Why We’re Partnering with Chartbeat to Create Engaging and High-Quality Content

March 17th, 2014 by Dan Cross

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.