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In summer 2013, we introduced our first advertising tool to help premium publishers monetize their audience’s attention. 15 months later, that one tool is now part of an expanded platform that provides media planning, reporting, and strategic services to premium publishers that want to measure and sell attention. Today we’re thrilled to announce that the Media Rating Council (the MRC) has accredited 21 of the metrics featured in our advertising platform. In the post below I explain what this accreditation means for Chartbeat and the larger attention economy.

We got accredited!

One of the stranger things about entering into ad tech for the first time is learning that all the stuff that made you successful elsewhere isn’t enough anymore. You can’t just build cool new technology or awesome interfaces. You can’t just have positive press. You can’t even just have people love what you do and pay to use it. Advertising is big and scary and impossibly competitive and the rules are just different and there are a lot more of them. While it’s been hard to find someone who thought the monetization of attention wasn’t worthwhile it has been even harder to find people who thought it was something they could actually do. No amount of desire alone can change the system – you need to change the structure first. And so that’s what we’ve started to do.

This means we need to do more than just adding a new dashboard link to someone’s bookmarks or some vanity metric to someone’s spreadsheet. It means making a fundamental change to the way success on the internet is evaluated and rewarded, building an internet where our best instincts are also the right ones. And today – after nearly six months of sleepless detail work – I think we’re starting to get there. Because today I get to say that our metrics have been accredited by the Media Rating Council.

So…what’s the MRC?

Like I said: the strangest thing about entering into ad tech is that it’s not clear what it takes to go from “neat service” to a world viable system. Pro-tip for those of you at home turns out the first step is passing a Media Rating Council audit.

But who is this the Media Rating Council (MRC from here on out) and what are they about? The MRC is an industry body that audits and accredits internet measurements to ensure that they’re “valid, reliable, and effective.” There’s a whole lot of money flowing through the internet and there are a bunch of people with conflicting interests trying to say what portion of that rightfully belongs to them. The MRC exists to make sure that everyone is on equal footing and that people can trust the numbers they use. Without them you’ve got a bunch of conflicting and unreliable numbers that aren’t good for much more the decoration. With them you’ve got reliable metrics you can build businesses on. And now Chartbeat metrics can be counted among those reliable metrics.



Chartbeat MRG


What does accreditation change right now?

So what does that mean? Well, it means we get to put a new logo on our homepage and talk about our “twenty-one accredited metrics that go beyond just viewability” but more importantly it means that this “Attention Web” we talk so much about can turn into an Attention Economy. We’ve been driving this idea for a couple years now — we’ve always believed that the click and the impression are not the way advertisers should value content. It just doesn’t make sense. A heady piece on global policy in the Financial Times is just a fundamentally better opportunity for an advertiser (and for the internet in general) than one on some clickbait blog. It just is.

You can trust science, the market, or just common sense, but no matter which way you look at it you end with high quality writing being worth more than low quality stuff.

But before this accreditation came through it didn’t matter how much you believed in that “attention is valuable” story because you still couldn’t sell it.

That time is over.

At its narrowest interpretation, Chartbeat’s MRC accreditation means premium publishers, advertisers and agencies can now use attention as a currency. But a whole new internet economy isn’t far away if attention is a fundamentally valuable thing on the internet – and Chartbeat gets to be at least partially responsible for that.

What’s next?

Here’s the cool part though – this isn’t just about money and sales teams getting higher CPMs. This isn’t even really about advertising.

It’s about a better internet – the one we were promised from the start.

This accreditation gives us the ability to express our core idea that the quality of website experience is, above all, universal. We’re getting closer to building a world where measurement arises from an ad experience’s purpose and not what was easy to track (clicks). Where the business side and the editorial side of a company believe the readers comes first. Where the the quality of a publication’s content sustains its business, not the number of people who click an ad near that creation. That’s a pretty cool world. And that’s the success we wanted all along.


Check out the Chartbeat Ads Platform for yourself


We’re rolling out some big additions to Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales this week and with these new features come some new ways of thinking.

For a while now, we have been talking about Active Exposure Time (how long people spend actively reading while ads are in view) as the best way for publishers to focus on selling against what matters (you only perform well on this metric if people are actually reading your stuff) while giving their clients the greatest chance for their campaigns to succeed. But as our clients have started selling on time we’ve seen a surprising thing develop – it turned out there was more to all of this than just getting your ads seen for the longest amount of time. In reality every campaign was different and some advertisers just wanted to be sure their ads were seen while other advertisers want to get their message in front of audiences for as long as possible.

In response we’ve added a bunch of stuff to our product to let our users build different campaigns for different needs: the two biggest of which are our updated campaign report and that all new goal-based package creator.

It’s covered in more depth here but – in short – we noticed that impressions seen for 1-5 seconds are good for advertisers with simple messages while impressions from 6-10 seconds are ideal for those trying to tell a larger story or create an emotion (impressions longer than this are good too but begin to see diminishing returns.) We looked at all the sites using our product and found about half of all impressions are in that 1-5 second range while the rest are distributed through the remaining times.

New: Campaign Report

Our campaign report sees the first big change. After people sell on our metrics we wanted them to have the ability to report on them and we initially built this tool to do just that. Once the reporting tool was in the hands of our clients we heard three really common requests:

  1. Clients wanted to see our data in conjunction with their ad server data.

  2. They wanted to understand where their impressions fell in time ranges.

  3. They wanted to compare their performance against the internet.

As of today all three are in the product.

The most immediately apparent is the ad server data. We wanted to show our metrics in line with more conventional ones so we’ve created a link with Google’s DFP that allows advertisers to see how each part of their campaign performed on the metrics you probably already know (CTR, viewable impressions, etc) and compare that with our time-based measurements.

On the third screen of the report we now show a breakdown of a campaign’s impressions and what time periods they fell into so our clients can better understand if a campaign received the kind of impressions that were best for it. And – of course – all of this is benchmarked against the internet so when something’s great it’s easy to prove it.

While these are the big updates to the campaign report, there’s a ton of new stuff in there – everything from geographic data to more data science insights that help tell the story of a campaign – so go ahead and check it out.

New: Target Packages

We’re pushing out more than just new ways of telling stories about campaigns. Our goal has always been to make it easier to sell quality writing and so we’ve created a new tool to help making packaging inventory easier. We call it Target Packages.

 When we first released our product the only pitches that were happening based on time were really custom campaigns and we built an interface that was perfect for exploring and meticulously developing packages.

But over time, this idea of creating campaigns based on audience time and attention has become less scary to folks and there’s been interest in a more automated process. As such we’re releasing a tool that automatically creates an optimal package based on an advertiser’s goals. Just tell us what you’re looking for (high engagement impressions in the Sports section, ads that are almost always seen in Finance, and everything in between) and we’ll do the work and put together the ads that will most efficiently hit your goals.

Target Packages

So that’s what I have for you for now. We’re working on a whole lot more new stuff right now  (big updates to the campaign report coming soon) but hopefully these additions make it a lot easier for all of you to sell pixels. If you’re interested in learning more about our advertising platform, feel free to get in touch.

On Friday, Digiday wrote a piece examining some assumptions that are all too often made about the way people read on the internet. It covered a bunch of our favorite stuff including that the conventionally “good” advertising spots aren’t necessarily in the places people read. In addition, Lucia introduced something we’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the duration of an impression.

Over the past year, the industry has finally rallied around a viewability metric. As a result we’ve seen a lot of premium publishers do great work to make their ads more viewable and – in turn – pull way ahead of their lower quality competitors. Naturally now, more and more ads are becoming viewable across the internet. Which begs a new question we hear almost daily from publishers: how do I prove that my inventory is actually better than the alternative?

Everyone is looking to sell based on reader attention, but I’ve yet to meet someone who thinks that the viewable impression actually helps them do that — particularly when it comes to premium sites.

So we’ve been working with publishers, helping them take the next step: understanding how long people are actively focused on content while an ad is on the screen.

There’s a lot of research out there that says the more time people spend with an ad, the more likely that ad is to succeed, but this research rarely looks at how long real ads on the internet perform.

We decided to find out.

We took a look across a select group of publishers to find out how long ads are seen when they’re seen.


Turns out, half of all viewable ads are seen for 1-5 seconds while the other half are, obviously, seen for longer than that. The natural reaction is to look at each number of seconds and sort of consider them “engagement points” and just assume that a higher number means better ads, but it’s actually not that black and white.

Research has shown over and over that at about ten seconds of exposure diminishing returns start to set in and each additional second is worth less in terms of recall than the previous ones; that doesn’t mean, however, that every ad should seek to be seen for ten seconds. It means that different ads are right for different goals.

If an advertiser is trying to get their name out there as efficiently as possible in a pure awareness play, they likely want to be buying a spot where shorter impression duration occurs. Whereas if an advertiser is trying to get a specific message out there or telling a more complex story than just their logo appearing in an ad, they should look for one in the 6-15 second range.

This, of course, leaves a big chunk of impressions that are longer than that ideal engagement time and don’t really help advertisers any more than 15 seconds ones. We’re working with a handful of people to see what kind of creative things they can do to solve that, getting the most of their inventory and giving their audience fresh content that benefits everyone involved — the publisher’s business, the brand’s goals, the reader’s interest.

The point is, not every viewable impression is equal but that doesn’t mean that the shorter ones are categorically worse. It means that we should think about the goals of a campaign and which impressions are the right way to achieve these goals.

Through our Chartbeat Publishing product, we’ve spent the last three years getting to know the ins and outs of the editorial teams inside major media sites and building things to help them make their best stuff even better. That’s always been our dream and we’re going to keep at it.

But over the past six months we’ve been busy building our first tool for the other side of the publishing house. One that will help sites earn more because of the quality of their content.

So we’re incredibly excited (and more than a little exhausted) to introduce Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales, our new product that allows sites to sell the thing advertisers asked for in the first place – their audience’s attention.

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The origins

Before really getting to what any of that means, however, I’m going to bury the lede a whole bunch. Because to understand why this will help you, you first really need to know why we built it…which starts way further back than six months ago.

It really starts with the whole point of journalism: to get the best information possible to the right people. Writers have adapted our approach over time – from in-depth investigation to short form breaking news – but the goal has always been the same: to inform the people and influence the discussion.

But writers have never really known if their readers engaged with the things they created. They couldn’t have; it was just too hard to track.

We all thought the internet was going to fix this. And a whole bunch of doors opened when everything went online. Notably, for the first time ever we were able to understand who was actually clicking on the pages where the stuff we created lived. The audience was no longer the people who picked up the phones during market surveys or the number of addresses the paper got delivered to each morning; it was the people who were actually there on the page doing something.

For a while, that was all pretty great. Page views and clicks gave us an understanding that was totally new and a huge step up from the data around the physical world.

But the inevitable happened: we began to make what we measured — and we optimized the internet for these measurable things.

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Capturing attention, not clicks

Success was no longer writing stories that made a difference culturally or otherwise, it was making sure that whoever got to your webpage clicked a bunch of links so the page view counter went up. And that was crazy. That’s what gave us slideshows and pop-ups and roadblocks and auto-playing videos and all the other things that make the internet frustrating.

That was never what journalism was supposed to be about.

I think everyone’s always hated that. We at Chartbeat certainly did. And because of that, our products have always been about understanding the user’s experience. We wanted people to write really good stuff and we wanted to create the ways for them to understand the audience liked it.

That’s why we created Engaged Time. We wanted to give people who actually created things a number that actually measured the attention their content captured, not the number of people who happened to open their page.


Making the understanding easier was the motivation behind everything we’ve built here. And it worked. Right now, people all around the internet – from your favorite blog on stereo equipment to 80% of the top media sites in the US – are using Engaged Time to understand and improve the quality of what they’re creating.

Making not-awesome things more awesome

So editorial teams are making decisions around Engaged Time, but traditional metrics made it really hard for advertisers to understand the quality of content and very very few of them paid to be around it.

Old metrics like impressions created this idea that people don’t read stuff on the internet. But we’ve proven it’s not that they don’t read stuff, it’s that the time people spend reading is hard to measure. That’s why even the best publishers out there can’t sell what makes them special – the quality of their work (which in turn drives a highly-engaged audience).

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Grab anyone writing on the internet and you’ll hear the same problems: they can’t sell ads lower on page, no one wants their “boring” sections, and click-through rates are terrible.

Talk to the advertisers and you’ll hear about the same: they only understand a percentage of their audience, click-throughs don’t tell the whole story, and their data doesn’t match their goals.

Talk to us, the people reading this stuff? Well, I think everyone would agree the internet is just a generally frustrating place when it’s built around every brand in the world chasing a click-through rate.

So, here’s where Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales comes in.

We’re here to help salespeople at publishers big and small sell something new and something they actually control: their audience’s attention and the quality of their content.

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You’ve already got good stuff – we’re just here to help

Advertisers come to you because your content matters and your audience is great. They want to create a relationship with your audience but only understand simple things like the number of people who click on their banners. Our new product tells you how much time your audience is spending actually reading stuff on the page while ads are in view. It’s a chance to quantify something new – and something super desirable – the active attention of the people they want to speak to.

But explaining that can be hard so we go a step further and we don’t just help you find the best spots on your site – we build the sales collateral for you to give to advertisers about why they want to work with you.

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Right now our goal is pretty simple: we want to make it easier for publishers to tell stories around why their site and their engaged audience is special. We want to go back to the things we used to know, to move the discussion away from “does .08% of your audience click on ads or does .09%?” to “does your work keep people interested?”

Yeah, it’s just the first step. We’re not saying this will solve every single problem instantly. But, based on the few dozen alpha testers’ reactions, it’s certainly getting us there. And based on your use of it, we’ll learn a lot more.

Everybody wins – editors, advertisers, and readers, too

We built this product to help solve the problem for everyone: people who create really awesome stuff can get paid for it because it’s good, not because a fraction of a fraction of the people who come to their page click on an ad; brands advertisers get the thing that they’ve been looking for – a chance to be in front of the best audience for the longest period of time; readers aren’t pushed through some terrible, road-blocking experience, but are actually encouraged and rewarded for consuming the content they want to consume.

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We’d love to show it to you and your sales teams in action — and you brands out there who are advertising with publishers, we’d love to get your take as well. So shoot us an email, and tell us what you think. Get the details on Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales here.

PS- We’ll be talking about this more on Tuesday evening during our NYC Internet Week event with Disqus, Beyond the Click: Getting to Actual Engagement – come join the fun.

Real time is pretty great, right? It can be a complex tool that helps inform future action or it can be a simple, visceral thing that just feels totally awesome (and watching a page flood with traffic is totally awesome.)

But the issue with real time is that you’re not always on in real time. I mean, really, at some point you’ve got to set aside the stats and go to sleep. And when something happens when you’re not around – from your site going crazy in the middle of the night to  a subtle shift in your traffic when you’re out to lunch – you might miss it entirely. But that stuff is just too important (or too fun) to not see outside the moment.

So we went to the vault and pulled out an idea from one of our earliest dashboards… a way for you to re-watch your past week as if it’s live. Think of it as a a DVR for your site.

To check it out on your page head to the Content View and click the “Today/7 Day” toggle in the upper right. The graph on top will break free from its old 24-hour confines and show you everything that’s happened over the past week.

Now that you’ve got that look, go ahead and drag your cursor over the graph – yup, that’s your traffic at that exact moment and the traffic from the previous week, making it super easy to know if you’re in the middle of something unusual or its just a normal variation. “Context,” it’s totally the best, right?

But okay, ready? The cool stuff is about to really start.

Try this – instead of hovering on that graph, go ahead and click and drag your cursor over a range you want to watch again. We’ll kick you into our “replay” mode and actually show you what your dashboard looked like at that moment in time. That way you can get the kids out of bed, hook up the big screen, and watch how your pages changed, who was sending them traffic, and what specific pages were doing what. Even better you can pause at any time to take a closer look and step through that old data slice-by-slice.

So that’s it! No more wondering exactly what happened while you were away. You can sleep the night away in peace, take an even longer lunch; you deserve it. All you’ve got to do is click a button and you can find out everything you missed. And if you want all the details about how this works, take a look at our FAQs or feel free, as always, to shoot me an email at