Below the Fold Adverts up to Nine Times More Engaging Than Above the Fold According to Sovrn Viewability Research

London and New York: Sovrn, which helps more than 20,000 independent online publishers succeed, today announced the results of its research into viewability and engagement, which challenges the existing notion of viewability as a metric. The study looked at over three billion engagement events covering 130 million page views, across more than 400 websites.

Using a new form of measurement, Viewable Engagement Time (VET), Sovrn gained deep insight into how audiences spend their time online, and tested various hypotheses regarding audience engagement. The research looked into the important difference between engagement time – the total time a page is open and the user is deemed active for at least five seconds and the window/tab is in view and not obstructed – and dwell time ­– the total time that a page is open, determined by the time between a user loading a page and leaving a page through closing the window or clicking through to another link.

Sovrn discovered that ads placed below the fold (BTF) were more engaging than those above the fold (ATF). BTF ad users were actively engaged for 27% of viewable dwell time, while ATF ad users were actively engaged for just 3% of viewable dwell time. Moreover, VET metrics revealed that BTF ads are seen for 2.6 times longer than those ATF, offering far higher levels of engagement. With the industry currently paying up to five times more for ATF placements, according to Sovrn’s findings advertisers could be increasing engagement and saving budget by swapping to BTF placements.

Andy Evans, CMO at Sovrn comments: “Currently the industry prioritises viewability, or dwell time as a metric, but our research has highlighted that this is leading advertisers to make potentially costly decisions about their audience.

“We’re all guilty of opening browser tabs to look at content that we end up closing without even seeing the page, let alone an ad, and yet current metrics could end up counting these such instances, when they shouldn’t. By looking actively at engagement and various factors such as a click, scroll or tab changes, we can see that the user is engaged and increase the propensity to convert by targeting them in that moment.”

Following the research Sovrn announced it has developed a new product, VET Reload, which leverages these findings to offer publishers an ability to value inventory against engagement time and also target users when they are at their most engaged. Further details on VET Reload will be announced shortly.

Other findings revealed:

  • A surprisingly large number of engagement rates per page view were recorded with 260 on desktop, 418 on mobile and 349 on tablet. The average number of engagement events rises sharply on mobile devices, due to smaller screens, which necessitate additional scrolling, swiping, and touch actions for content consumption.
  • The number of pages had no engagement events at all was 1%; meaning the browser was closed before the page was viewed, and 8% had less than five engagement events meaning the user only viewed the page in order to close it. Combined, this shows 9% of all webpages have little to no engagement.
  • Scroll depth varied significantly by device, with the study revealing the users exit point on a page was halfway through the content on mobile (54%), a third of the way down the page on tablet (38%), and a quarter of the way down the page on desktop (23%).

The full findings of the study will be released in an upcoming whitepaper. To find out more, please visit

About Sovrn
Sovrn owns and operates a proprietary ad technology stack with direct connections to every major buyer in the world. Sovrn gives content creators tools to make money; access to distribution and scale to grow their audience; and a massive data commons for extraordinary insights. Sovrn is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, with offices in Denver, New York, and London.

For more information:

Sovrn measured engagement time using ten different engagement events, grouped into four broad categories; clicks, scrolls, tab changes, and keyboard movements.

To explore how users behave when browsing the internet, Sovrn collected a large amount of anonymous data on user sessions. Constructing such a substantial dataset allowed observation of the most common forms of user interaction with a website, allowing us to learn about user behaviour in general.

The data was collected for extended periods of at least a week on a range of sites, from major news publications, to sites with a more niche audience. The data was collected this way on the assumption people behave differently on different sites, or even on the same site, and that behaviour can be affected by factors such as the time of day.

For each session we collected three sets of data, each focusing on a different aspect of the session. These three data types were:

  • Page data: tracking the user’s engagement with the page as a whole
  • Placement data: tracking the user’s engagement with specific placements
  •  Event data: tracking events such as clicks and mouse movements that signaled engagement

These metrics were then combined with metadata about the user, including browser, operating system, and device, to allow trends in user engagement with ads on the web to be investigated.

Sample Details

  • 400 + websites
  • 130 million page views
  • 3 billion engagement events

Data was collected between 14th December 2016 and 18th January 2017 and re-sampled during the remainder of 2017 to concur findings. At the peak 100,000 engagement events per minute were recorded, and 27 unique environments – or browser / OS / device combinations – were captured.