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Metrics 101: Viewability

October 24th, 2014 by Alexandra

As part of our larger efforts to help build an Attention Economy—in which success is measured not by clicks and pageviews but by time and audience attention earned—we’ve publicly released our Description of Methodology, which outlines the measurement process on which Chartbeat’s MRC accreditation is based.

Given that this document is a bit well, hefty, we figured we’d briefly explain a couple of our signature metrics here on the blog.

What is viewability?

A viewable impression is a metric of online advertising that indicates if a display ad is actually viewable when it’s served. More specifically, the IAB and MRC define a viewable impression as one that’s at least 50% visible for at least one second. To keep it simple, viewability is a metric that tracks if at least half of a display ad has the chance to be seen in the viewable portion of a browser window for at least one continuous second. Technically speaking, one second is measured as 10 consecutive 100 millisecond observations.

For the full scoop on viewability check out our 101 series:

  • What is Viewability?
  • What Does Viewability Mean for Publishers?
  • What Does Viewability Mean for Advertisers?

  • Viewability Metrics

    Chartbeat is accredited for the following viewability metrics:

    VIEWABLE IMPRESSION

    A count of the number of impressions that were deemed “viewable” under the MRC’s Viewable Impression Measurement Guidelines.

    Chartbeat Methodology: Every 100 milliseconds on in focus pages Chartbeat checks every ad tagged with Chartbeat’s “data-cb-ad-id” attribute to see if over 50% of the ad has entered the viewport (the viewable portion of your browser window). When the ad enters the viewport Chartbeat checks every 100 ms to ensure that it has remained on the screen and the window has stayed in focus. After ten consecutive successful checks (one continuous second), Chartbeat designates the impression as viewable.

    IMPRESSION BREAKDOWN

    The number of impressions that are considered non-viewable, standard, or premium

    NON-VIEWABLE AD IMPRESSION

    These represent served impressions where the viewable status is not met, but they can be “seen” by the viewable decisioning function.

    MEASURED RATE

    This is calculated as a percentage and represents (Viewable Impressions + Non-Viewable Impressions)/Total Served Impressions.

    VIEWABLE RATE

    This is calculated as a percentage and represents Viewable Impressions / (Viewable Impressions + Non-Viewable Impressions).

    Note: We are accredited for a few additional viewability metrics required by MRC’s Viewability Guidelines.


    What's the industry saying about viewability?

    Well, they are saying a lot. While opinions certainly vary, it seems the common consensus is that the new viewability standard is, at the very least, a step in the right direction:

    “I don’t believe that viewability is a performance metric at all, but is rather just a huge step up from the old ‘served’ impression metric that we have used for years. However, a focus on increasing viewability will result in greater performance on the major engagement metrics like Universal Interaction Rate and Click Through that marketers value highly. It is this increased performance that will eventually lead to higher CPMs.”

    - Jeff Burkett, Sr. Director Ad Innovation & Product Strategy at The Washington Post

    “The current viewability standard, while clearly nascent, serves an important purpose. It introduces a baseline criterion for and measure of accountability. At the end of the day, it is a means to a larger end: increased brand spend that better aligns with time spent online.”

    - Neeraj Kochar, Tremor Video

    “Viewability is a positive development. The industry is at a major crossroads as we’re dealing with a growing amount of traffic being non-human, which has created a polluted ecosystem. The viewable impression is one step in the process to help solve this problem. It’s becoming the anchor that will allow for engagement and exposure metrics to be used to evaluate campaigns and prove for brands the value of the impressions being served.”

    - Mark Howard, Chief Revenue Officer at Forbes

    “Unfortunately, it's going to take a while before viewability becomes a valid currency and is established as a key metrics in determining impression value. However, I do think that there is an opportunity for publishers to take advantage of this debate to maintain and increase premium rates as more media becomes traded programmatically.”

    - Peter Jones, The Guardian

    “Until now the ad impression was, essentially, a mechanical event — the creative file being loaded on the Web page. The viewability standard transforms an impression into an opportunity to see event: something of inherent value to a brand, just as in traditional media”

    - Yaakov Kimelfeld, chief research officer at Millward Brown Digital

    Chartbeat has become the first analytics company accredited to measure attention metrics for both display advertising and content. The Media Rating Council has accredited 21 of the metrics featured in Chartbeat’s advertising platform including viewability and active exposure time.

    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.