Archive for November, 2013

Links We Like: Online Media

November 22nd, 2013 by Joe

links we like

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.

I’m back on the blog to share few recent favorites from my Instapaper. Today’s suggested reads run the gamut from an update on Nate Silver’s widely-anticipated presence at ESPN to the implications of mobile as the solely growing media platform. Enjoy – and please let me know your thoughts in the Comments.

Is Daniel Ek, Spotify founder, going to save the music industry … or destroy it? The Guardian examines the Swedish entrepreneur, who tells record labels that the best way to survive is to give everything away for free. Most have signed up – but many are yet to be convinced. This quote from Ek, “”Why are we releasing albums the same way as we did 10 years ago? Music is no longer restricted by the format it’s on” made me wonder how Spotify’s lessons might be applicable to online publishers.

Business Insider‘s Henry Blodget tackles the Future of Digital, showing that mobile is the only platform where time is growing. We all know this but how does this change your outlook and where are you focusing? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

This AdAge piece on AOL’s ad strategy caught my eye – a lot of interesting thoughts around how AOL has structured premium and programmatic to coexist and drive real revenue for their vast volume of content.

Nate Silver is promising data, data, and more data with FiveThirtyEight’s ESPN debut next year according to Neiman Journalism Lab. With that he hopes to push the critical thinking down to the user. We focus every day on the balance between presenting insights and showing deeper data that allows our users to draw additional conclusions. It will be interesting for product teams to learn from the new crop of data journalists as well as how these new disciplines will help the industry push boundaries both on the consumer and business side.

Alexander Howard explores the meaty topic of ethics in data journalism in a great blog post for the Tow Center. As public records go online, what must journalists consider prior to revealing potentially harmful data about the very same public they’re trying to inform?

What articles have caught your eye recently? Share them in the Comments below!

This marks the fourth part in our ongoing series on traffic sources. If you haven’t already read them, check out the introduction and my analyses of direct traffic and traffic from social media.

Today, we’re going to be talking about traffic from external links — those unpredictable pickups from sites across the internet. Unsurprisingly, external referrers provides sites’ greatest volume of new visitors. They also provide sites’ greatest challenge in terms of generating actual engagement.

Types of external traffic

Broadly, we can divide external referrals into two camps: huge aggregators that send large volumes of traffic and incidental links from across the web. Let’s go through each in turn.

In any discussion of external traffic sources, Google News deserves its own special treatment. As opposed to the majority of traffic sources, where links are human-curated, Google News pickups are algorithmically generated. That means that while most sites can probably only expect a few pickups from major referrers on a given day, many sites have hundreds of articles linked on Google News — over the last two weeks alone, over 616,000 distinct pages across our network received traffic from Google News.

Because of its volume of links, Google News is a significant and consistent driver of traffic — you’re not going to get new pickups from most sites every day, but you can reasonably expect to get daily links from Google News. On the other hand, while a pickup from many external sites might presage a cascade of links from across the web, Google News pickups are not necessarily predictive of broader trends.

People who read Google News tend to do so frequently, which means that visitors from Google News come back substantially more frequently than average. On a typical site, over a quarter of visitors from Google News return in the next week. Very few of those Google News visitors who do return, though, come back to a site directly — fewer than 15%. That means that to attract these users back you have to concentrate on receiving a regular supply of links from Google News.


chartbeat external traffic quote

Perhaps the best example of a non-automated site that sends massive amounts of traffic is Drudge Report. Just over 2000 pages had traffic from Drudge over the past two weeks, though the total volume of traffic sent was roughly comparable to that of Google News. Visitors from Drudge rarely read more than one page in their visit and are exceptionally unlikely to return to a site — fewer than 15% of Drudge visitors to a typical site return, and fewer than 15% of returners come back directly. Drudge is perhaps the most significant example, but we see similar behavior across most aggregators. Indeed, large social sites like Reddit send traffic that’s typically even less likely to return to your site than that from Drudge.

Beyond the largest sources of external traffic, there’s a long tail containing all of the incidental links that occur. These links have such huge variation in traffic quality that it’s difficult to sum them up. The best guiding principle we see is that, unsurprisingly, visitors from similarly-oriented websites are dramatically more likely to engage with your site and return than those who come from sites unrelated to your own. Visitors on a left-leaning political site, for example, can be twice as likely to return when coming from another left-leaning site as opposed to a right-leaning one. That means it’s always important to consider external traffic spikes in context — a pickup from a referrer that’s likely to send high quality traffic might be worth doubling down on, whereas a pickup from an unrelated site might be best treated as a less significant event.


Concerns for external traffic

We’ve consistently seen that people who come from external sources are: (1) very likely to be new to your site and (2) unlikely to return and extremely unlikely to return except via links from the same referrer.


That means that you should interpret an external pickup very differently than a pickup on social or a page that’s getting its traffic from the homepage. To get visitors from Twitter, for instance, to return you might push them to follow you on Twitter, but no such mechanism exists for external traffic. External links typically denote interest a topic, as opposed to interest in your site in general. To that end, stories garnering the most external traffic should be thought of as inspirations for follow-up pieces. The rare external site with a high return rate should be thought of as a top candidate for a link partnership.

external site external traffic chartbeat

Of course, external sources’ extremely low return rates can also be taken as a challenge: if 3% of visitors from Drudge come back to your site and you can push that number to 5%, you could see dramatic growth in your audience. Compared to pushing Facebook traffic’s return rate up from 30%, that challenge might be relatively easy.

Next time

Over the past four pieces we’ve given a numerical breakdown of what traffic from each major source looks like. In our next, final piece, we’ll go over some major strategies that publishers are using to increase the traffic that comes in the door and strategies they’re using for audience retention. Stay tuned!

Here at Chartbeat, we realize you’re super busy and often have a ton of content to comb through, keep an eye on, and generally manage. With this in mind, it’s good to use your time in the Chartbeat dashboard as efficiently as possible. That’s what makes the dashboard module Notable Pages so perfect .

Notable Pages points out key pages you need to be paying attention to right now so you can take action ASAP on these insights.

This module was designed give you interesting facts about your top 20 pages. By checking in with your site every fifteen seconds, Chartbeat is able to accurately track how your audience is interacting with your content in real time.

Notable pages aren’t necessarily your pages with the most concurrents on them. Notable pages signal something interesting and often actionable is happening on a particular page.

Maybe a page has a lot of traffic coming from Twitter. Or perhaps a page has really high Engaged Time. Whatever the fun fact is we’re going to call it out to you!

So now you’re probably wondering, what do I do with Notable Pages? If one of your Notable Pages is getting a lot of visits from an external traffic source that’s linking to the page, this is a perfect opportunity to promote this page on one of your social networks like Twitter or Facebook. Or if this Notable Page has a higher-than-average Engaged Time, it’s worth double-checking the links on that page to make sure you’re encouraging your engaged readers to keep reading on your site after they finish this particular article or post.

If you want more information about Notable Pages head over to our support site. Using Notable Pages in a unique way? Tell me and your fellow Chartbeat brethren all about your mad skills in the Comments.



We’re on our fourth Chartteam Spotlight y’all and it’s about time I show you how the product-side of Chartbeat lives. After all, what’s a tech startup without the various individuals who make our products all that they can be?


Meet Andrew Oddo, a member of the Chartcorps – Chartbeat’s front-line and your go-to source for educational support about our products. Andrew comes from a rather untraditional background. Many years ago, he once thought he’d become a musician, but he put those dreams aside to study Marketing and Finance at Boston College. He still keeps the music alive by stashing a guitar at the office for those late night office jams. Andrew spent a couple years in the wonderful world of finance before jumping into the startup pool with Chartbeat.

What cool things are you working on these days?

There’s a huge education initiative at Chartbeat and within Chartcorps right now, as we look to roll out the next version of Chartbeat Publishing.  We’re trying to create the right materials to show our clients how to get the most out of this fiery thing!  As part of that, our team has broken down the publishing product function-by-function to understand how and why people are using Chartbeat the way they are, and how we can educate our customers so they can use it even more effectively.  It’s been a cool way for me to understand the narrative of Chartbeat’s story with our users in mind: how did the product come to be, and where is it going?

What challenges are you facing as we continue to grow?

My biggest challenge is figuring out how to capture all the knowledge from the wise men who came before me at Chartbeat, and how to leave behind time capsules of knowledge for those who will need to learn about our products in the future (as clients or as Chartteam members).

Sometimes it feels like we’re moving just as fast as the data pours in, and it becomes a race against the very thing we created.  How do we learn more so that we can serve our clients needs on a better level?  How do we adequately take their feedback and channel it to all of our sharp engineers, designers, data scientists, and product owners so that they can create a better product for our clients’ needs?  It’s a race against the pings themselves!

What have you learned working here?

How the rubber meets the road, and where I can be a part of that.  I think we’ve all learned this one way or another, but the Chartcorps is in a funny position because we have our hands in many parts of the product, and certainly the client support side of things as well.  When you’re put in a situation like this, sometimes your biggest responsibility is to simply make sure the car keeps moving forward – even if it’s not quite within your “title” (whatever that is these days?!) – to do what you need to do to make that happen.  This position has taught me quite a bit about organizational structure and how efficient and awesome teams are built.  It’s also taught me about what it means to own many little responsibilities, to help keep things going forward.

What do you think one of the best Chartbeat perks are?

The culture of unlimited learning really is the best perk to me.  It’s really an awesome thing to be a part of. There are a ton of talented people here, many of whom have specialized skills that make them, to me, the best at what they do out of anyone I know.  And when they take time off from being great at what they do, they’re willing to teach someone else a little bit of their talents…they don’t have to…they just do.  We have group coding classes, “Startbeat” meetings where we learn about how startups work, guest speakers, lunch n’ learns, learning over beers, learning about beers, learning to make beers, learning to learn.  It’s a lot of learning, a lot of fun.

So you see, we’re a hardworkin’ crew here at Chartbeat and our varied backgrounds power this startup every single day. If you’re intrigued, keep an eye on our Jobs page for forthcoming opportunities to join the Chartteam.


Earlier this year, we rolled out the Daily Content Perspective. Our goal was not only to give our clients an end-of-day summary, but also to provide more context and color, uncover significant new insights, and make it simple to understand how things played out over the course of a day. But, in talking to publishers, we’ve come to realize that it’s not just about the content on the page—it’s about building relationships with the people on the page, too.

So, we’re excited to introduce the yin to the Daily Content Perspective’s yang—the Weekly Audience Perspective. Refreshed every Monday morning, the Weekly Audience Perspective gives you a seven-day view of your audience’s behavior, and it can answer lots of questions: Which referrers are sending me the most valuable traffic? How much time are my visitors actively spending with my content? Which visitors are most likely to come back to my site?

And, as with everything we do, we’re emphasizing engagement. Why? Well, because as we learned a few months ago, we know there’s a correlation between visitors’ engagement and their propensity to return. That is, we know that visitors who read an article for three minutes return twice as often as those who read for one minute. So, if you want an audience that returns—and returns often—Engaged Time is one of the best leading indicators out there.

Now, on with the show…


referrers-gawkerZero in on your most valuable referrers

To start building a returning and loyal audience, you first need to know which referrers are driving the most visitor activity and engagement. The Weekly Audience Perspective shows you, with a simple 1-to-10 ranking, which referrers are sending visitors who actually spend time engaging with your content. And, to give you a better sense of who holds sway, it shows the number of articles referrers are linking to over the week.


Keep visitors reading, reading, reading…recirculation-gawker

It’s not enough to just get visitors to come to your site. You want your visitors to stay awhile, spend time jumping from article to article, diving into long reads. With the Weekly Audience Perspective, it’s easy to know which referrers send quality visitors—the folks who are tuned in—and how well you’re recirculating visitors through your site. See how much time visitors spent on their first page and on subsequent pages.


gawker-categoriesGet your best visitors to return more often

There are some visitors who come back again and again and others who visit once and disappear forever. But if you want to build a returning and loyal audience, you need to woo the folks who are most likely to return. The Weekly Audience Perspective tells you the percentage of visitors—from any referrer—that returned to your site, as well as how many returned directly. Three simple categories make it easy to size up your audience.


Discover the relationships among sectionsgawker-sections

Not only can you find out which sections are most engaging—giving you a better sense of where your visitors are spending their time—but you can also compare visitor return rates for each section. What’s more, you can gain insight into the relationships among sections and begin to understand how traffic is flowing between them. That’s particularly useful if you want to cross-promote your content across sections.


Now, go forth and conquer…

If you’re already signed up with Chartbeat Publishing, the new Weekly Audience Perspective is waiting for you. Log in and check it out now—you’ll find it under “Perspectives.” If you’re not already on the Chartbeat Publishing train, we’d love to talk with you and show you more. Give us a call at 646-218-9333 or send an e-mail to