the content equation". Editorial understood users were engaged with content, while advertisers knew how long users were actively seeing the ads they were paying for "and that time leads to higher brand recall".

Data sourced from Contently, Upworthy, Street Fight; additional content by Warc staff