The Chartteam is slowly crawling out from a power-less lower Manhattan and water-logged New Jersey to find that we’ve been, all in all, incredibly lucky to be spared the worst from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. Every one of us is safe and every one of our thoughts go out to our neighbors who weren’t so lucky.We’re just now poking our heads out to assess the real impact of the past few days. For that, we turn to the media for the details we can’t see first hand. Sure Twitter and Facebook, too, to share and learn quick snippets in real time, but for the true impact, the fact from the fiction, we (and much of the country it seems) spent the better part of this week turning to major publishers, local news outlets more than we at Chartbeat have seen…ever.We saw well over 7,000,000 concurrent visits and sky-high engaged time across all of the sites within the Chartbeat Universe – so people were not only hitting pages to check the most breaking news, but also stayed there, their attention glued to the stories.Which is even more mind-blowing, as for the most part, Sandy only affected the US east coast.In less than a week, we’ll be watching the impact and attention of an event that dramatically affects the entire country, the entire world. If Sandy broke records like this, it’ll be an interesting time to place some bets on the kind of traffic and engagement the Presidential Election will drive. Any guesses?
We’ve been hearing lots of positive things about one of our newest Chartbeat Publishing features, Heads Up Display, which lays data you need over your own webpage and article content. Heads Up Display shares info like the concurrent visitors on the page, top articles on the page through simple rank pins, clicks per minute on each article, and a whole bunch of other stuff. And while it’s amazing to know that your top positioned article is the #1 article on the page – there was one question we (and lots of you) wanted to know: Is that article performing as well as other articles have done in that same position in the past, or is it just doing well because it’s in the top spot?So we’re testing exactly this question with a new feature in beta right now that we’re calling Link Performance– all to get your feedback, thoughts, high fives, and no ways. With this guy now incorporated in your Heads Up Display, you can answer questions like:
- Is an article getting a ton of clicks because it’s new or in a prime position or because the content is actually compelling?
- Where are the hidden gems on my page? Which articles are actually doing well for their position, but are maybe getting lost in the clutter?
- Which headlines look like they need some love?
- Which articles need to be removed?
- Has my article reached its peak and need to be swapped out?
Here’s how it works: Link Performance measures certain effects like where the link is on your page and how long the link has been in that particular position. This measurement also takes into account the real-time speed (what we call click rate) that readers are clicking on a link to an article as a percentage the overall pool of people who could actually click now. We’ve built models for every position on your homepage – yours specifically, not some general homepage template – and these models take into account the amount of time each article has been in its current location. By knowing how long an article has been in that spot, we can tell how it’s done performance-wise since you posted it – has it reached its peak yet or still gaining speed? That way you know when to swap it out. We’ve added a visual tracker that shows just this – how long a link has been in this position and how it’s performing against other links that have been in that same position. The Heads Up Display uses these models to determine how each article is performing relative to those three factors: article position, how long the article has been in that position, and the number of potential readers. Simple, color-coded signals show you how an article is doing in real-time:
Overperforming/Green = Good, the article is doing better than average
Performing on average or baseline/Yellow = Potentially good or time to swap it out. Depends on the content and your call, as the decision maker, if it should be changed up.
Underperforming/Red = Not so great. Time to get another story in here that’ll do better in this position than this current story.
If you’re seeing gray pins, that could be for a number of different reasons, most likely because it’s a brand new story/placement and we just need another minute to gather and share the data.
Based on all this info, we hope you’re better armed to take action to shift things around, rewrite some headlines, layer on more content, whatever a particular piece needs to get a through-the-roof performance out of that link in that position (or another).
Again, this is something we’re testing to see how you’re using it (or not), what you like (or don’t), and what thoughts (or questions) you have as you play around with it. With your feedback, I, along with my fellow Chartbeat data scientists and our Product and Engineering teams, can iterate and build on this feature to make sure it’s as useful as possible. So let us know what you think.
Note: The three above images are displaying mock data (we don’t share your data without your permission)
Just climbing out from under an information (and tequila…and guacamole…) hangover from ONA12 last week, and wanted to share the genius I picked up along the way. We had a blast, and we’re also so thrilled that you guys showed Chartbeat some love. I could pretty easily share about 4000 things from people we met or got the chance to see again (it’s like a summer camp reunion!) and amazing sessions we took place in, really cool demos and innovative stuff we caught down in the Midway. But I’ll keep it to three. In no particular order….
1. We’re still trying to claw our way out from under page views
We all know the page view is a silly metric that we can easily manipulate for display ad purposes. (Farhad Manjoo wrote a great piece about this for Slate the other day if you’re interested) Yet we’re using page views as a key metric of editorial performance and ad sales. There’s a slow shift toward uniques, which is great, but everyone’s on the same page that that’s not enough. Our most interesting conversations at ONA were around our Engaged Time metric, which is starting to pick up some serious steam as a partner KPI to uniques. Our data science team is already finding some crazy relationships between higher engaged time and a higher propensity for reader loyalty (more on that in the coming weeks). So we know it works. Hopefully by ONA13, we’ll have put page views to bed.
2. Understanding an article’s impact is kind of hard.
Despite the fact that spreading awareness and creating change are often the main intentions behind an article, gauging the scope of a story’s impact is actually pretty challenging. Most metrics focus on “hard goals”, things that are easy to measure like how many people visit a page or click on a link. However, these sorts of numbers don’t entirely shed light on a story’s actual impact– how much more awareness is there about a particular subject or whether or not an article has educated its readers or incited change. The public service aspect of a story, often represented by the scope of an article’s impact, is tough to quantify or measure. There was a lot of buzz around the challenges of determining whether an article makes small ripples or big waves, and how we understand this in quantifiable terms.
3. How and when your readers reach your stories matters.
Several discussions at ONA reminded us about the need for content to be fully immersive across multiple platforms. Essentially, when and how is your audience reaching your content throughout the day? A reader might access your content on his phone while commuting, on his desktop during work, and then on his iPad at night. Knowing your readers’ daily patterns matters a whole lot when it comes to user experience– ideally your readers are easily immersed in your content no matter how they’re accessing your site. It’s more than just tallying up your content’s traffic sources, it’s about building content and products around the shape of a reader’s day. The BBC did a lot of this “what does my viewer’s day look like?” for their Olympics content, and launched features that considered their audience’s needs across platforms and times of day.
4. Everyone loves a happy hour
I had to tack on a fourth point just for this. In case anyone hadn’t heard, or you get your hands on one of our margaritas, Chartbeat had way too much fun with the tattoo-rocking ONA crowd at our happy hour. Thanks to all that attended–for those that didn’t, no worries, we intend to have many more happy hours in the future.