Top 3 Things I Learned at ONA12
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.