Archive for January, 2017

What a year it was. From major political events like the U.S. Election and Brexit to the summer Olympics; from gun violence and terrorism to gripping personal narrative on issues of social justice, the stories of 2016 captured our attention.

Chartbeat is proud to release the Most Engaging Stories of 2016, featuring the most captivating journalism of the year across the Chartbeat network as defined by Total Engaged Time — the total amount of time visitors spent actively engaged in content. This year’s top stories, which surfaced out of more than 46 million articles, cover a wide range of topics and span format types like interactives, live blogs, and longform content. See the stories that defined the breadth, the depth, and the power of journalism in 2016.

And follow along on Twitter with #MetricShift this Friday at 1pm to tweet about it with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!

Most Engaging Stories of 2016

So what were the key trends?



Political stories ruled 2016. Between the U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, political stories made up the majority of the top stories, including nine of the top ten. This differs greatly from 2015, which only had one political story make it into the top ten. Even more surprising is the breadth of formats delivered this year: from interactive polling experiences to live blogs and fact-checking, this year’s political coverage proves that innovative storytelling is alive and well.



In many ways, this was the Year of the Interactive, with election prediction pages and live results pages captivating our attention and driving a massive number of engaged, repeat visitors. The top story, 538’s General Election predictor, received more Engaged Time than the top five stories of 2015 combined.


Breaking News

Breaking news stories were second only to politics this year and made up a solid 24 of the top stories. While many of the top political stories built up traffic across the year, the top breaking stories garnered most of their traffic in the hours and days after the events they covered. That attention runs the gamut from major storms to winning Powerball tickets, proving that breaking news comes in all shapes and sizes.



In a world where attention is scarce, 2016 proved that longform content still has a strong role in engaging and moving readers, with articles on Tiger Woods, 9/11, and El Chapo leading in this category. While last year’s overall top story was The Atlantic’s longform piece, What ISIS Really Wants, with 3:00+ minutes of average Engaged Time, longform was pushed to just outside of the top 10 this year.



Powerful, personal narratives dominated the list of top opinion articles, driven by strong social traffic, demonstrating that when we emotionally connect with a story, we’re more apt to share and discuss it. Many 2016 opinion pieces focused on the moral, ethical, and emotional reasons one might support Clinton or Trump.


Justice and Rights

Articles with a strong social message were a major part of the national discussion in 2016. Notably, many of them were told from a first person perspective. From major investigative pieces rooted in undercover work to the moving letter from a Stanford student to her assailant, first-hand accounts and breaking news affecting personal and societal rights captured our attention as well as our empathy.


Check out the full list of the most engaging stories here. Have any questions or comments? Reach out to and let us know your thoughts.

Don’t forget to follow along with our #MetricShift Twitter chat this Friday at 1pm to discuss more about the most engaging stories of 2016 with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!

Here at Chartbeat, we’ve always focused on helping you understand where your audience is spending their time on your site – but we know that’s not the full story on how they’re engaging with your content. It’s a social world out there, folks, and our newest feature, Offsite Social, pipes your CrowdTangle data directly into your real-time dashboard so you can see an end-to-end look at a story’s performance – spanning both your home-base and top social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

For those of us in the weeds everyday, this enhancement offers the simple yet significant value of tool consolidation, as well as providing even deeper insights into your audience. These insights are all pulled together, both on and off-site, in one familiar space, so it’s easier – and quicker – to make strategic decisions on how to connect with your audience. No more need to click between two interfaces.

If you’re an author, journalist, content creator, or anything in between, Offsite Social not only shows you how much your content is being shared and discussed, but also offers an instant opportunity for you to interact with your readers and join the conversation.

As you experiment with new opportunities to capitalize on your content’s popularity around the web, put these best practices to work and see how they enhance your perspective on what it means to build an audience in a distributed-content world.

  1. Boost your reach and build a loyal following
    Quickly locate the platforms and niche audiences where your stories are resonating and identify dialogues worth engaging in: answer audience questions, clarify any concerns related to the topic, share related content to spark ongoing interest, target influencers to follow and evangelize them – maybe they’ll lead you to your next story!

  2. Drive more visitors back to your site
    Ultimately, the goal with social readers should be to convert them into a loyal audience. If they have a good experience when they visit, they’re more likely to visit you, even directly, again.

    For high performing articles, quickly package and post similar stories to make the most of the momentum you’ve developed. If you can get a visitor from Facebook to click onto one extra article within their visit, they are twice as likely to return the next week.
  3. Get more milage out of existing content
    Seeing any Zombies in the dashboard (old stories coming back to life unexpectedly)? Your audience might be regaining interest, or maybe it’s an opportunity to gain new followers.

    If an article has high social activity, but low on-site engagement, something needs to change. The topic and promotion is attractive, but the onsite experience isn’t delivering. Should you change the art? The layout? Is the lead buried? Use the Heads Up Display to gauge scroll behavior and adjust accordingly—regardless of the device your audience is using.

  4. Experiment with social momentums in real-time.
    Looking to increase your Facebook-referred traffic? The best thing you can do is to first foster organic traction around the story, before you push on your branded page. Identify and engage influencers pre-push and use the dashboard to gauge if the timing is right.

    Engaging your social audience will present other simple yet valuable opportunities as well. Are people using different naming conventions? Consider mimicking their abbreviations and nicknames for people and places. New angles might be uncovered in social conversations that inform on-site headlines and leads.


Understand the day-to-day social momentum of your articles in the context of your onsite content performance to sharpen your own editorial instincts, and combine it with a 360-degree view into how people are talking about and sharing your content across social media and adapt your social media strategies to close the social news gap.