Attention Signal

Attention: The Key to Maximizing Ad Inventory Value

Sovrn Advertising Team // April 21, 2022

Today’s advertising ecosystem presents challenges for publishers and advertisers alike. Publishers who create high-quality, engaging content deserve to earn premium ad rates – and advertisers are willing to pay higher rates to reach an engaged and relevant reader base. 

But current industry metrics like viewability and viewable time make it difficult for either side to operate with confidence.

Advertisers have some ability to measure on-page ad performance and compare it across multiple sites, but there are limits to the data they can collect. Publishers have access to a broader range of ad performance data, but they have no ability to compare it with other sites. 

Without these deeper insights, publishers struggle to identify their most valuable ad inventory and set appropriate prices. Similarly, advertisers have difficulty optimizing their ad spend without a consistent, meaningful basis for bidding on ad inventory.

The problem with viewability

For years, viewability has been the industry standard for predicting ad performance. It is designed to measure the likelihood that an ad will be seen by users, based on its visibility on the page. The IAB defines a “viewable impression” as one where at least 50% of the ad’s area is displayed onscreen for at least one second.

Think about that for a moment. Viewability only measures whether the ad is visible – even if it’s only for just a second while a user scrolls down the page. It fails to consider whether there’s any interaction with the ad, or whether the reader even notices the ad. 

The need for a scalable measure of attention is clear, and industry leaders like IAB are focused on the attention debate in 2022 – and Sovrn is leading the way.  

Building a better metric

Every time a reader visits your site, they emit “signals of intent.” Every interaction – including clicks, scrolls, mouse movements, and more – tells you something about where that reader’s attention is focused and their level of engagement.

With this idea in mind, Sovrn devised a new measure of attention – called “engaged time” – that combines viewability with 45 distinct on-page reader interactions. As a result, engaged time can measure not only when an ad has the chance to be seen, but also when a person is actively engaged with the content.

In order to validate engaged time as a measure of attention, Sovrn conducted several studies comparing engaged time to traditional metrics like dwell time and viewable time. Study results showed that:

  • Just 16% of dwell time met the standards for engaged time – meaning that during 84% of sessions traditionally counted as “dwell time,” visitors are not actually engaged.
  • Engaged time captures 2.6x more attention and a 2.7x higher click-through rate compared to viewable time alone, as demonstrated by eye tracking technology and predictive modeling. 

Tuning in to the signal

Attention-focused metrics like engaged time let you move beyond basic viewability, to truly understand the attention visitors are paying to your content. This ability to analyze and act on user engagement is the foundation of our data product, Sovrn Signal

Signal is an easy-to-use data tool that lets you convert your engaged audience into ad revenue. With just a single line of code Signal gives you the ability to:

  • Understand your ad performance. Understand how buyers judge your inventory so you can adapt your revenue strategy. 
  • Benchmark ad performance. With Signal, you finally have access to the same metrics ad buyers use to evaluate your ad inventory. Benchmark your ad performance using metrics such as viewability, engagement, click-through rate and CPM – against both your peers and the market as a whole – and use these insights to inform your strategic decision-making. 
  • Grow your ad revenue.  Unlock revenue by generating incremental impressions from your most engaged users. When done correctly, ad reloading allows publishers to maximize the attention their content captures. Signal technology lets us take a different approach to ad refreshing, because the tool only refreshes ad units with both current viewability and active user engagement. 
  • Identify, target & price your most valuable ad inventory. Across your entire programmatic ad stack, Signal identifies your most valuable inventory based on engagement metrics which you can then use to price and package your inventory for advertisers, driving more revenue from engaged visitors.

Get started today!

Our Signal technology gives you a simple, scalable way to measure user attention on every page – and use those insights to maximize the value of your ad inventory. To learn more, visit 

And when you’re ready to get started, just email us at Our team will be happy to demonstrate how Signal can work for you. 

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