Archive for August, 2017

In this series, we’ll be looking at what’s capturing attention each month across a wide range of topics – from politics, to science, to entertainment. How does the media cover breaking news and how do audiences engage?  

Bombshell reports this month on Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort’s meetings with Russian lawyers dominated media coverage, further illuminating Trump’s alleged connection to Russia in multiple ways. To provide some context around how much of our attention was captured by the coverage on these reports, and see how this month’s revelations compared to previous reporting, we went back and looked at the amount of time readers have spent reading about Trump/Russia-related coverage since February, when Flynn resigned in the first major development of the storyline since inauguration.

It’s no surprise that the major advancements in the Trump/Russia investigation have resulted in large spikes in reader attention, with some even reaching up to 9 times the amount of Total Engagement that initial reports of Flynn’s resignation garnered.

Reader Engagement with the Trump/Russia Narrative since February

As you can see above, the two biggest spikes in reader attention occurred in the same week, sparked by the firing of James Comey as director of the FBI. Engagement on the collection of articles surrounding Comey’s dismissal accrued 203 million minutes of attention during a 5 day span – compared to Flynn’s resignation, which accrued just over 31 million total minutes of attention – with a single day peak of 72 million minutes.

The next story broke in quick succession after Comey’s firing when the President met with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House and was reported to have both denigrated Comey and revealed classified code-word information. Within a four day period this storyline racked up 224 million minutes of engaged time peaking at 82 million minutes.

To use this as context for last month’s breaking developments, reports of Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort’s meetings with Russian lawyers alleging to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton accrued 282 million minutes of attention. This story had a much lower single-day peak in attention than Comey’s dismissal or the Trump/Kislyak meetings, however stayed relevant for a whopping 16 days, as opposed to the 4 to 5-day lifespans experienced by the previous stories, highlighted below. This longer story lifespan lead to a higher total engagement for Trump Jr. story.

Reader Engagement with Story Lifespans Highlighted

With all of the revelations and subsequent reader interest during the month of July, it’s no surprise that the number of articles published by media have also been ramping up.

Volume of Media Coverage around Trump/Russia since February

The graph above shows the same Engagement trend line as before, this time overlaid onto the number of articles published about Trump/Russia during that time period. It’s interesting to note that there are a few clear discrepancies between volume of coverage and volume of attention. For example, media coverage saw a huge spike when the obstruction of justice investigation was announced, whereas reader engagement was relatively lower. On the other hand, reader engagement spiked when Sessions’ Russia meetings were revealed, whereas coverage around that time was a little more dispersed.  

Each time a big story breaks, we see attention coalesce toward a small number of narratives. Narratives here are groups of articles that, despite being presented by different publications or authors, for the most part address the same content. For example, after the firing of Comey, all articles about President Trump’s tweets insinuating he had recordings of his and Comey’s meetings would be considered one narrative.

To measure how distributed attention is across narratives we use Shannon Entropy. Points of low entropy represent moments in which user attention concentrates on a small number of narratives, signaling important and evocative developments which unite readers and get them focused on a singular event. Points of high entropy represent instances where user attention is very distributed across all available narratives, indicating a large variety of reader focal points.

As we can see in the graph below, entropy tends to drop with each large spike in attention, clueing us into moments of story development in the Trump/Russia saga. It’s interesting to note that this is particularly the case for the spike corresponding with Congressional testimonies.

Narrative Entropy around Trump/Russia since February

The three points at which attention was the most concentrated (or had the lowest entropy) over the timeline correspond to:

  1. Comey’s first Congressional testimony when it was announced that the FBI was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials
  2. Sally Yates’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee concerning Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election
  3. Jared Kushner’s meeting with the Senate Intelligence Panel on Russia


These dips become especially pronounced likely because of the timeliness of each issue – with each moment, many major news organizations release publicly available transcripts of meetings, such as Comey’s transcripts released the day prior to his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee or Kushner’s pre-meeting statements, which allow the public to follow along with each new piece of information. The low entropy we see shows how a singular narrative starts to capture the majority of reader attention.

At a time when political news breaks almost weekly, it’s interesting to take a look at how each narrative compares in terms of coverage and reader interest. How do you see this larger storyline evolving? Will reader interest diminish or will it continue to grow? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

In this ongoing series, I’ll walk you through tips and tricks for using Chartbeat data to full advantage — helping you connect data-driven actions to increased unique visitors, loyalty, and revenue.

It’s no secret that social media is a necessary tool in building an online audience. But how well do you actually know your social readers? Chartbeat’s Data Science team dug into the data to learn more about the habits and patterns of readers who discover stories via social channels.

Across our network of more than 50,000 sites, we found that Google and Facebook were the main drivers of traffic. On average, Facebook accounts for about 30% of external traffic. That’s a lot of readers!

Understanding the nuances of that social audience is critical to successfully converting social visitors to loyal returners. Experimenting is the best way to get a real understanding of your unique Facebook and Twitter audiences and to evaluate your social promotion strategies.

First, set up your dashboard to see the frequency of your social visitors:

  • Double pivot on “new” and “social” in your Real-Time Dashboard. The top pages list shows you which stories are doing the best job of attracting new readers to your site.  
  • Then, switch from “new” to “returning” and check to see if there’s a difference. Are there stories that are resonating with readers that are more familiar with your site, but not necessarily drawing in the new crowd? Could you promote these stories in a different way to appeal to new visitors?
  • For most sites, you’ll notice that Facebook drives significantly more traffic than Twitter. While there are a lot of great, journalistic reason to Tweet, when it comes to getting readers onto a story, Facebook is typically the better choice.

Next, try some experimentation. Post a story on your social accounts and watch the dashboard to see if that post actually brought more readers to your story. If your readers aren’t clicking, try a different approach next time: Use a quote or fact from the story, try a different type of image with your post. By running a few of these small experiments, you can build your own best practices for engaging your social audience.

In addition to varying the type and tone of your posts, you can also experiment with timing. As seen below, our research suggests that social traffic substantially underperforms overall traffic from the morning through to the early afternoon, and substantially overperforms overall traffic during evenings and nights.


So if your goal is reach, late afternoon through the evening is the best time to attract readers on social media and get them to click through to your site. That being said, this can vary based on your own content focus and promotion strategies – so make sure you experiment and find the times that see the most traffic from your unique audience.

And remember, to keep everyone in the newsroom on top of social promotion strategies and success, you can get a specific social view in your Big Board display. To do that, simply select the ‘Configure’ button in the upper right and choose “Social Traffic” from the “Traffic Sources” dropdown.

Have any questions or curious about a specific topic you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me at or @tumbling_after on Twitter.

If 2016 was the year of the platform, 2017 is the year of the subscriber. Readers are driving rapid growth in digital subscriptions, and many publishers are exploring new revenue models and seeking richer data around their subscription audience.

But are the analytics around subscribers robust enough? Subscriptions are driven by readers’ experience of content, requiring that more be done to help editorial teams and analysts understand the intersection between content and subscriptions. That’s why today we’re excited to announce something new — Subscriber Engagement analytics, a first step toward making subscriber insights robust and actionable for publishers. With it, you can:

  • Slice data by subscriber status in your Chartbeat Publishing Dashboard.
    Understand subscribers and how they behave onsite. Now, you can grasp how to keep them engaged — and pinpoint opportunities to develop subscription loyalty among your non-subscriber audience. Our current implementation offers four categories of status — Subscriber, Registered, Guest and an Unspecified setting.

  • Analyze and share data on subscriber behavior through Report Builder.
    We’ve incorporated subscription data into Report Builder, allowing you to segment all data in Report Builder by subscriber status and to incorporate subscription data into your scheduled recurring reports.

To begin using this feature, you will need to make a small implementation change, so reach out to your Account Manager. They’ll send you the documentation and help guide the process. Or, email and our Support Team can help get you started.

We’re excited to hear your thoughts about how Subscriber Engagement can help you understand your subscribers better, and deepen your acquisition and retention strategies.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions.