Introducing Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales

May 15th, 2013 by Alex Carusillo

Through our Chartbeat Publishing product, we’ve spent the last three years getting to know the ins and outs of the editorial teams inside major media sites and building things to help them make their best stuff even better. That’s always been our dream and we’re going to keep at it.

But over the past six months we’ve been busy building our first tool for the other side of the publishing house. One that will help sites earn more because of the quality of their content.

So we’re incredibly excited (and more than a little exhausted) to introduce Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales, our new product that allows sites to sell the thing advertisers asked for in the first place - their audience’s attention.

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The origins

Before really getting to what any of that means, however, I’m going to bury the lede a whole bunch. Because to understand why this will help you, you first really need to know why we built it...which starts way further back than six months ago.

It really starts with the whole point of journalism: to get the best information possible to the right people. Writers have adapted our approach over time – from in-depth investigation to short form breaking news – but the goal has always been the same: to inform the people and influence the discussion. But writers have never really known if their readers engaged with the things they created. They couldn’t have; it was just too hard to track.

We all thought the internet was going to fix this. And a whole bunch of doors opened when everything went online. Notably, for the first time ever we were able to understand who was actually clicking on the pages where the stuff we created lived. The audience was no longer the people who picked up the phones during market surveys or the number of addresses the paper got delivered to each morning; it was the people who were actually there on the page doing something.

For a while, that was all pretty great. Page views and clicks gave us an understanding that was totally new and a huge step up from the data around the physical world.

But the inevitable happened: we began to make what we measured -- and we optimized the internet for these measurable things.

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Capturing attention, not clicks

Success was no longer writing stories that made a difference culturally or otherwise, it was making sure that whoever got to your webpage clicked a bunch of links so the page view counter went up. And that was crazy. That’s what gave us slideshows and pop-ups and roadblocks and auto-playing videos and all the other things that make the internet frustrating.

That was never what journalism was supposed to be about.

I think everyone’s always hated that. We at Chartbeat certainly did. And because of that, our products have always been about understanding the user’s experience. We wanted people to write really good stuff and we wanted to create the ways for them to understand the audience liked it. That's why we created Engaged Time. We wanted to give people who actually created things a number that actually measured the attention their content captured, not the number of people who happened to open their page.

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Making the understanding easier was the motivation behind everything we’ve built here. And it worked. Right now, people all around the internet - from your favorite blog on stereo equipment to 80% of the top media sites in the US - are using Engaged Time to understand and improve the quality of what they're creating.

Making not-awesome things more awesome

So editorial teams are making decisions around Engaged Time, but traditional metrics made it really hard for advertisers to understand the quality of content and very very few of them paid to be around it.

Old metrics like impressions created this idea that people don't read stuff on the internet. But we’ve proven it’s not that they don’t read stuff, it’s that the time people spend reading is hard to measure. That’s why even the best publishers out there can’t sell what makes them special - the quality of their work (which in turn drives a highly-engaged audience).

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Grab anyone writing on the internet and you'll hear the same problems: they can't sell ads lower on page, no one wants their "boring" sections, and click-through rates are terrible.

Talk to the advertisers and you'll hear about the same: they only understand a percentage of their audience, click-throughs don't tell the whole story, and their data doesn't match their goals.

Talk to us, the people reading this stuff? Well, I think everyone would agree the internet is just a generally frustrating place when it's built around every brand in the world chasing a click-through rate.

So, here’s where Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales comes in.

We’re here to help salespeople at publishers big and small sell something new and something they actually control: their audience's attention and the quality of their content.

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You've already got good stuff – we're just here to help

Advertisers come to you because your content matters and your audience is great. They want to create a relationship with your audience but only understand simple things like the number of people who click on their banners. Our new product tells you how much time your audience is spending actually reading stuff on the page while ads are in view. It’s a chance to quantify something new – and something super desirable – the active attention of the people they want to speak to.

But explaining that can be hard so we go a step further and we don’t just help you find the best spots on your site - we build the sales collateral for you to give to advertisers about why they want to work with you.

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Right now our goal is pretty simple: we want to make it easier for publishers to tell stories around why their site and their engaged audience is special. We want to go back to the things we used to know, to move the discussion away from “does .08% of your audience click on ads or does .09%?” to “does your work keep people interested?”

Yeah, it’s just the first step. We’re not saying this will solve every single problem instantly. But, based on the few dozen alpha testers’ reactions, it’s certainly getting us there. And based on your use of it, we’ll learn a lot more.

Everybody wins – editors, advertisers, and readers, too

We built this product to help solve the problem for everyone: people who create really awesome stuff can get paid for it because it's good, not because a fraction of a fraction of the people who come to their page click on an ad; brands advertisers get the thing that they've been looking for - a chance to be in front of the best audience for the longest period of time; readers aren’t pushed through some terrible, road-blocking experience, but are actually encouraged and rewarded for consuming the content they want to consume.

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We’d love to show it to you and your sales teams in action -- and you brands out there who are advertising with publishers, we’d love to get your take as well. So shoot us an email, and tell us what you think. Get the details on Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales here.

PS- We'll be talking about this more on Tuesday evening during our NYC Internet Week event with Disqus, Beyond the Click: Getting to Actual Engagement – come join the fun.