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How to determine the value of an impression

January 13, 2014

Seven years ago, Nielsen asked our family to be a Nielsen family. We didn’t have cable, and they were under-represented by people without cable. We filled out a whole bunch of forms, and they added something to our lone TV.

From that moment on, anything we watched was also “watched” by people in our demographic and psychographic unit. When we watched an ad, our impression counted as thousands.

If you get a newspaper delivered to your house, every ad in the paper gets an impression. Home delivery on a magazine means ad impressions. Drivers on roads result in impressions on billboards.


I’m not saying that impressions aren’t valuable, and necessary in marketing. They are. That said, I think we can all agree that non-digital impressions are fuzzy.

What aren’t fuzzy are online impressions. A site view is a site view. If I visit a home page of a magazine, it isn’t assumed that I read every article. It is assumed that I read the one I clicked on.

That’s both the awesome thing and the scary thing about impressions. Newspapers and magazines used to get them for free. Now they don’t. I think the reason the networks don’t ask us who we are when we watch shows on their apps is they fear skewing the numbers.


Impressions are still vitally important to marketers. We will continue to seek them, and turn them into engagements. They just won’t be as fuzzy.

Agree? Disagree?

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