Archive for March, 2014


“Oh snap, this article has ridiculously high Recirculation, what’s the best thing we can do with this in real time?” This is a question we’re hearing more and more from editorial teams since our release of the Recirculation feature as part of our Chartbeat Publishing revamp back in December. It’s also a question that brings attention to a great use case, with positive results.

Recirculation is the percentage of your audience that’s clicking from one article page and then moving to any other page within a single visit. It measures how well your traffic is flowing, and it gauges stickiness—your ability to keep visitors lingering on your website.

The first aspect that you need to recognize with an article generating high Recirculation, is that it is a traffic driver that encourages a “path of least resistance” for those who come to your site, allowing them to dig into more content. More content means more time spent perusing your website, and more Engaged Time means a more loyal audience. This is the “big picture” idea, so let’s explore your first strong step toward loyalty, using Recirculation.


A charming article with high Recirculation—say, with a rate north of 30%—opens doors for your website, but only as long as people are reaching it to begin with. So the real-time action here is to promote this article as much as possible. (Naturally, this drives more visitors from this particular article to your other pages.) More important, look to promote it via side-door traffic sources, through social media, linking partners, or search engines via SEO tactics.

The reason I say this is that these are the primary referral sources for new visitors, and these types of readers are the hardest to draw deeper into your website. So now’s the chance to put your best foot forward. The other reason I like to focus here is because we’ve seen that new visitors with three minutes of Engaged Time are twice as likely to return next week than those with one minute of Engaged Time. In this case, you’re putting your site in the best position to drive that number up, by sending visitors deeper and increasing their exposure.

So what’s the long-term action here? Beyond the quality of the initial article itself, learn what’s working with your packaging and article structure, too, and repeat it. What was it about the second article that caused people to click into them from the first? Where were the links located on the first article the reader was on (in a widget, embedded in the sidebar)? How did you choose the links you embedded to get users to journey deeper? These are all things to think about on your road to higher Recirculation, and eventually, a more loyal audience.

One extra note: I embedded a couple links in this post. Did you notice how these links open in new windows to more interesting content on our blog? Recirculatin’ while dropping facts about recirculatin’…

How do you measure your visitors? Maybe you’ve lived by pageviews, monthly unique visitors, or ‘click’ measurements on various elements on a web page. Or, maybe you use a more sophisticated metric, such as Chartbeat’s Engaged Time.

At the end of the day, we’re looking to get a better understanding of our audiences. We can then leverage that knowledge to provide great content consistently, along with better overall experiences. However, what’s the next step for a publisher, armed with powerful real-time analytics? How can that governing metric, such as Engaged Time, be improved in a systematic way? Enter website optimization. Like the name suggests, is the practice of continuously A/B testing and refining a website to present the best version of a page to their audience members.

The attention-span window on the web is shrinking rapidly. Content giants like AOL, CBS Interactive, The New York Times, and Comcast NBC Universal consistently rank among comScore’s top 50 visited websites, but still struggle to develop a loyal reader base. The quality of your content may be strong, but the competition for eyeballs and engagement is fierce.

Website optimization allows publishers the ability to take immediate action based on feedback gained from analytics. No longer will you need to guess what the optimal headline, copy, or layout of an article should be. You can now test several variations of a page, find the winner, and use the winning variation going forward.

As an example of what to test on your website, we’ll use USA Today to show how a publisher can think about optimizing its user experience for audience engagement, audience growth, and return visits. USA Today is not an Optimizely customer, and these ideas are purely hypothetical. (And we thank USA Today for the inspiration!)


With testing data on hand, publishers have the power to make decisions on copy, content, design, and virtually any other variable that affects a website’s success. Furthermore, a publisher can now target content to very specific visitor attributes, getting readers closer to the personalized experience they all crave and enjoy. The end result is a tailored, highly relevant experience for individual readers: imagine a front page article that surfaces relevant local news to visitors from different states and cities.

These statements aren’t based on conjecture. The numbers speak for themselves. Optimizely’s media customers in the Publishing space see an average lift of 29% in pageviews and 14% in reader engagement.

Optimizely wants to put the ability to ask questions of your audience—through running experiments and tests on your website—in the hands of anyone with a role at a publishing company. Our brand new guide, “The Ultimate Guide to Website Optimization for Media Companies,” provides an in-depth and thorough crash course on A/B testing.

For more information about Optimizely, visit

On Friday, Digiday wrote a piece examining some assumptions that are all too often made about the way people read on the internet. It covered a bunch of our favorite stuff including that the conventionally “good” advertising spots aren’t necessarily in the places people read. In addition, Lucia introduced something we’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the duration of an impression.

Over the past year, the industry has finally rallied around a viewability metric. As a result we’ve seen a lot of premium publishers do great work to make their ads more viewable and – in turn – pull way ahead of their lower quality competitors. Naturally now, more and more ads are becoming viewable across the internet. Which begs a new question we hear almost daily from publishers: how do I prove that my inventory is actually better than the alternative?

Everyone is looking to sell based on reader attention, but I’ve yet to meet someone who thinks that the viewable impression actually helps them do that — particularly when it comes to premium sites.

So we’ve been working with publishers, helping them take the next step: understanding how long people are actively focused on content while an ad is on the screen.

There’s a lot of research out there that says the more time people spend with an ad, the more likely that ad is to succeed, but this research rarely looks at how long real ads on the internet perform.

We decided to find out.

We took a look across a select group of publishers to find out how long ads are seen when they’re seen.


Turns out, half of all viewable ads are seen for 1-5 seconds while the other half are, obviously, seen for longer than that. The natural reaction is to look at each number of seconds and sort of consider them “engagement points” and just assume that a higher number means better ads, but it’s actually not that black and white.

Research has shown over and over that at about ten seconds of exposure diminishing returns start to set in and each additional second is worth less in terms of recall than the previous ones; that doesn’t mean, however, that every ad should seek to be seen for ten seconds. It means that different ads are right for different goals.

If an advertiser is trying to get their name out there as efficiently as possible in a pure awareness play, they likely want to be buying a spot where shorter impression duration occurs. Whereas if an advertiser is trying to get a specific message out there or telling a more complex story than just their logo appearing in an ad, they should look for one in the 6-15 second range.

This, of course, leaves a big chunk of impressions that are longer than that ideal engagement time and don’t really help advertisers any more than 15 seconds ones. We’re working with a handful of people to see what kind of creative things they can do to solve that, getting the most of their inventory and giving their audience fresh content that benefits everyone involved — the publisher’s business, the brand’s goals, the reader’s interest.

The point is, not every viewable impression is equal but that doesn’t mean that the shorter ones are categorically worse. It means that we should think about the goals of a campaign and which impressions are the right way to achieve these goals.


Growing an audience is about doing two things: getting new visitors in the door and getting them to come back. Many websites can successfully pull off one of the two, but it’s far more difficult pulling off both. If your goal as a publisher is to convert your fly-by visitors into die-hard loyalists, then you need to successfully meet both challenges. That’s where we come in.

Take a look at your Chartbeat Publishing Dashboard‘s “visitor frequency” module:


As you can see here, there are currently 7,734 new visitors, 8,424 returning visitors, and 6,274 loyal visitors on this website. Here’s a quick refresher on those definitions: New visitors are the folks in your audience who are visiting the site for the first time in at least 30 days. Loyal visitors have visited on eight or more days of the last 16 days. And returning visitors fall somewhere in between; they’ve been here recently, but not with enough frequency to be considered loyal. Understanding the composition of your audience is key. Here’s why:

Often times, a website will have a high number of new visitors and a low number of loyal visitors, as is the case here. That means the website is doing a great job attracting new visitors, but it needs to work harder to bring folks back again. If you’re in this camp, you need to develop a retention strategy. Even a simple newsletter can go a long way.

Conversely, a website might face the opposite challenge: a low number of new visitors and a high number of loyal visitors. That means there’s a solid core audience, but the website isn’t doing enough to broaden that base of loyalists. That requires the development of an acquisition strategy, and a stronger social media presence might be in order.

Of course, as you click to pivot on any one of these segments, you might notice that different articles or types of content are resonating among each segment. In other words, some content may do a great job of attracting new visitors whereas some pieces may sustain your loyal readers. To go one step further, you can look at the composition of your audience as it relates to the sections of your website. For example, Sports readers may come every day during football season, but Opinion readers may only come through Facebook once a week.

So, how does your audience stack up? Let us know at

Want to learn more about how to use Chartbeat Publishing to grow your audience? The Chartcorps is hosting a “Audience 101” webinar on Thursday, March 27 at 1 p.m. EST. Sign up now.

One of my primary responsibilities as Penton‘s Director of Content Analytics is to ensure our 300+ person content team across 17 extremely niche verticals (Heard of National Hog Farmer? Yep, that’s one of ours) has access to timely, relevant web data, to allow them to create engaging content.  In an attempt to do that, we inundate our team with reports—daily, weekly and monthly, plus plenty of ad hoc reports. These weighty reports exhaustively cover what’s being read, who is reading it, what is being shared, how they’re finding us, and on and on. It’s a whole lot of information to absorb—probably too much for someone whose main focus should be on content creation. To make matters worse, some of the information these reports provide is frankly not very insightful.

Take the “time spent on page” metric. This should be one of the primary indicators of engagement with a piece of content, but traditional analytics tools (we use Adobe products, but Google Analytics is also guilty) seriously botch this metric. They measure time spent via calculating the amount of time elapsed from one page load to the next, ignoring whether the user was actually engaging with (or even seeing) the content. Additionally, if a user “bounces” their time spent is not considered at all. This results in an inflated, unreliable number, especially when used to examine a single piece of content.

Enter Chartbeat. When Penton’s new Chief Data Officer came on board in January, he immediately suggested we consider engaging with Chartbeat. Fast-forward 36 days and Chartbeat was in place across 70 Penton websites. (Nothing like executive support to push a project along.) One of the features that excited me most about Chartbeat was its Engaged Time metric. By actively pinging readers’ browsers every few seconds and looking for signs of engagement with the content being measured—scrolling, typing, clicking—we get actionable data our content teams can use. Marry that with the “% of page viewed” metric available in the Heads Up Display, and we have powerful information about exactly how our readers are engaging with our content.

But perhaps more importantly, Chartbeat’s overall presentation is slick—it manages to make data fun in a way that my reports could never replicate. There is something about the immediacy of the data (“There are 13 people from Twitter reading my new blog post right now”) and the ever-so-slight-voyeuristic quality (“Oh no… they’re not scrolling!?”) that provides a compelling user experience. I’ve seen proof of this from the team here—I’m hearing from content creators I’ve never spoken about metrics with before telling me how excited they are to dig in to this new tool.

Penton is still a very new Chartbeat client, and we have a way to go before we figure out exactly where and when we can integrate these insights into our content creation process. (Is it worth the effort to restructure existing content to further drive engagement? Will the use of inline related links modules significantly improve recirculation? Should we highlight related content, or trending content?) And, there is some additional functionality which would be extremely helpful. (A dedicated “Newsletter” traffic source—nudge, nudge.) We’re excited to partner with the Chartbeat team to help meet these and other challenges.

Penton is an information services company providing workflow solutions and insightful content to millions of professionals every day across five core markets: agriculture, transportation, natural products/food, infrastructure, and industrial design/manufacturing. Dan Cross is Penton’s Director of Content Analytics.