Concurrents Deep Dive: Balancing Audience Size and Engagement
On the client support team we spend our days consulting with clients big and small to make sure they’re getting the most out of their Chartbeat tools – so we get asked a lot of questions. One question that keeps finding its way into our inbox that never fails to give me pause:
Why don’t I see a count of total visitors to my site?
This question misses the fundamental point of Chartbeat’s real-time philosophy. Our core metric for measuring audience size, concurrents, doesn’t represent a running total – and that’s on purpose.
The Value of Concurrents
There are a lot of misconceptions and ‘almost there’ definitions of concurrents, so the first thing I want to do is set the record straight: one concurrent equals one open window on your site, and only when that visitor closes that window do they stop counting. Concurrents are not a measure of pageviews per minute, and they do not assume a visitor will be engaged for any given amount of time.
Concurrents diverge from other event-based analytics methodologies in that they don’t assume a visitor will have a set session length — Google Analytics, for example, automatically attributes a session length of five minutes to each visitor, even if they leave after just 30 seconds.
This kind of system inevitably misreports who is on your site and inflates the metrics on poor content while undervaluing highly engaging longer stories.
With Chartbeat, on the other hand, you always know whether or not visitors are still reading your content.
A Closer Look
To really understand the value of using the concurrents metric, let’s look at an example within a rapidly growing traffic segment: mobile visitors.
Tracking mobile concurrents in Chartbeat completely excludes all pages, tabs, and applications that are running in the device’s background. While it’s easy to toggle between windows and tabs on your desktop browser, you almost never do that on a phone, so we only report readers who are currently looking at your content.
To illustrate this difference, let’s say that during the middle of your workday you sort your dashboard by “mobile” and check the top three or four stories. You may see something like this:
The top three stories have a similar number of mobile concurrents, but one of them, Story 2, has a significantly lower average engaged time. If the audience on Story 2 is only spending a fraction of the time on that page, it’s probably also racking up pageviews at a much higher rate in order to stay in the top ranking.
In a different analytics tool you may see Story 2 as the strongest at the top of a standard “total pageview” report. However, both Story 1 and Story 3 are far more valuable for your mobile audience — those are the stories that are most engaging to your readers.
So what exactly does this mean for you? The best action to take at this moment would be to maximize exposure to Stories 1 and 3 among mobile readers and overall. A friendly reminder from your data-science team at Chartbeat:
Readers who spend three minutes engaging with content are twice as likely to return to your site in the next week compared to visitors who only read for one minute.
Analytics services that inflate the pageview totals or over-report active visitors shouldn’t inform your content strategy. In this case Story 2 gets the most clicks, but Stories 1 and 3 are the real winners for mobile readers. With so many different kinds of metrics out there, it’s important to be critical about what you’re trying to measure and how you plan to use that to your advantage.