Archive for August, 2013

We’re all about helping publishers focus on creating and monetizing engaging content, and a big part of my job and the Chartcorps team’s job is helping them build their digital offerings as an expansion of their traditional print business. Thus, Neil Thurman’s study Newspaper Consumption in the Digital Age caught my attention. The report compares print and digital consumption of 12 UK-based newspapers, in terms of both circulation and time spent reading.

Among its findings was that in 2011 digital contributed only 3% of the total time spent reading these papers by their domestic audience (up to 7% for some of the papers), with their international audience contributing a sizeable additional 25.2 minutes for every hour spent reading by the domestic audience. The study also looked at trends from 2007-2011, finding that despite an increase in readership there wasn’t a related increase in reading time.

While this research brings interesting comparisons, it’s worth keeping in mind that the data has some major inherent limitations – all of which Thurman does address in the report.

Chief among them: the data for print reading time comes from reader surveys, while digital reading time uses Nielsen metrics for time on page – the former being subject to the inaccuracy of reader recall, while the latter doesn’t accurately measure true reading time (just clicks, page loads, and estimated time). And, as the two are very different measures, it’s tough to compare them or be fully confident in what insights to take back. Additionally, because of its methods, the Nielsen data also likely has an under-recording of reading at work or on shared computers, and does not include mobile app usage.

The reliance on surveys for that print data is unfortunate but necessary, as that’s the most clear way of getting data on normal offline reading. On the digital side, though, we have the power to really quantify reader behavior. It’s one of the biggest advantages to digital. And because we now have the technology to accurately measure user behavior in-browser to understand true reading time, I’m banking on this being a big part of the available pool of digital metrics in the future.

Despite the limitations of the data, the study does emphasize the problem facing digital teams in terms of holding their audience’s attention – a particularly scarce resource given the plethora of options available. But it also shows  there’s major room for growth and development of digital audiences, particularly as many newsrooms are now shifting to a digital-first strategy. And, for that to work, it’s important to understand your readers and present them with engaging content that matches what they’re looking for.

You might’ve come across our graphic on Engaged Time below the fold at some point in the last few months in AdAgeBuzzfeed, or on the blog. That figure’s message is simple: even if not every reader scrolls down the page, the vast majority of readers’ collective time is spent below the fold (the typical height of a browser window, about 700 pixels), which has traditionally been an undervalued part of most sites.

I wanted to take a closer look at what goes into generating this effect, so I gathered a random sample of 25 million user sessions from across a wide sample of sites and content types and took a look at where these users spent their time reading.

(Important disclaimer: some of our customers don’t allow us to anonymously aggregate their data; as always, the data presented is drawn from those who do).

Scroll depth

Let’s start with the basics — the breakdown of where readers scroll on a typical site. Below you’ll see data showing the fraction of users who actually viewed each part of the page. For instance, we see that just under 70% of visitors saw the very top of the page they were viewing.

Scroll depth

There are a few notable trends:

  1. Many visitors scroll down the page before it finishes loading, which means that no portion of a typical article is viewed by 100% of viewers and the very top of the top of the page actually has about a 20% lower view rate than slightly farther down.

  2. The most viewed area of the page is just above the fold, at about 550 pixels, with just over 80% viewership.

  3. From this peak at 550 pixels, there is a slow decay in viewership. About 50% of readers see 1500 pixels down the page on content pages, while on home pages and section fronts 50% of readers make it to pixel 1000.

Scroll engagement

On the other hand, because much of an article’s actual content is downpage, those readers who do scroll down spend much more time down the page than they do at the top. We see this represented in the next figure, where we show the amount of time each area of the page was actively viewed by those who actually scrolled to view it at all.

Engagement across the page

Pixels at the top of the page are in view for the shortest amount of time — about 4 seconds — and the amount of time in view steadily rises as we move downpage to a peak between about 1200 pixels down. This portion of the page is viewed for nearly three times as long as the top of the page.

Expected time in view

To look at the tradeoff between these two metrics — viewership and time — let’s take a look at the joint distribution of the two. The graphs below show the expected amount of time that a visitor will view each part of the page for — the product of the percentage of people who view part of a page with the time that viewers spend there.

Expected engaged time

So, which portions of the page have the potential for the highest impact on your audience? That depends on your goals, of course. Two goals we hear frequently are maximizing reach and maximizing exposure time. If the former, it appears that placing it just above the fold is the best possible bet. On the other hand, if you want to maximize the amount of time that viewers spend with it in view — a good goal for brand advertisements and site modules that take time to consume — a placement around 1200px may be better. And, if you want to maximize the tradeoff between the two, positions slightly below the fold between 600 and 1000 pixels typically have both high viewership and high engagement.

Of course, it should go without saying that all of this data is presented in aggregate, and the scroll patterns of your site’s audience may be quite different.

As the Principle Product Owner of Chartbeat Publishing, part of my role involves staying on top of the latest and greatest stories in online media. After all, if I’m trying to build the most helpful, relevant, and effective products for our clients, I need to know the trends, developments, and new ideas that are happening in the industry.

Since I’m always adding things to my Instapaper, I thought I’d share a few favorites with you guys. Here’s a few recent stories that I found particularly pertinent and helpful to my work at Chartbeat, and my hope is that you’ll find them interesting them too.

Andrew Chen looks at Vine, Twitter, SnapChat, and Dribble in a great piece on communication products with arbitrary constraints, and how these limitations affect creativity. Check out Constrained media: How Disappearing Photos, 6 Second Videos, and 140 Characters Are Conquering the World.

I’m a big fan of Medium and their future-focused approach to content – so it’s no surprise their internal management structure is strikingly innovative as well. Read about it in How Medium Is Building A New Kind of Company with No Managers.

As we continue to think about the role of brands as publishers, Federated Media Publishing‘s John Battelle announces the company’s foray, a new product suite that combines programmatic adtech with content marketing as a means of better brand building in Great Content, Meet Great Targeting (and Reach)

MediaBizBlogger reflects on the recently-released IDC study on the rise of the 3rd platform, essentially confirming that publishers need to focus on mobile and tablet audiences more than ever in The Hyper-Connected, Mobile Audience Will Force Publishers to Act.

Along those lines of thinking about distinct audiences, check out this helpful how-to piece about short-form content from Social Media Today, Where and Why You Should Publish Short-Form Content.

And finally, here’s an oldie but a goodie from Smashing Magazine about the importance of incorporating a storytelling approach to UX design in Better Experience through Using Storytelling.

Where do I find many of these great posts? Jason Hirschhorn’s daily newsletter is the single best resource I’ve discovered. Go sign up!

What articles have you enjoyed recently? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned above? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

At Chartbeat, we love hearing all the cool, crazy, smart, and quirky things our clients, partners, and pals have to say about us. We’re constantly looking for awesome ways to reach and be reached and Twitter has definitely been a great help for us in terms of keeping in touch with all of you beautiful people out there. We wanted to share out some of the tweet love – check below for a grab bag of some of our favorite tweets of the summer so far:





With us, there is no such thing as over-communication, so keep those tweets coming! And who knows, you might even make our next edition. If you’re not following us on Twitter, check us out here.

As an Account Manager here at Chartbeat, I love sharing the cool things our clients are doing – and occasionally throwing in a Chartbeat humblebrag too. I hope you’ll enjoy this quick use case about the WFAA news site in Texas that uses real-time data to inform not just its website, but its on-air newscast as well. Share your thoughts in the Comments section

The Issue: Ready for real-time data

WFAA-Dallas, a Belo news network affiliate, was taking on a huge challenge. For the first time, WFAA was integrating its digital and on-air teams for more cohesive coverage, with the two teams increasing their collaboration on content. This team reconfigurement included making online content data available to all on-air producers –  no easy task.

Back then, WFAA’s original analytics programs required creating reports that only sometimes made it to the TV team in time for the midday news show. That data was often several hours old – meaning the window of opportunity to promote a spiking story was lost, nor were the TV producers always aware of sudden high-traffic stories. WFAA needed data that matched the pace of their newly aligned TV and online teams. (Bet you see where this is going, right?)

wfaa belo-2

Data-driven integration

In 2011, Belo brought Chartbeat to their network of stations, including WFAA. Chartbeat’s real-time data was soon an integral part of the newsroom’s workflow. To bridge the teams and facilitate the constant dialogue between them they physically combined the newsrooms and put up two easy-to-see Chartbeat monitors that display WFAA’s data.

The two large Chartbeat monitors – one complete with keyboard and mouse for real-time interaction – provide an ambient way for the team to stay informed up-to-the-minute about WFAA’s audience. Through these the both teams know what digital content could benefit from on-air follow up. Douglass Boehner, Digital Operations Manager describes the staff using Chartbeat as a source for discovering content that has great online or on-air potential.

Stronger content from screen to screen

These days a typical online-TV integrated workflow might start off with a story that spikes on Chartbeat. The digital team then promotes the story through social media. The on-air team adds it to the next broadcast and incorporates online or social comments.

WFAA’s efforts are an example of collaboration at its finest, in part due to both teams digging in to Chartbeat’s real-time data. TV producers are informed about story ideas that might otherwise stay beneath their radar. They know what their audience is reading and talking about every second of the day.

“Chartbeat starts the conversation.
It’s there telling you things you need to know right now.
Chartbeat doesn’t dictate the news, but it can create a strategy for what needs to be done.”
– Douglass Boehner, Operations Manager, WFAA.COM