Author Archive

In April 2009, John Borthwick asked me to join a fledgling Betaworks company created by the wonderful Billy Chasen. For the first year there were just two of us trying to build an analytics business in a world where Google Analytics was both free and universally installed. It took 11 months to get to $10k in monthly revenue. Today, that company is Chartbeat and it is the dominant player in media analytics.

A little while ago, I let the board know that I intended to step back from Chartbeat and resign my position as CEO. Over the last year, I started to miss the early stages of startup life. It is those moments of high risk and creativity that I live for. I couldn’t leave without knowing the right person is in place to keep pushing Chartbeat forward. That is why Chartbeat has appointed John Saroff to serve as its CEO.

I recruited John to Chartbeat in 2013 and promoted him to COO in 2014. With Chartbeat’s excellent leadership — Aaron, Agnes, Brent, Josh, Mona, Nathan, and Wes — and our innovative, dedicated team, we’ve expanded the company’s reach to 65 countries around the world. I’ve personally learned a tremendous amount from John, and I know that he has the skills and passion necessary to grow this business. I look forward to watching Chartbeat thrive under his leadership.

Although I am leaving day-to-day work at Chartbeat, I will remain as a Senior Advisor to John and the Board and will always be proud to say that I am Chartbeat’s Founding CEO. I’m gratified by all the good work we’ve done in the world, and I’m even prouder of the team that John and I have built. It has been the greatest privilege to lead this company.

Thank you to every employee, investor, client, and partner who made this journey so wonderful.

Today, I’m thrilled to finally announce that Betsy Morgan, former CEO of The Huffington Post and most recently CEO of TheBlaze, is joining the Chartbeat Board of Directors.

I say finally because it feels as though Betsy has been advising me and Chartbeat since day one. She’s been an incredible partner, sharing her experience and expertise generously with the Chartbeat team.

In fact, years ago, Betsy contributed a guest post for Chartbeat in which she said something that I think about often:

“Data needs to be used as a conversation starter – a way of getting people to think about things in a different way.”

I think of Betsy as the conversation starter for the media industry. She gets us to think about content, data, and business in a different way. There are few, if any, people in the same league as Betsy in our industry. Her experience is unparalleled.

Betsy led TheBlaze for the last five years, where she grew the site’s audience from five to thirty million uniques a month, while simultaneously building TheBlaze TV’s IP-delivered subscription model, which has since become the industry standard for many celebrity-based content businesses. Prior to leading The Huffington Post, Betsy spent ten years at CBS where she was Senior Vice President for CBS Interactive and the General Manager of

We share Betsy with LearnVest, Goldieblox, Zemanta, TheSkimm, and Sidewire, among others where she’s an advisor and with Colby College and Mentoring USA where she’s on the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board, respectively. As well, she serves on the Media Council of Springboard.

Unsurprisingly, Betsy has been repeatedly listed on Business Insider’s “Silicon Alley 100,” as well as named one of 27 Business Insider’s “Game Changers” of 2011. In 2012, she was named one of “20 Women to Watch” by Columbia’s Journalism Review.

To say we’ll learn a lot from her is an understatement.

Thanks for coming aboard, Betsy.

An advantage of working at Chartbeat is that one has no shortage of data from which to derive insight. Our growth over the last year has meant we now track almost half a trillion events per month. This enables us to deeply understand patterns of user behaviour in 60 countries and across 50,000 websites. It allows a unique insight into where the world is going.

When we take a step back and look at what that information is telling us, we see three principal trends in the industry:

  1. Content teams often affect revenue per page more than ad ops teams
  2. The market for content has accelerated as traditional advertising suffers under the weight of the four horsemen: viewability, ad fraud, page speed and ad blocking
  3. Publishers have a deep desire to adapt, but there is considerable friction to them doing so

With that in mind, we’re announcing three new initiatives centered around what Chartbeat can do to adapt and increase the pace of change in the industry.

  • We are doubling down on our investment in content tools to meet the needs of our content creator customer base
  • To help publishers better make the case for the revenue impact of quality content, Chartbeat is opening up our Engaged Ad Refresh technology to all our Chartbeat Publishing clients and open-sourcing some of our newest ad measurement technology
  • We’re partnering with Moat to see if we can move the web faster through close collaboration.

Let me break that down.


Doubling down on content: Making great user experience means greater revenue

Content teams now often have more impact on per page revenue than ad ops teams. If a visitor spends fewer than 15 seconds on the page, average viewability is around 28%. If a visitor spends greater than 15 seconds on a page then average viewability increases to 60%. Publish clickbait and languish at 28%, publish content that actually captures attention, promote it with the right headline and it more than doubles.

Secondly, researchers at Microsoft Research found that a rigorous engaged refresh strategy delivers better per page performance for advertisers. When we assessed the potential impact over the Chartbeat network it also increases the total number of viewable impressions by 69%. Leveraging engaged refresh is probably the single easiest and most useful thing a publisher can do to survive in a viewable world. Both improving viewability and increasing inventory through engaged refresh have one common theme: revenue depends directly upon the user’s experience.

We’re going to be gradually rolling out our Engaged Ad Refresh technology to our Chartbeat Publishing clients. We want every publisher to be able to directly draw the connection between engaging content and greater revenue. To make that even easier, we’re also open-sourcing some key Chartbeat tech to allow publishers — our clients and otherwise —  who use DFP to better optimise for engagement rather than just clicks. Adapting for and building a business on attention should be determined by a business choice, not the technology you choose to partner with.


Collaboration beats Competition: Partnering with Moat

If we want the web to move towards a place in which user experience is paramount, then having every company sitting in their own silo trying to boil the ocean makes no sense.

The web was built with collaboration more than competition; each contributor an expert in their field contributing their skills to the global whole and building something magnificent as a result. If we want the web to get better faster we should do the same.

That means doubling down on what we do best and partnering with others to move the web forward faster. Moat has long been a voice in chorus with our own about the need to move away from clicks and towards attention. Moat has been the go-to for publishers on the ads side, just as Chartbeat has been when it comes to content.

As companies, we both believe that our ability to move the web forward will be advanced by working together. We’ve already seen customers derive tremendous advantage when they are able to stitch together our respective data sets, even when it hasn’t been easy. Enabling Chartbeat’s content tools and data to work in harmony with Moat’s ad tools and data can open up new ways for publishers to benefit without having to disrupt their workflows.

I’m excited to see what better collaboration can do for an attention-focused web.


The refrain is that when it comes to mobile the open web has had its moment and just can’t compete in a world of apps. While apps and the content within those apps (like Facebook’s Instant Articles) load blisteringly fast for a seamless user experience, the open mobile web is lethargic at best, weighted down with redundant code, crappy ads, and too many trackers. When we should be marveling at the instant access to the sum of the world’s knowledge from a device the size of a slice of bread, we spend our time staring frustrated at a loading bar and often just give up.

We have a choice.

We can choose to see the open web as a relic of its time and flee to the warm embrace of platforms and apps. Or we can say that the open web means something important to the world and if it’s broken it’s our job to fix it. I think we should fix it.

The open web has offered equality of access and information to the world. It’s meant that a generation’s unfiltered voice could make itself heard. It’s led to one of the greatest explosions of innovation the planet has ever seen. That wasn’t an app. That was all of us. And that’s important.

That’s why Chartbeat is — and I personally am — proud to partner with Google and many other media and tech companies to support and build the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. It’s our attempt to fix the mobile experience and ensure the future of the open web.

What is AMP?

The AMP project is an open source initiative to deliver a significantly lighter-weight version of a webpage so that content on that page loads instantly, regardless of mobile, desktop, or any other format. It solves this problem at the page-level, not the platform-level. That means no matter if you discovered an article on Twitter, Globo or the Guardian; whether you open it with Chrome or Firefox; or whether you’re reading it on your iPhone or Droid, if the content was created in an Accelerated Mobile Page, you’ll have the same lightning-fast performance. It shouldn’t matter where you came from, you should get the same perfect user experience.

From the content-creator and publisher perspective, open really means open. Anything you publish using AMP HTML will look the same and load with the same speed no matter where or how your readers read it. It’s not a Google-specific link or a fix for only Twitter readers. It allows all of us to use the same open tools to create sophisticated reading experiences for the same open web.

How is Chartbeat involved?

Richard Gingras at Google reached out to us and asked us to be the founding analytics partner for the AMP project. I’ve always believed in the open web (my first startup was an ill-fated attempt to make OpenID popular) and we leapt at the chance to make the web better.

Our particular piece of the puzzle is working out how to make sure that analytics can have as close to zero effect on page load as possible.

Right now, when websites load, multiple analytics services load code that does largely the same thing. That means slower pages in exchange for little positive effect. It would be much better to have just one super-fast snippet of code load and report back on what’s happening on the page. That’s our job to figure out. We’ll be working to shape the universal metrics AMP will report on.

Our goal is to be able to enable the same level of insight for media companies while dramatically improving user experience.

What do we hope will come of this?

We hope the different media companies and tech services that support them can come together around this open-source standard and build a web we can be proud of. Just like the open web, anyone can create a page using AMP, whether you are a blogger in New Zealand or a mogul in New York. With the industry coming together around common standards it means that improving the page load of Vox also improves the page load of the New York Times. It becomes less about any one site becoming better and more about the entire web experience getting better.

At its core it’s a simple mission. Letting the web once again become a source of wonder rather than a source of frustration.

Last month, Chartbeat celebrated its sixth anniversary. Over those six years, we’ve worked with thousands of incredible partners; raised $15.5 million in venture capital; committed code to GitHub 72,000 times; watched the internet break over Obama’s election, the Egyptian uprising, and the color of a blue and black dress; and influenced how the media industry uses data.

In the spirit of if something was fun the first time you should do it again, I’d like to announce that we’ve taken a $15.5 million Series C investment, doubling the total amount invested in Chartbeat to $31 million. The round is led by Harmony Partners, joined by current investors DFJ, Index Ventures, Jason Calacanis and Jeff Clavier and new investor Digital Garage. We’re thankful for the faith our investors have shown in us and we will be celebrating internally.

However, new funds are more than an excuse for a celebration. It’s a promise we make to our investors and to our customers and partners that we won’t stop pushing forward, that we won’t stop building, and that we won’t stop trying to take this industry to a better place.

And this industry needs to get to a better place. We have a simple mission: We want to make sure that ten years from now, it’s possible to build a sustainable business around quality content. We want those in the business of content to succeed by appealing to their readers’ minds more than their index fingers, and to know that the quality of their content affects the value of the page.

With that in mind, today we’re launching two new tools for publishers’ editorial and advertising teams. In the short term, they help to solve the viewability problem for publishers. Over the long term, they help to prepare the industry for an economy based on attention rather than pageloads, an economy based on what matters.

We hope you like them.

Introducing Engaged Headline Testing

And a powerful new Heads Up Display

Chartbeat 2015_Heads Up Display_Headline Test Winner

One of the criticisms of data tools can be that they prioritize clickbait over quality. Tools like traditional click-focused A/B testing can aid and abet that issue, where the most provocative headline wins regardless of the content that supports it. Moreover, tools built for long product-focused tests can struggle when applied to the fast lifecycle of a news headline, where the half-life of the story has expired before the test has finished.

Our newest editorial tool — Engaged Headline Testing — is the first multivariate testing tool built specifically for media sites. For the first time, it optimizes not just for the click but for the behavior after the click. For a headline to win it must be both enticing enough to attract traffic, and also truthful enough to keep an audience. Not only does this optimize for audience engagement rather than pageloads, it also enables editorial teams to directly affect the overall ad viewability performance of their site.

In fact, we’ve found that by optimizing for clicks that result in more engaged time on a page — or Quality Clicks, as we call them in the new Heads Up Display — it means more ads are seen for longer.

A recent study shows when visitors are engaged for 15 seconds or more, viewability is 60% versus 28% for visitors engaged for fewer than 15 seconds.

Finally, Engaged Headline Testing works at the speed you need it to. It uses a propensity-modeling algorithm that assigns more traffic to the likely winner as the test is running, delivering better total performance than standard A/B testing.

For the first time, media companies get multivariate testing built for the goals they care about, at the pace they need — all designed to fit into their workflow in the completely-rebuilt-from-the-bottom-up Heads Up Display.

Introducing Engaged Ad Refresh

And automated line-item optimization

Chartbeat_2015 Line Item Tracker_Viewability Optimization

With Engaged Headline Testing, publishers are driving more people to more engaging, high-quality content. With our new Engaged Ad Refresh tool, they’re turning that engagement directly into revenue.

With Engaged Ad Refresh, publishers borrow an idea from TV and make money from the amount of engagement they can capture vs. the amount of pages that load. Chartbeat tracks the attention of each user as they interact with ads and content, and after an ad has received a set amount of Active Exposure Time, it identifies and serves the next best ad for that user. It’s making the web less like magazines and more like TV, where four 30-second commercials will run in a two minute break.

For the advertiser looking beyond viewability, an ad refreshed after 30 seconds of active exposure has received 30 times the attention required by the viewability standard.

For the publisher with engaging content, it significantly increases the amount of viewable inventory and makes the quality of the content directly affect the revenue opportunity of the page.

PGA TOUR has seen a greater than 10% increase in viewable impressions, meaning an overall increase in new viewable inventory by more than 10%.

For the visitor, it means sites will be built to hold attention rather than maximize the number of times visitors have to click on something.

In essence, we’re seeing the rise of the digital 30-second spot.

Making Engaged Ad Refresh tools work in a way that solved for both advertiser goals and publisher needs was one thing, but we wanted to build even more intelligence into how we made our ad choices.

Our line-item optimizer automatically serves under-performing line items to refreshed ad slots after a fixed amount of actively in-view time. This ad refresh technology is — in real time, in flight — optimizing for the campaign’s goal of hitting either viewability or Active Exposure Time targets.

It goes without saying this automation dramatically increases delivery efficiency for campaigns and reduces the need for padding upfront inventory or makegoods at the end of the campaign.

That means brands get the attention they pay for, not just what they’re promised.

That means publishers get paid for the attention the capture, not just the traffic they drive.

That means — most importantly — we all get a web that rewards and sees a whole lot more of the content that we actually want to read.

We’re rolling this stuff out in the coming weeks, so if you’re already using our editorial and advertising tools, just reach out to your account team and we’ll make sure you’re first in line. If you’re not using our Chartbeat Publishing editorial or ads tools yet, let’s change that.