Archive for June, 2016

Guten Morgen!  I’m sitting here in the Vienna airport on my way back from this year’s GEN Summit, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to send a few interesting data bits your way.

The theme of this year’s conference was the rise of platform-driven news, and the role that the large tech companies are now playing in the media industry. Because of this, we thought it provided a great opportunity to talk about what we’re seeing across the Chartbeat network regarding the data behind distributed content, and how these platforms (i.e., Facebook & Google) are driving traffic, engagement, and user loyalty.  For those of you who couldn’t attend the Chartbeat Masterclass at the conference, head over to Slideshare to view the slides from my presentation.   

Here are a few takeaways you’ll find in the slides:

  • More people are now visiting sites on mobile devices than on desktop devices.  Sure, you probably already knew this.  But did you know that in the EU, 48% of visits in May were from mobile devices, compared to 45% on desktops?  In the US, 51% of visits were on mobile devices, with 43% on desktops.
  • The primary mode of behavior for a mobile audience is to land on an article page (and visit only a single article page).  Over 80% of mobile visits in both the EU and the US were to an article, and these visits typically come from Facebook (although traffic from Google is close behind).
  • US audiences spent 30% more time engaged with articles on mobile devices than on desktops.  In the EU, however, the reverse is true.  For the EU, desktop-direct-to-landing page traffic is still strong with about 25% higher engaged times.

And my favorite:

  • In May 2016, 50% more US users and 20% more EU users were socially loyal than directly loyal.  By socially loyal, I mean users who visit approximately every other day and come from a social referrer. This challenges our long-held notion that the “true” loyal audience is the audience that comes directly to our homepage. To me, this provides hope that in this mobile, article-first, driven-by-platforms world, quality content still prevails and will build a loyal audience.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note by email (dan@chartbeat.com) or tweet me @dpvalente

 

Consumption of news video online has been on the rise for years — both in terms of number of video viewers and time spent watching. Revenue from video display ads has also increased, and at a faster rate than for any other display category.

Quality video production and data-driven promotion strategies have never been more valuable to publishers. Good thing Video Editors can use the Chartbeat Publishing Video Suite to:

 

Leverage the Past to Drive Daily Decisions

Start the day with the auto-generated Daily Video Perspective to get a historical look at the top performing videos from the previous day, and use it to plan your strategies for the day. Which videos aren’t relevant anymore? Are there any newer videos to take their place—or more recent content to pair them with?

 

Take Decisive Action with Real-Time Metrics

What do these signals mean for the videos on your site?

High Starts and low Engagement: Plenty of people are curious and click play but don’t stick around to actually watch the video — maybe the video content doesn’t add anything to the story it’s paired with, or viewers felt the title was misleading.

Low Playrate and high Engagement: Not that many people who see the video are clicking play, but the people who do are actually watching it for a long time — try changing the video title or how it’s positioned on the page to boost its exposure.

High Starts and low Ad Drop-Off: A great money-maker. Not only are a significant number of people starting this video, but they’re also watching the pre-roll ad and sticking around for the actual content. If the engagement is also high, you’ve got an all-star video and you should be promoting it as widely as possible.

High Ad Drop-Off: No matter how well the video is performing in other areas, if your video has a high ad drop-off percentage most people aren’t even getting to the real content. Think about how much that ad impression is worth, and if it maybe would be better gained from a different video.

 

Let Videos Build Loyalty

Viewers are more likely to return and watch another video during the following week if they watched for a significant amount of time or watched multiple videos during their first visit. Filter on your most engaging video pages and check to see which of them have few new visitors, then boost them on social media to get your best videos in front of a new audience.

 

Want to see how other team members can put Chartbeat tools to work? Check out the stories for content creators, producerssection editorshomepage editors, and mobile editors

For more information on how Chartbeat Publishing helps Video Editors keep ‘em watching, reach out to productoutreach@chartbeat.com.

Background

A few weeks ago, our support team received an email from a Report Builder-savvy customer at the Poughkeepsie Journal who wanted to examine the differences in user engagement between their top articles on desktop computers vs. mobile devices. He wanted to better understand any differences in behavior so he and his team could be more thoughtful about their content and promotion strategy.

  

In his initial email, he had already done quite a bit of work; created a spreadsheet using Report Builder’s ‘most popular articles’ format and grouped them into device type, ran them through an excel spreadsheet to find the top 140 or so matches (since not every story ranked in the top 200 on both platforms), and even created a new field called ‘spread’ which looks at the difference between a story’s rank between the desktop and mobile version. But he needed our help to go deeper and see if we could pull out any meaningful insights.

 

As the biggest Report Builder nerd on the team I jumped at the chance to tackle this problem.

 

What Engagement Means on Different Devices

Before getting into the numbers, let’s recall what exactly Chartbeat is measuring: a user’s engagement with your page. Chartbeat listens for scroll events, keystrokes, and mouse movements to determine when a user is engaged. When this isn’t happening (for example, when a user moves into a background tab on a desktop device) Chartbeat stops attributing engagement.

 

Readers on desktop devices who leave background tabs open and never return can ultimately dilute the average engaged time number, because while they’re still being counted as a concurrent, they don’t contribute to engaged time. On mobile however, there’s a different story: once a user moves to a new app, opens a new tab, or closes the phone, the session times out.

 

Phase One: How does Engagement Compare?

Our first question was around which device type usually had the higher average engagement, so the first step was to compare engagement between devices.

 

mobile_desktop_scatterplot

The key metric we’re using here is a given story’s rank on the most engaging articles list for each device type; the higher the ranking, the less engagement it received. In the graph, each dot represents a single story and placement on the axes represent its ranking for each device type.  

 

What we see is that it loosely follows a 1:1 relationship: as you increase a story’s rank on mobile you increase at about the same rate it’s rank on desktop. Which makes sense — you’d generally expect that in most cases a highly engaging mobile story will also be engaging for desktop readers.

 

However, it’s also pretty clear that more stories sit above that trend line than below it, showing that there were more stories whose mobile versions have a better rank than their desktop counterparts.

 

Due to the differences in technology there are generally fewer deflating sessions that contribute to average engaged time on mobile it’s not surprising to see higher average engaged times for mobile. Nonetheless, when you compare the desktop and mobile average engagement ranks, there’s still a clear correlation.

 

But we wanted to go deeper. What might be happening in between these ranks is where we can learn how substantial that variation really is.

 

Phase Two: Looking Closer

By looking at how strong the variation in user engagement is between a story’s desktop and mobile versions, we can look closely at each story to see if we can identify a pattern in stories with large engagement variations.

To explore this I looked at the distribution of the differences between average mobile and desktop engaged time for each story:

mobile_desktop_histogram

I found that of the top 139 stories, mobile readers spent an average of 6 more seconds engaging with a story than desktop visitors — further evidence of higher average engaged times for mobile.

 

In fact, 15 stories (10% of the total) had mobile average engaged times that were at least 25 seconds greater than desktop readers. Digging deeper, I found that each of these stories has a highly promoted video at the top of the page.

 

Remember, Chartbeat Publishing engaged time only tracks engagement with the page and not the video player. We know that the higher engaged times aren’t coming from by users watching the videos — it appears that on the Poughkeepsie Journal, mobile readers really are just spending more time engaging with the longer-form content following video. This could be because users are conscious of running up a huge data bill, or because they’d preferred to digest the narrative quickly and quietly.

 

Either way, there’s a clear a trend here: the five pieces with large discrepancies between mobile and desktop have captivating video, whereas the bottom five stories with negative deltas don’t.

 

What does this mean for the Journal? I think it means trust their gut. It’s a great reminder that producing multimedia content shouldn’t come at the expense of written content — mobile readers will thank you for including both (and probably watch that video when they get home)!

According to the Pew Research Center, 30 of the top 50 digital news sites get more traffic to their sites and associated applications from mobile devices than from desktop. But we don’t need to tell you how important mobile is.

We’ll just tell you why mobile teams across 65 countries love Chartbeat Publishing and how they integrate our tools into their device-specific workflow:

 

Track the Performance of Your Content Among Mobile Audiences

Within the Editorial Dashboard, you can filter by device to see which articles are resonating among mobile readers, how much engagement mobile stories are accruing, and the paths by which mobile readers are arriving to your site, app, or distributed content. All in real time. Second-by-second, pixel-by-pixel. Fully understanding the way mobile readers interact with your content translates to optimized design, returning audiences, and revenue.

 

Make Mobile Editorial Adaptations in Real-Time

The Chartbeat Heads Up Display, a screen overlay that displays real-time visitor data on top of home, section, or article pages, enables teams to take specific and immediate actions to grow a mobile audience. For instance, if you’re seeing low engagement among your mobile visitors on a particular article, use the Heads Up Display to see how far down the page mobile readers are scrolling, so you can spot where engagement is coming to a halt. Break up the text with sub-headers or move around page elements in order to try and increase engagement.

 

Turn Mobile-Minded Philosophy into Social-Minded Action

Across the Chartbeat Network, social traffic is largely made up of mobile users; we found that Facebook’s share of overall mobile referrals is nearly 4x larger than its share on desktop, while Twitter’s share is 3.6x larger on mobile than on desktop. That means if you want to grow your mobile audience, you’ve got to target your top referral sources for optimal promotion strategy. Use Chartbeat Report Builder, our flexible historical reporting tool, to pull a list of the most engaging articles on mobile from the previous day, and make sure your social media manager continues to push audiences towards that content.

 

Want to see how other team members can put Chartbeat tools to work? Check out the stories for content creators, producerssection editors, and homepage editors

For more information on how Chartbeat Publishing helps Mobile Editors speak to every audience, reach out to productoutreach@chartbeat.com.

As many major publishers and platforms have transitioned to using HTTPS, a great move for user privacy and security, a side effect has been a commensurate rise in dark social traffic — traffic that can’t be attributed to a particular referrer. Luckily, sites using HTTPS can still have their outbound traffic properly attributed if they chose to do so (e.g. by use of the meta referrer tag). We’ve chronicled major changes to dark social attribution here to ensure that publishers are up to date on the meaning of their traffic sources.

One of the largest sources of dark social on the web has been the Yahoo homepage, which drives an enormous amount of traffic and moved to using HTTPS over the past year, causing their traffic to become dark for publisher sites that don’t default to HTTPS. For publishers who have partnerships with Yahoo, this has meant that directly attributing the volume of traffic they’re receiving has been difficult.

On June 2, though, Yahoo pushed a change to add a meta referrer tag to their homepage and correctly attribute their traffic to sites using HTTP, and we’ve immediately seen dramatic results, as represented in the figure below.

yahoo

 

Since the change, we’ve seen a roughly 6x increase in attributable traffic coming from Yahoo, making it one of the most significant referrers on the web. On the day before the change, Yahoo was the 16th largest referrer across the Chartbeat network, and in the hours after the change Yahoo jumped to the sixth largest referrer (after Facebook, Google Search, Twitter, Google News, and Bing).

Between this change and other updates by LinkedIn and Facebook, we’ve seen significant moves in the past 18 months by many of the world’s largest platforms to ensure that all traffic is correctly attributed. We’ll continue to work with publishers and platforms to track down sources of dark social, and we’ll keep you updated here as more publishers move into the light.

Technical note: for those used to the hsrd.yahoo.com referrer, traffic sent via this change will carry the referrer yahoo.com, not hsrd.yahoo.com.