Engagement and advertising responsiveness are strongest on original content rather than social media sites, according to a new UK study carried out by GfK NOP for the Association of Online Publishers.

Participants in the study – The New Rules of Engagement – revealed they are almost twice as likely to trust advertising and brands on content sites versus social media sites, while they are almost three times more likely to believe that content sites are better than social media sites at influencing positive brand opinion.

According to the AOP, by examining the relationship between site and audience, the study also reveals that measures such as dwell time and frequency of visit are not as indicative of engagement as previously thought.

“This is the first research to highlight the inadequacies of metrics to measure engagement that the industry currently employs,” said AOP director, Lee Baker. “This study offers publishers, advertisers and agencies compelling data; and ultimately offers advertisers business-critical solutions around advertising engagement. The results of this new study represent a marked evolution in how to view advertising engagement online.”

The study identifies five dimensions of engagement for users where the site is: trustworthy (recognition of and confidence in a brand); authoritative (consistent, reliable thought-leadership); unique (original content); offering community(featuring like-minded user forums); and entertaining.

It also suggests three key characteristics of advertising behaviour: trust (consumers who particularly trusted the site brands they used were more likely to trust the brands advertising on these sites and more likely to respond to advertising on these sites, according to the AOP); action (consumers were more likely to click on advertising links and/or purchase from sites they trust) and awareness.

The AOP’s Research Committee commissioned GfK NOP to conduct the project to examine engagement levels across segments of the online landscape content sites (for example, UK newspaper sites, UK commercial TV and radio sites, UK magazine sites and trade/business publication sites) portals (for example, MSN, Yahoo!) and social network sites (for example, Facebook, MySpace). A survey of 1,340 interviews via an online panel took place from 13-20 October 2010 with UK respondents only.