Author Archive

Big Board is Back

January 28th, 2016 by Adam

We like Big Boards, and we cannot lie.
Got one on display in your newsroom?
Tweet us a shot of your #bigboards in action.

. . . and better than ever. Big Board has always been one of our favorite ways to display data — a leaderboard-style visualization of your site’s most important stats. So today, we’re excited to show off all that’s new and swanky in the world of Big Board. There’s nothing like that new data smell.

Here’s a snapshot:

Click to expand
Chartbeat Big Board

What’s New?

Top pages across multiple sites
Responsible for multiple domains? Configure Big Board to show a blended list of top pages across your different properties.

Optional author bylines
Author names can be toggled on and off to see who’s behind trending content.

Optimized audience segmentation
Pivot to your heart’s content. Top pages on mobile? No biggie. Zooming in on Bulgaria? Tablet visitors who came from social? Loyal U.S. desktop readers who arrived through a search engine (see below)? Anyway you want it, we got it covered.


So, how do I access Big Board for my site?

Visit, where you’ll find Big Board front and center. If you mouse over the “Try It Out” button, you’ll see a dropdown list of your available domains. Note: you’ll need to be signed into Chartbeat to access Big Board for your site.

Want to see Big Board in action? Check out how CNBC International, USA Today, Gawker, Glenn Beck, and CNN Money incorporate Big Board into their newsrooms. Update: Check out these new additions to the Big Board Wall of Fame — Gannett Michigan.

Got questions? Check out our FAQ page. Anything else? Our customer success team is ready for you.

The most recent Chartbeat webinar focused (loosely perhaps) on some of the larger trends in digital publishing industry and what we can expect in 2015. An excellent discussion was had, with digital prophets Justin Bank of the New York Times and Jonathan Goldner of MTV traversing topics such as emerging mobile strategies, video strategies, personalization and the future of paid content.

Take a listen to the full discussion here.

Want the skinny, but don’t have time to tune in for the whole thing? Well, you’re in luck. Below is my TL;DR (sort of) take.

Some highlights from the discussion:

Adam: Responsive design was a big deal in 2014. Is it going to be a big deal in 2015?

Jonathan: I think it’s a big deal to users that when they click the link it works. If it gonks or takes 42 min to load or isn’t available in my region, then I have a bad experience. We wouldn’t go to a movie theatre and—if the film was out of focus—respond with ‘welp, they tried’. Consumers just expect things to work and it’s no longer acceptable for things not to.

Adam: But is it enough? Responsive doesn’t seem to fully exploit the mobile platform. Shouldn’t organizations be trying to create a purpose-built mobile experience?

Justin: Sure, but it’s hard. It’s the easiest way for news organizations to catch up to a multitude of browsers and apps and different experiences. Responsive is a bridge to somewhere. In the future, news organizations will figure out when to put a greater lift into a custom experience on a more mature platform. Deep linking Google results [browser-based search results that take users into the app instead of mobile web version of the content] could get us there. Responsive is a very safe space to go right now to make sure it looks good. And if you can bet on something later good for you.

Adam: So if I’m a news organization trying to decide between designing a responsive site and a native app, I shouldn’t go for the app?

Jonathan: Your app has to really solve a need, have a great experience and content. And there are risks: will people find it? Will they download the updates? Will they be okay with allowing limited (or not so limited) access to their device? Are you willing to commit to the expense and effort involved in iterating the product? Will the experience be superior to the one I can get from other content-based apps? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram become your competitors. I don’t know that a lot of branded apps demonstrate enough value to usurp what Facebook offers.

But a device agnostic or responsive design is more future proof. And when the Nike smart shoe comes out, eventually the content just flows into that. There’s no need to create a new app and, besides, users really just want the content. For example, Reddit or Imgur are successful because they deliver just the content stripped of any gift wrapping.

Adam: Video is hard. It’s expensive and tough to scale. But it’s lucrative. Will we see more video in 2015 or will some organizations give up on video?

Jonathan: Yes – it’s really hard. We are used to really polished looking video and there’s a whole art to it – it has to be well framed, well lit, technically polished, which is expensive. Is it worth the investment? Sure it’s lucrative but that’s a result, not a reason to do something. Instagram didn’t decide to build something that could be sold for $7M dollars and then a bunch of stuff would happen in between. Instagram wanted to make the definitive sharing, quirky and mobile-only experience. In other words they focused on the experience and product.

But video does have some inherent advantages. It travels very well and is more viral that text. A killer story can be easily paraphrased, requoted, and repurposed. But a killer video can only be embedded or linked to – you can measure it, represent your brand exactly the way you want to and hopefully run pre-roll ads everywhere. So yeah, doing a list of the 12 best things about things is ephemeral so if you can do video and not suck at it …

Justin: We learned how tough it is to do cable news. New York Times is doing great work and I’m confident we’re going to figure it out. For smaller orgs – you can’t build the starship enterprise, but there are certainly some great things you can do with vines, raw video, gifs, or with a talented artist who can mess around in Final Cut.

There is this incredible moment of video distribution now which makes the competitive landscape flatter and has lowered the bar to entry into the marketplace. But that disruption will calcify and normalize and new market leaders will emerge – Youtube is already reaching that point, broadcast diginets will fill up, any potential cable carriage deal imaginable will be negotiated and claimed, smart TVs will have universal standards (or at least slicker UIs that make it appear that way), aero will make it’s triumphant return. The dominant video players from this era who navigate those waters will be in great shape. Insurgents that made the right bets will be able to catch up. Others will be further behind than ever before.

Adam: Is paid content a threat to journalism or a critically important source of revenue? Will the debate intensify in 2015 or have we accepted the fact that it’s here to stay.

Justin: If people are good at it it’ll stay. If they’re bad it’ll go.

Jonathan: Agreed. We may start using the word ‘spicy’ in all of our Facebook posts, but if it feels forced, then nobody gets value out of it. But this Edward R. Murrow line in the sand where the newsroom shouldn’t be responsible for revenue anymore is over.

Adam: How much personalization will there be in news products this year?

Justin: As much as the technology will afford.

Jonathan: I’m not willing to go that far. I don’t like Lady Gaga but if she gets arrested I still want to know about it. There’s a taxonomical distinction between subverting the user’s selection while still understanding their need. We see that with different artists. People tend to share the Taylor Swift content in different ways than the Bieber content. Bieber is polarizing – he generates love traffic and hate traffic. The DUI stuff gets shared a lot and it’s not something that people want to read.

Justin: Ok but personalization isn’t just one person and his interest and likes. There are broader shades. It could be breaking news. At NYTimes we know how to report on things at different levels – with different depths, emotional tones, etc. that frame the content in a personalized way.

So, where do you think things are headed in 2015? I’d love to hear your take. Give us a shout in the comments or hit me up.

We strive to help you understand your audience – who they are and how and where they engage with your digital products. As your audience’s consumption experiences continue to evolve across platforms and formats, Chartbeat too continues to grow to make sure you’re capturing that audience attention wherever it happens. For some, the less visible audiences are in places like video and mobile, which is why we’ve made two additions to the Chartbeat Publishing product that will help: the Daily Video Perspective and in-app tracking for Android and iOS.

Daily Video Perspective: What They’re Watching

Last year, we released the Chartbeat Publishing Video Dashboard, giving you real time insight into how your audience is engaging with your video content. As anticipated, we heard from many of you that you needed a deeper level of overall performance, across longer time frames to truly understand how your content is performing.

Want to see the Daily Video Perspective + Video Dashboard in action? We’re hosting a webinar-style walkthrough, October 1st at 1p EST. Register Now

Enter the Daily Video Perspective where we show your best performing videos from the previous day (or any day). Sort on time spent watching or video starts to see which videos were popular and for how long.

Under the heading Appears On, you’ll see exactly where, on your site, this particular video worked best. The upshot: video has to be in highly visible places (well-trafficked articles, for eg.) but the fit has to be right as well. If not, starts and engagement will suffer.

And keep your eye out for videos that still have life in them. What has the legs to carry over to today?

crushing video

 See top videos by starts and total engaged minutes: get video in front of more eyes and optimize clips for better attention.

Use the Summary tab to get an overview of the previous day’s total video performance stacked up against the past 30 days, in two categories: total engagement and total starts. You’ll also be able to see when your video audience was on your site with a 24-hour time series (blue line) compared to seven days ago (grey line).


Mobile App Tracking: Attention SDK Testers

Our goal with building out our Android and IOS SDKs for in-app tracking is to help you go beyond the (mobile) web to give you the whole story on your visitors and the way they interact with your content.

It’s clear your mobile audience, especially in-app, needs to be represented in the dashboard. As we all know, mobile traffic is only growing (up to 80% year over year, with video being a strong driver), while the number of pure internet users has only experience a slight increase (less than 10% year over year).

Once you add our SDKs, these audiences will be visible directly in your dashboard. See what content they are consuming, engagement levels, visitor frequency, time of day trends, etc. – every dimension of audience identity and behavior that the Chartbeat dashboard supports.


Measure attention wherever it happens

Want access to the Video Dashboard? Interested in our mobile SDKs? Just want to share your thoughts and feedback? Great! We want to hear from you.

Get in touch >

A quick recap of Part I of this post…
  • We knew Chartbeat Publishing was strained by UX debt
  • We were psyched to introduce some major new functionality into the product
  • We knew that we had to consolidate all our research and fill in knowledge gaps before the full design and dev process
  • We were working out of a glorified bomb shelter next to a demolition site, an atmosphere of adversity which likely hastened our eagerness to redesign

The research effort culminated in the construction of a massive affinity diagram or mental model, which neatly organized all of the chaos of a newsroom into a taxonomy of actions and behaviours. The top level of the mental model consisted of four main categories:

  1. Developing content – actions associated with actually creating content
  2. Assessing content – actions associated with measuring traffic to content
  3. Assessing audience – actions associated with measuring identity and quality of traffic
  4. Developing audience – actions associated with systematically building audience

Taking a look at the mental model, the “developing content” and “assessing content” categories were fairly concise. We had a pretty thorough understanding of the workflows, processes, and product opportunities. But for “assessing audience” and “developing audience,” things were a little murkier. There were a myriad of complex activities that seemed disorganized and in need of rationalization — we had unearthed all kinds of social media tricks and hacks, experiments in link partnerships, attempts to infiltrate Reddit, newsletter optimizations, Outbrain gambits, and a whole slew of other tactics.

And the survey data backed up our feeling that there were more people working on audience development and using Chartbeat than we had originally thought.

We reached two conclusions:

  1. We needed to sit down again with the publishers doing the most progressive work in the area of audience development and try to figure out what we’d missed, if anything, the first time.
  2. And, in parallel, we needed to prototype some ideas that came out of our own hypotheses about how to measure audience quality in a simple way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last fall, the Chartbeat product team was hunkered down in an office space that could’ve made an excellent interrogation room. We temporarily obtained this 500 square-foot room to augment our main office, a sardine can of developers, designers, analysts, scientists, and a growing sales and marketing team.

It was… austere: four brick walls and a cement floor. There was a glass-topped table in the middle, a whiteboard, and a phone. Two windows separated us from the round-the-clock demolition going on in the adjacent lot, and you almost always had to shout to be heard. We even called it the murder room.

We were examining the roadmap for the Chartbeat Publishing dashboard. There was a lot on the table—all kinds of ideas for functionality that we wanted to add to a product that was starting to look like it had too much going on. There was no way we were fitting it all in to the current UI. The bulldozers were looking like a good idea. It was time to start from scratch.

But in reality, prep work for a top-to-bottom overhaul was already well underway. We had initiated a massive effort at capturing the state of the newsroom and the publishing industry, and were already thinking about how to align Chartbeat’s services with those conclusions.

Our Research Effort

Research is an ongoing practice at Chartbeat. We’re constantly talking to our clients, figuring out how they work and why they do what they do – even sketching out ideas together and evaluating concepts. Nevertheless, heading into the project, we wanted to consolidate of all our meeting notes and interviews, and confidently answer the following questions…

  • Who’s using our product?

  • What are their motivations, needs, and philosophies?

  • Where’s the industry going?

  • What will the newsroom look like in a year or two?

  • How will editorial roles evolve?

If we started by simply answering these questions, we knew good things would happen.

Gathering Information

To approach our research challenge systematically, we used ethnographic methodologies:

Interviews and Field Studies

If we weren’t on the phone firing away at our customers with non-leading questions, Mona Chaudhuri and I were hitting our clients’ offices on a semi-daily basis throughout most of 2012—picking brains, hearing war stories, watching them work, and bouncing ideas around.

Copious interview notes came from these many many meetings at places like The Blaze, NBC News, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN Money, Fast Company, Slate, Financial Times, and dozens more. If you had an office in New York, one of us was knocking on your door. And if your offices were outside of New York, we were there too: Washington, London, Toronto, Berlin, San Francisco.

Diary Studies

We asked a diverse group of Chartbeat customers to keep journals of their day to day activities. The journals were written over the course of three weeks into Posterous (R.I.P) blogs. Some of the participants were given, i.e. gifted, iPads to more easily facilitate the entry of notes and ideas. Yes they were great as a lightweight field tool for entering notes, but more so the iPads were a great incentive to keep participants motivated.

We had some very prolific contributors… for example this guy: Jonathan Tesser at New York Magazine (at the time). Reading what his day was like in his own words was a fantastic window into newsroom issues. The ups and downs were so much more tangible—you could really feel the personal challenges in a way that other research methods just couldn’t uncover.


To get a quantitative perspective on newsroom ethnography, we conducted a survey, which asked people about their role, three day-to-day responsibilities, and the three long-term objectives that they are evaluated on.

Processing the Data

We dug into the survey data and immediately got to some interesting information. For example, 64% of respondents reported themselves as some type of “content creator.” And 36% identified their role as being at least partially on the business side. In our fieldwork, we were still talking primarily to editors and writers, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see that one in three people had some involvement in other aspects of the business, too.

We took the diaries and interview notes and boiled them down, then reduced them, and then reduced them some more into a mental model diagram (shout out to Indi Young and her fantastic book on the subject). The mental model represented everything we knew about newsroom behavior—it contained every discrete action or behavior taken by people in the front lines of a newsroom. There were a lot and they were extremely varied, for example:

  • “curate third-party content on Tumblr”

  • “harass writers to meet their deadlines”

  • “look for dead spots on the homepage”

above: a couple branches of the mental model


above: a grouping of activities within the branch: “Understanding referrer sources”

We consolidated the individual actions—several hundred—into larger groups. For example “curate third-party content on Tumblr” was put into a group called “build off-site brand presence.” And finally, all the groups were assembled into four high-level categories:

  1. Developing content

  2. Assessing content

  3. Assessing audience

  4. Developing audience

Everything that we observed and captured fit into one of those four categories. That gave us a way to maintain a broad perspective on the publishing business as a whole, with the means to narrow our focus down to specific workflows and actions through a highly organized affinity diagram.

At this point our ‘forensics’ work was done. Well, it’s never done, but we’d just completed a very thorough and immersive look at newsroom culture, workflow and the state of the publishing industry.

The output of this work – the mental model – gave us something to measure our product against as well. What actions were we supporting and not supporting? We brainstormed all the realistic and totally unrealistic things we could do to help our customers across the many facets of their work.

Tomorrow, in part two of this post we’ll focus on some specific findings of the research and how we used it to roadmap the next incarnation of Chartbeat Publishing.