Author Archive

80% of Publishers Interested in Transacting on Time: Digital Content Next Report

October 22nd, 2014 by Alexandra

Earlier today Digital Content Next, an organization representing over 50 premium publishers, released a study and special report outlining how digital publishers currently view and use time-based metrics and what their expectations are for the future.

In the report DCN suggests that shifting to a measurement framework that incorporates time-based metrics would “align valuation of content and advertising with time and attention...and offers solutions to significant industry challenges.” Namely, time-based metrics take viewability a step further and create an inventory constraint and, as a result, an economy of scarcity in which attention is a true measure of quality content and effective advertising.

The report, which consisted of in-depth qualitative interviews with nine leading publishers, including CNBC, ESPN, Gannett and Wall Street Journal, as well as a quantitative survey with 25 DCN member publishers, covers current usage of time-based metrics, both internally and as a sales tool, as well as attitudes on the future of time as a currency. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. Time metrics are commonly used to evaluate performance.

90% of DCN members surveyed use time metrics to internally evaluate performance of their sites and content among editorial and/or ad operations teams.

Publisher use of time-based metrics Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 2.29.14 PM

2. Publishers are sharing time metrics with advertisers.

85% of publishers using time-based metrics share these metrics with advertisers as proof of things such as audience engagement/attention, quality of content and audience loyalty.


3. There is a real interest among premium publishers to transact on time.

80% are already testing or express an interest in transacting on time.

Publisher interest in transacting based on timeInterest in transacting on time

4. Publishers believe there is potential for time to serve as currency.

52% agree or strongly agree that transacting on time is the next evolutionary step of viewability implementation.

Attitudes on the future of time as currency Attitudes on time as currency

While a significant number of publishers are already using time metrics to gain insights about consumption patterns, adjust editorial cycles, and more accurately forecast ad inventory, many still see several hurdles to using time as currency. Among these, lack of standard metrics and measurement methodology, lack of research showing that time in view is correlated to ad effectiveness, lack of marketer and ad agency education and interest, and scope constraints were among the most common obstacles cited. Bottom line, time-based metrics are a big step in the right direction, but the road to a more sustainable media ecosystem will not be without challenges.

So what’s next? As the buy side continues to grapple with the concept of viewability, publishers can continue pushing to integrate time measurement into their metrics suite. By better understanding their audiences and bringing the time dimension to ad unit measurement, publishers will be well positioned to prove the value of audience time spent with their content and introduce the time topic into conversations with the buy side.

Read the full DCN report How Time-Based Measurement is Grabbing Digital Publishers’ Attention.

Tony Haile’s Data State of the Union

October 14th, 2014 by Alexandra

A few weeks ago everyone’s favorite Brit (who just happens to be our CEO) Tony Haile gave a talk at the annual Online News Association conference in Chicago. During his chat, officially titled “A Data State of the Union: Can We Make Quality Pay Online” he touches on the metrics that really matter, the challenge of metrics vs. mission that many journalists are faced with, and how we can fix some of the fundamental underpinnings of the media industry. Judging by the reaction on Twitter (check out #datasotu), a lot of attendees were digging what he had to say. Or maybe he’s just really charming. I’ll let you be the judge.

Don’t have time to check out the whole thing? Well, you should make time. Kidding! (Sort of). I get it—and so does Tony—time is scarce. Here’s the TL;DW version + slides:


Metrics vs. Mission

  • Many journalists are conflicted about data in the newsroom. Too often they feel they have to choose between metric or mission. It shouldn’t be an either/or.
  • Often, what seems like the simplest, most direct method of measuring success can actually backfire when it becomes the thing that’s most important. The job is not to chase traffic. In the business of news, random indiscriminate traffic is not what a business is built on.
  • It’s not traffic we monetize, but audience. Your audience knows who you are, likes what you do, and comes back. The goal is to build an audience—to acquire new people and convert them to loyal visitors.
  • And with this audience you’re not just after their index fingers, you’re after their minds. You have to create content that will make people like you and come back—and doing so often requires looking at data through a different prism.

  • Clicking and Reading are Different Things

  • Pageviews should not be privileged as the most important metric when 55% of clicks get less than 15 seconds of attention.
  • It’s not enough to get someone to click. We have to get them to read.
  • Newsrooms ought to be focusing on a reader’s propensity to return. That means thinking about capturing time, not just creating a catchy headline. A big spike in traffic doesn’t really matter if those readers don’t come back.

  • The Golden Metrics: Recirculation and Engaged Time

  • The key indicators of propensity to return are recirculation and engaged time.
  • Recirculation: the percentage of audience that has consumed a particular piece of content (e.g. actually read it) and chooses to go on to consume another piece of content. Are visitors sticking around to read another article, or are they leaving?
  • The number one way to increase recirculation is to write something good enough to make people want to read more. And then you have to give them somewhere to go. That means using referrer information to segment your audience (e.g. social vs. homepage visitors) and then promote the right stories in your side rails or through in-line links.
  • Engaged Time: The more time someone spends with your stuff, the more likely they are to come back. If someone spends three minutes on your site they are twice as likely to return as if they spend only one minute.
  • It’s important to remember that a visitor's default behavior is to leave. When you are trying to hold someone’s attention, you are competing with the entire sum of human knowledge. Every form of mass entertainment is simply a click away. You've got to win them with every single paragraph.
  • Recirculation and Engaged Time are balanced metrics. Often, going overboard with one metric, such as trying to boost recirculation with slideshows, will reduce Engaged Time. Think of these two metrics in context of each other and try to get them both balanced to reach an ideal state.

  • Metrics are important, but they aren’t the only important thing.

  • Even the most meaningful metrics can mess up a newsroom if they become the basis of incentive plans. Metrics should be used as a guide, not as a cudgel for compliance.
  • Metrics shouldn’t be tied to a journalist’s pay. A journalist doesn’t need external motivation to want to create great content. For the most part, incentive plans mean journalists stop relying on metrics and start resenting them. Metrics stop becoming a trusted feedback loop and become a cruel judge to satisfy.
  • An incentive system that can be gamed will be. Quotas are good for quantity, but they diminish quality and creativity. With quotas, journalists don’t take risks. They stick to what worked yesterday.
  • If you want your newsroom to embrace metrics, to learn and to seek a more effective path towards reaching your organizations's overarching goals, you have to give journalists the right metrics framed in the right way and trust their internal desire to do a great job.

  • We are NOT in a Golden Age of Journalism

  • We don’t actually monetize content at all. We monetize the links to content. If you click on a link and the page loads, it doesn’t matter whether someone even read the content, whether they liked or loathed it. The content itself doesn’t determine the value of the page.
  • The fact that it’s the clicking of the link (rather than the consuming of the content) that is the monetizable act, means we’re living in a world of infinite ad inventory where the marginal cost creating additional inventory is near zero.
  • In a world or infinite inventory, prices will always trend towards zero. The currency we predominately use to measure value is impressions, and thus pageviews, and that currency is killing us.

  • The Solution: An Economy of Scarcity

  • For us to be able to charge premiums we need to create an economy based on scarcity, where what happens with the content actually matters.
  • Time is the only unit of scarcity on the web, and it’s zero sum. A minute spent on one site is a minute not spent on another.
  • Attention correlates with quality. You have to be doing something right to capture that attention. And those who can capture more of it can charge more.
  • "If we can change the way we value what we do, then brands get happier, publishers have a sustainable business for quality journalism and the users get a Web... where anything that makes them want to leave is bad for business. That's a Web worth fighting for."

    - Tony Haile

    Advertising Week Roundup

    October 7th, 2014 by Alexandra

    We heard about it on panels. We read about it online. We saw lots of folks talking about it on Twitter. What’s it, you ask? Time. Or more specifically, attention.

    Attention—as both as a metric and a currency—was a major theme at this year’s Advertising Week. The common consensus: The media ecosystem needs to reevaluate how it measures success. In a landscape of seemingly limitless content and infinite impressions, it’s time to shift the focus away from views and clicks and look instead at a finite resource: human attention.

    As Michael Sebastian noted in a must-read Ad Age feature, putting the focus on time rather than views is an attempt to create scarcity. And, in an economy of scarcity, quality better aligns with monetization. Those who are able to capture more attention, by creating quality content and creative, will be able to charge more for it.

    Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, mirrored this point in another great read about time-based measurement, saying “Time is a scarce resource (maybe the scarcest of all). It's the one thing the media-technical complex can't manufacture.” Certainly, he says “the measure of great content and brand marketing is the time, attention and emotion of consumers—not the click of the mouse or a tap of the finger. Yet as an industry, we've spent far too much energy running on a treadmill of ephemeral attention. It's time (for lack of a better word) to focus on what matters most: consumer attention.”

    Folks on the brand and agency side had a few things to say about attention too. For Erika White, corporate communications director at Pandora, capturing consumers means earning their attention over time. "This means adjusting the impression, reach-based marketing mentality that has informed much of advertising strategy in the past," she told Campaign. "Thinking beyond earning a single click or view and focusing on truly earning consumers' attention and engagement over time will be what winning marketers and communicators take away from this week.”

    The ways we define and measure ROI have evolved, noted Marla Kaplowitz, CEO, MEC North America. “Today’s ‘always-on’ consumers require brands to move at the pace of modern culture; to genuinely engage these consumers, a brand must be able to grab audience ‘attention’ — a valuable, yet challenging, currency,” she said.

    Lots of folks were talking about measuring and monetizing attention in the Twittersphere too:

    We’re Heading to #ONA14

    September 24th, 2014 by Alexandra

    Tomorrow, the Chartbeat crew is headed to the Windy City to set up camp at the Online News Association’s annual conference. Tony, Dustin, Nik, Bill, Jared, and I are looking forward to catching up with some of the best and brightest in digital media to talk all things data, quality, and attention. If you’re attending, you should swing by our demo and catch Tony on the main stage.

    Nik Giving you the Scoop on Attention Metrics

    Building the Attention Web: Practical Applications for Your Team

    Swing by our booth in the midway on Thursday at 10:45 a.m. for tea, scones, demos, and discussion. Nik Nadolski, our lead Chartcorps member, will be breaking down the research behind the Attention Web, and explaining how Chartbeat tools can help organizations use attention metrics to boost return visits, build loyalty across platforms and formats (mobile/video), and prove the value of their engaging content.Read: He'll be giving you the skinny on best practices and sharing tales of Chartbeat in action on the front lines.

    Tony Breaking Down The Attention Economy

    A Data State of the Union: Can We Make Quality Pay Online?

    Our beloved CEO (and everyone’s favorite Brit), Tony Haile will be taking the stage on Friday at 10 a.m.in Chicago Ballroom VI. He’ll be diving into the challenges and promises of building a sustainable currency of quality on the Attention Web. Specifically, he’ll be helping you understand how and what we're consuming on the web, from the state of the homepage to the rise of mobile to the opportunities for display advertising and the truth about native ads.

    Give us a shout if you’re heading that way. We'll also be demoing products and talking shop in the Midway from Thursday to Saturday, so please come by and say hi! We’d love to hear your take on things.

    What Does Viewability Mean for Advertisers?

    August 29th, 2014 by Alexandra

    This is the third post in a series about online advertising measurement and methodologies. Feel free to email me or post in the comments section about topics you’d like to see covered in this series. Curious about Chartbeat advertising tools? Learn more here.

    In the last post, we took a look at what viewability means for publishers. Now, we’re turning the tables and breaking down what viewability means for advertisers.

    So, how are digital advertisers responding to the MRC’s viewability certification?

    Similar to publishers, digital advertisers have started turning to viewability vendors to audit campaigns and measure the viewability of their ads. This process gives brand marketers and agencies the opportunity to monitor whether their ads have the chance to be seen and to differentiate between quality/value of ad placements. In short, viewability offers advertisers a new level of transparency that will, in effect, set new standards to which media vendors will be held.

    And with that new transparency come new terms and conditions. For example, we’re slowly starting to see agencies build viewability percentage goals or viewable impression guarantees as line items in their requests for proposals (RFPs). This means that prior to advertisers signing any contracts, media sellers will either agree to optimize an advertiser’s campaign toward a certain (goal) viewability percentage, or they will guarantee a mutually agreed upon viewability percentage. Sellers will be expected to deliver on said targets in order to receive payment in full.

    On a larger scale, viewability is forcing marketers to rethink their approaches to media buying. For some, that may mean rolling out a campaign and then only paying for ads that were in view. For others it may mean doing a “controlled” buy beforehand to only serve ads that are in view. As we mentioned in the previous post, publishers and advertisers are still trying to find middle ground here. That said, larger companies like Google and Yahoo!, as well as a few smaller networks, are already allowing advertisers to pay only for viewable ads. Whether that will be the go-to model moving forward is still uncertain. We’ll have more on this topic later in our series.

    How are advertisers using viewability to their advantage?

    Advertisers’ ability to measure and monitor viewability will potentially have significant impact on their business as a whole. As we see it, there are a few game changers:
    1. Viewable brand lift will become a real-time metric of success. On the brand marketing side, advertisers will be able to start identifying which elements increase viewability and impact, and make changes while a campaign is still running. A recent Nielsen study found that brand lift improved by 31% when responses from non-viewable ads were filtered out. Beyond seeing which ads were viewable, advertisers will be able to gain a better sense of which viewable ads resonated with their audience(s) and take those learnings to optimize future campaigns.
    2. Improving viewability will improve campaign results for advertisers. It’s not surprising that eliminating non-viewable ads (those not able to be seen by a visitor) from the equation would be a win for advertisers.  Kellogg’s, for example, found that improving viewability by 40% resulted in a 75% increase in the sales lift of a digital campaign. Receiving real-time ad viewability data—that enabled Kellogg’s to stop buying ads that nobody was seeing—had a significant impact on the company’s ROI.

    By eliminating non-viewable ads from the picture, advertisers will be able to allocate more, if not all, of their campaigns to premium content sites. Let’s break it down: As I mentioned in my last post, viewability will allow sites that offer quality content and user experiences to stand out from those that do not. If we link viewability to page quality, publishers seeking to increase viewability will likely improve—if they haven’t already—the quality of their sites by making adjustments to page layouts, ad quantity and type. As site quality increases, engagement will likely increase as well, making certain pages and audiences become more valuable to advertisers. Conversely, the bad-actors (pages cluttered with ads, link-bait content) will find their inventory becoming less and less valuable to the market. Advertisers will be able to compare the performance of their campaigns across publishers, and will ultimately choose to buy ads on sites that offer both quality content and a quality audience.

    In short, more transparency will lead to more informed ad buys, and theoretically, less wasted ad spend. When demand-side platforms (DSPs) optimize for viewable ads, thus taking non-viewable ads out of the equation, ad dollars will deliver more ROI.

    What challenges are advertisers facing during this transition?

    First, there is the obstacle of an impression being viewable versus being actually viewed. If you’ll recall, the IAB defines a viewable impression as one that’s at least 50% visible in the viewable portion of a person’s browser window for at least one second. So, technically, viewability tracks if an ad has a chance to be seen by a user, not if it actually was. Yes, an ad may have been served, but that doesn’t mean it was seen. Think, for a second, how many times you’ve done a quick scan of a page and completely missed an ad.

    Note: It’s important to remember that measuring viewability is no easy feat. And while viewability may have a number of blind spots, it’s better than anything we’ve had before. Short of something (pretty crazy) like eye-tracking, viewability does do a solid job of helping to call out the bad stuff, read: non-viewable ads, link-bait content and poor quality, ad-heavy user experiences.

    Second, as with publishers, many of the challenges advertisers are facing are due to the binary natures of a viewable impression. Specifically, viewability on its own does not offer a comprehensive measurement of impact or brand lift. A simple “viewable or not” fails to fully measure the effectiveness of an impression, as it doesn’t offer a nuanced view of the extent to which an ad resonated with an audience. In other words, viewability does not take into account that the amount of time beyond one second in view improves response rates. We’ll take a deeper dive into Active Exposure Time—measuring the amount of time an actively engaged audience is exposed to a display ad—and how it impacts brand recall later in the series. If you’re dying to know more now, check out this post by our chief data scientist Josh Schwartz.

    And finally, the discrepancies in measurements between viewability vendors will create a few obstacles for advertisers as well. Remember how we said publishers may not get paid for ads that one vendor says aren’t viewable, even when another gave the thumbs up? Well, the same goes for advertisers, except they may end up paying for ads that nobody ever sees. Sound familiar? This isn’t the first time advertisers are facing this problem. More on the nitty-gritty mechanics of viewability measurements to come. Stay tuned...

    Also in Our Series: