A look back, a look ahead

As 2017 comes to a close, we at Chartbeat find ourselves incredibly grateful for the remarkable year we’ve had. In October, we evolved our brand to match the evolving industry. We launched new tools (Historical Dashboard, Subscriber Engagement Tracking, a new Reporting suite), and enhanced our existing ones (Offsite Social, Headline Testing). We’ve also continued to grow our customer base all around the world. Chartbeat products now serve over 700 enterprise clients and more than 50,000 sites and apps.

Impactful stories happen everywhere and we are proud to be in newsrooms in more than 65 countries to help those stories connect with readers. We had a great year attending events on 4 continents (and will be in Australia in January!). It is an honor for each of us to come to work each day to help our clients get their stories out to eager readers.  

Next week, we’ll release our Top Stories of 2017 list, which takes a look at the stories that readers were most engaged with this year. For our team, preparing this list is an annual highlight, reminding us just how much readers crave stories that help them make sense of our world. For all of the concerns about fake news and trust in media, one thing is clear: the critical mass of readers want quality, fact-based storytelling more than ever.  

Looking back, 2015’s Top Story, What Isis Really Wants, remains the definitive piece on the Islamic State and its global effects.  2016’s Top Story, Five Thirty Eight’s Election Forecast, was the place readers returned to again and again to stay informed on the most contentious Presidential campaign in American history. We’re tallying up 2017 as we speak, and it’s a truly incredible list. We can’t wait to share it next week…

2018 will be Chartbeat’s tenth year. Here in New York, we’re busy planning new features and products to help you build, engage and monetize your audience. Many of these new features and products start (just like the Top Stories list) with the data we look at every day across our incredible network of clients. As we close out the year, I wanted to share with you a few of the key trends we’re seeing in that data below. If the research jogs ideas or questions for you, send me an e-mail or reach out on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Holidays!

– John

Publisher success lies in what makes someone stay, read further and return day after day.

Chartbeat research continues to find that longer engaged time drives higher loyalty. A new reader who engages for a longer amount of time during their visit is more likely to return.  The more a reader returns, the more pages they consume and the longer they read on the page. This drives viewability and, ultimately, ad revenue.  It’s a self-reinforcing cycle, the more you optimize for engagement, the more loyalty you drive, and the more advertising revenue you earn. But, half of visitors who click through to an article hardly read what they land on — 45% spend less than 15 seconds on the page — meaning that publishers have a significant opportunity to optimize engagement.  

The Homepage is still the first destination for your most valuable audience.

The homepage, surprisingly, is not dead. It’s where your most loyal audience lives. In looking at how article and homepage consumption changes by loyalty (based on the fraction of days a user visits in a two-week period), our data shows that frequently returning visitors are more likely to build strong homepage habits than come in through side-door channels.  Our research shows:

  • As readers become more loyal, they use front pages more actively.
  • Visitors who come more than every other day, visit front pages more often than articles

Publishers with strong home pages have the best opportunity to become a frequent destination for loyal readers and perhaps curtail the increasing tendency of users to access news from platforms like Facebook and Google. Homepage optimization, in turn, is driven by careful curation and optimization.

The key to growth lies in understanding what’s different about subscribers.

We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand platforms and how to promote our stories to acquire new audiences, but what about the readers we already serve? Are we spending enough time understanding our loyal visitors and how to move them towards subscription?  

Our research shows that on an average day, subscribers spend 52% more time with articles than non-subscribers. Across our network, subscribers are only 3% of traffic – and less than a third of those subscribers are actually loyal. But there are very loyal customers who do not yet pay, and the key to growth lies in understanding their content consumption behaviors. Using Chartbeat data and optimization tools for retention is an untapped opportunity, and we look forward to continuing to help you on this front in 2018.

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