Archive for March, 2013

I’ve been hearing about and working with Engaged Time since my very first day at Chartbeat, in early February. As our key metric, Engaged Time fuels a ton of what we do – it shapes conversations with our user-influencers, inspires new product and features concepts – and it instigates dialogues with industry data wonks. We talk about it a lot, as you probably have noticed, and Engaged Time is woven into our thought leadership as well as into all of our products.

So when I was given the opportunity to add Engaged Time into the Chartbeat Publishing Heads Up Display last week, of course I jumped at the occasion.

Incorporating Engaged Time is part of three awesome, major changes we made to the Heads Up Display. These upgrades make the product easier to use and give you more of the information you need, when you need it.

1. First, as I mentioned previously, say hello to Engaged Time in the Heads Up Display. We’ve incorporated Engaged Time into both the Details Window and the Top Ten Link list. In addition to having the Engaged Time for any given link, we show you how that story’s Engaged Time ranks in relation to the other top links on the page.

2. The next major change you’ll notice is the three distinct detail window sizes. Each window size represents the amount of information that we have available for a given link.

  • Small indicates that the link probably just started receiving clicks, so we’re just starting to collect data on that story.

  • Medium means the link has recently changed positions, and while we have historical data for the link, we are just beginning to get enough data about its new context.

  • A large window means that there is enough data collected for this link at its respective position that we can confidently tell you how it performs compared to links in that same position historically.

If you ever need more information, it can be obtained via the info button on each of the smaller windows.

3. Lastly, we doubled the maximum number of pins from 40 to 80 (so we’re now collecting data on your top 80 links) and the maximum page height from 1500px to 3000px. This means that our users will have access to more information directly from the Heads Up Display and will now have more coverage for those longer homepages. More data, more coverage, more happy homepage editors :).

Check out our Heads Up Display demo to see the changes for yourself – of course I’d love your feedback on these changes, and I’m always looking for insights from our users. Feel free to post your ideas in the Comments section.

What else do you think should be added to the Heads Up Display? What should we build next?

PS – Stay tuned for an upcoming weekly blog post series about my experiences as a new engineer at Chartbeat!

Changing Media Summit_ Programme | Media Network |

A few Chartteam members are in London this week for The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit. We’re having a blast seeing old friends and meeting new folks as they stop by to check out our rotating Big Board/Engaged Time Infographic displays – but we’re also really pumped for Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile to hit the stage in just a few short hours .

Tony’s talk is titled Engaged Time: In Pursuit of the Ultimate Quality Metric – you can watch his talk live on the Changing Media Summit’s livestream site at 7am EST today. Fear not non-early birds, we’ll post a video of Tony’s talk later on. If you’re curious to see what else Tony has to say, check out his interview with The Guardian.

Feel free to post your reactions to Tony’s talk in the Comments section – we’d love to hear what you’re thinking

“What is Engaged Time and why is it different from page views?”

We hear this question a fair amount at Chartbeat, and while we love talking about Engaged Time, we wanted to offer a visual representation of why this metric matters so much.

So we’ve created an infographic that shows you why Engaged Time gives you a different, more comprehensive understanding of your content’s performance. The image below is just a sneak preview – click on the link to get the whole experience.

Click here to see the Engaged Time Infographic

 Chartbeat Engaged Time_ Get your story_s whole story

Can’t get enough ? Take it to the next level and check out Josh’s new post on Engaged Time and audience development. And see AdAge’s recent article on our new advertising product – which features some major advertising insights based on, you guessed it, Engaged Time.

Hope you enjoyed getting to know Engaged Time in a new way – and please share this infographic with your friends and colleagues!


Chartbeat is kicking off this Monday morning with an AdAge piece on our new advertising product, which is currently in beta. After many long hours in the Chartbeat lab – including collaborating with some fantastic Chartbeat Publishing partner sites – we’re thrilled to share some awesomely disruptive correlations between our Engaged Time metric, brand recall, and digital ad placementBy using Engaged Time, publisher sales teams can prove that particular locations on a webpage are more valuable (and thus more monetizable) than previously believed. We think this has great implications for editorial and business teams being able to place higher value on high-engagement, high-quality content overall.

“When it [Chartbeat] looked at 1 million anonymous readers across 10 websites: 66% of the “engaged time” over a 24-hour period happened “below the fold” — or below the part of page that originally showed up in the browser when a reader first opened a page. Not surprisingly, the data analysis also showed that web visitors are only engaged for a few seconds at the top of the page, where the highest-priced ads often sit.”

– Jason Del Rey, AdAge


Check out the full article at AdAge– and get our most recent thoughts on Engaged Time and audience development.

Audience development is a topic on the mind of everyone in publishing, and we here at Chartbeat spend a great deal of time thinking about what actions affect your audience and how to measure their effects.

Today, I want to talk about how to use Average Engaged Time as a metric for audience development. I’ll give you some numbers to watch, walk you through a few use cases, and give you a few hints about some products to come.

The process of audience development can be broken down into four (simplified) steps:

  1. Visitors come to your site
  2. They find content they’re interested in and engage with it
  3. They like what they get, and they choose to come back to your site again
  4. If you’re lucky, they also share what they found with others

Each of these parts is critical, and there’s drop-off at every step along the way — users who come don’t always read and those who read don’t always return — so doing what you can to improve each step can have a huge effect on the growth of your audience over time.

Traditionally, the analytics industry has gotten pretty good at measuring steps 1 & 4 — raw traffic and social media statistics — but quantifying user engagement and propensity to return has always been difficult to do. Engaged Time provides a valuable metric to help fill in those missing data points.

Before we dive in, I want to give a quick definition of how we measure Engaged Time. While a user is reading a page, we count up the amount of time she spends with the page in an active browser tab — a foregrounded tab where the user has recently scrolled, typed, or moved their mouse — and then average that number across users. Note that this number contrasts with traditional time on page, which measures how long users keep pages open rather than how long they actually engage with pages for. For more information, check out our previous post explaining how we measure.

Page views and engagement – What’s the difference?

If you think that page views are sufficient to measure engagement, think again: all traffic is not created equal. Our goal on the web isn’t just the first step — to bring people in the door — we want folks to actually read the pages we’ve worked so hard to make.

Unfortunately, raw traffic volume numbers don’t speak to how people interact with your pages.

Click data on article pages tells you how enticing links were, not how engaged readers were with the content inside.

To see the difference between clicks and actual engagement, I pulled a sample of 100,000 page visits to Chartbeat sites across a week.1 Of those, about 34,000 of them resulted in users leaving after less than 15 seconds of interacting with the page —

A full ⅓ of the visitors leave without exhibiting any signs of engagement.

But that ratio isn’t the same for all pages: of the 10 most popular articles I looked at, one had 91% of visitors actually engage with the content and another had 93% of visitors leave without ever scrolling down the page.2 From the perspective of page views, these two articles were almost exactly the same, but I think we’d all draw very different conclusions about the success of their content: certainly traffic volume to a story matters, but you also have to ask yourself whether people actually read it.

Readers who don’t engage represent missed opportunities — it’s hard enough to get readers in the door, and we want to make every visit count.

Average Engaged Time is a Chartbeat metric that measures the amount of time that users spend actively interacting with a page – reading, writing, scrolling, watching – and it’s a great place to start when looking at how well your content matches with your audience.

To see what I mean, take a look at the figure below, which shows users’ Average Engaged Time on one specific article, broken down by where they came from.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 5.19.00 PM

Clearly the traffic source dramatically affects not just the volume of traffic, but how long users read for. For instance, the article took off on Facebook — its top referrer — but we can see that readers who came from Facebook links spent dramatically less time reading than readers who came from internal links.

When looking at an article’s Engaged Time, think about how long you’d expect a reader to take to consume a piece of content. For some rough guidelines: we typically see 60-90 seconds of engagement for news articles, 5-30 seconds for landing pages, and 3+ minutes for long-form content. If an article’s Average Engaged Time is substantially below what you’d expect, it’s not reaching an audience that wants to fully read it:

  • Is the headline out of step with the content, so people are not reaching the story they thought they were getting?
  • Is the format of the article off?
  • Are you reaching out on the best traffic sources for this story?
  • Or is the article simply not as engaging as you’d hoped?

Conversely, if an article’s Average Engaged Time is exceptionally high, you’ll want to get as much traffic as possible on the page – create internal links and take a look at where its current audience is coming from and outreach to similar traffic sources.

Of course, not all content takes the same amount of time to consume, but you should always make sure that you’re getting as much as possible out of each piece of content you produce.

Converting engagement to visitor loyalty over time

We started to measure users’ visits to sites across time and investigate what parts of a visitor’s browsing behaviour indicate that they’re likely to spend more time on your site in the future. The call to action here is clear:

About ⅔ of visitors to an average site don’t return again in the next 30 days.

But, there’s a lot you can do to have a dramatic effect on that number, and even small changes can have large effects on your site’s traffic over time.

One thing that stands out across the board is that users’ Engaged Time is strongly correlated with their loyalty to your site. Below is a figure showing the relationship between the maximum amount of time visitors spent reading articles one day and whether they returned to the site across the rest of the week.


Visitors who read an article for three minutes returned twice as often as those who read for one minute.

Intuitively, this makes sense: if you can get someone to actually find an article that they like enough to read, they’re much more likely to return.

Of course, we can’t confuse correlation with causation: we can’t say that high Engaged Time causes readers to come back. But, since we know that users with high Engaged Time do come back more often, we can say that when you see an article with high Engaged Time, it’s much more likely that the readers of that article will visit your site again in the near future.

This idea isn’t something we’re seeing in a vacuum on our sites, others have found similar results; ex-New Republic Editor Andrew Sullivan reported similar findings in this great podcast on developing a paid audience.

So, what can this do for you?

If I can stress one thing, it’s that you want to do whatever you can to make sure that all of your readers find their way to some piece of content that’s highly engaging everytime they visit.

If a short piece of content suddenly blows up, don’t miss out on the opportunity the traffic spike presents: try to drive people from that piece to other, longer-form content that’s likely to be engaging to your audience.

Coming from the other side: pages with high Engaged Time are likely being read by your most loyal audience. These pages are your best candidates for things like subscription links and newsletter signups that are designed to take interested readers and make them directly loyal to your site.

The unifying message in everything above is that you want to try to put the right content in front of the right audience.

Doing so will drive up visitors’ time on your site right now and increase their loyalty to your site in the future.

What’s next?

There’s a lot in the pipeline for the coming months here at Chartbeat. Most relevant to this post: we’re currently alpha testing a new product we’ve built for measuring and improving audience development, and we expect to launch it to all of Chartbeat Publishing in the coming weeks. It’ll focus on where your most loyal audience comes from, where people spend their time on your site, and what you can do to improve how much and how frequently your users read.

We’ll also be back here soon to talk more about what sorts of real time decisions you can make to build your site’s audience.

Feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the Comments section – your feedback is welcome.


1 Non-paywall sites, to ensure that the numbers weren’t thrown off by people being unable to read articles after they hit a paywall.

2 Both articles were roughly the same height; the lack of scrolling wasn’t because of a shorter page.