Measuring engagement directly


I follow discussions of web analytics only peripherally, but it's hard to miss the continuing discussions of how to define engagement, including equations with a lot of terms or a few. Meanwhile, I'm constantly checking out new (to me) companies that may be doing something I need to know about. This week, I discovered a company with a more, um, direct method for measuring audience engagement.

Forget the analytics definitions and think about what engagement really means. Focus. Attention. Tunnel vision. Racing pulse. Sweaty palms. You know when you're engaged in something. And the analytics discussions generally start from a definition close to the plain-English meaning before setting off to discover a method to determine engagement based on observable web behavior.

Innerscope Research goes back to the original definition by observing physiological responses to media. They connect test audiences to biometric sensors that measure respiration, motion, heart rate and skin conductance, with eye-tracking to track attention.

Once the test subject is suited up, Innerscope can observe what the subject is watching and the subject's response. Physiological reponses are faster and more accurate than conscious answers, and the metering supports an analysis across the duration of the media exposure. The basic logic is simple: if the content makes you sweat or raises your pulse, you're engaged.

Attention + Intensity = Engagement
Innerscope has run experiments with both TV ads and viral videos. While the engagement vest isn't going to become standard attire for media consumers, it does suggest a possible test for competing definitions based on more convenient data sources.


I have recently posted an article in Avinash Kaushik's blog ( where i am suggesting that it is impossible to infer from webanalytics data alone whether the user's engagement with the content is positive or negative.

This also seems impossible with the method you advocate above. I imagine the physiological symptoms of an engaged customer are the same irrespective of whether he\she is positively or negatively engaged. Or are they not the same?

Interesting question. I don't know, but I suspect you're right about the physiological response. Stimulated is stimulated. The eyetracking data would tell you what caused the response, but you'd still have to make assumptions about how a rational person would respond.

And I don't even want to consider the possibility of an irrational test subject. :-)

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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