“Google will see a drop to fifth in time spent, simply because its search
engine is intended to guide users elsewhere as quickly as possible. It
ranked third in pageviews.”

I think even the commercial folks realize that vist-length isn’t something
that can be compared site to site by iteslf. I don’t think anyone would
think that you should be penalized for having a rocking IA that speeds your
visitors to their content immediately – in fact, a decrease in visit length
may be a success metric for a redesign.

And wWho is doing the measurement, and what is their agenda? Keep in mind
that Nielsen is a business born in the era of 3-network TV, designed to
measure “eyeballs” as inventory for advertisers. As they have migrated
to the web and become a major player, they have a natural proclivity to
shift metrics to emphasize participation in rich-media content which
aligns with their TV business. Also, they have a site measurement
product to sell and they are clearly orienting it to sites that feature
rich-media content, thus helping those sites prove to advertisers that
they have an audience and therefore merit advertising money even if
traditional page-view metrics might indicate otherwise.