Jim Nail, the former Forrester analyst, is now at Cymphony. A while ago, he wrote about " 4 Types of Engagement" at iMedia.com, as an analysis of the new energy behind the "engagement metric" which should take the place of page views. It’s a good disection of "engagement", and sheds light on the challenges inherent in defining a new cross-site metric.
Even more interesting is his argument that the old, linear, rational model for advertising is broken, and maybe always has been. What’s replacing it is a more emotional, non-linear where consumers are soaking up all sorts of brand images and messages, and then act on it.
"When the consumer ‘engages’ in this subconscious processing, he or she
creates associations, affixes symbols, imagines metaphors and imbues
experiences into the ad message to give it personal relevance."
This, presumably, is what happens when a consumer gets "engaged". Its a little mysterious, and isn’t easy to understand (or manipulate) and shoots the idea of a nice, simple to understand "funnel" all to hell. Definitely appeals to the artist in us web geeks.
Now, how to measure this in a way that makes sense as a comparative measure on a consumers interest? I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to do it. We’ll be able to measure the activity of someone who is engaged, perhaps more meaningful ways (see Compete’s definition of "attention"). But every site engages consumers in different ways, and the activity may be completely different on each site.