Author Archive

When we speak with publishers and advertisers, one thing is always very clear to us: Almost as if by their very nature, they’re ready with pen and pad to learn everything there is to know about the ever-evolving web. We’re right there with ’em. If you follow along on our blog (which, of course, you should do…), then you know that our whip-smart crew of data scientists spends a lot of time sifting through mounds of data and writing about their findings.

You’ve also probably seen some of their work and gnarly charts in publications such as TIME, SlatePoynterThe Washington Post, and Adweek. But there’s so much more that we want to learn and share with you. So today, we’re inaugurating the Chartbeat Quarterly, a once-a-season magazine that dives headlong into the data science of online publishing and advertising. This summer, we’re exploring “Matters of Time,” an all-time favorite topic of ours.

We’re scratching the surface, but download the Quarterly and let us know what you think!



The web has changed in a lot of ways over the years, but pageviews and impressions predominantly remain as the metrics by which many publishers and advertisers measure the so-called success of their content and campaigns. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the Attention Web, which puts a premium on high-quality content—where publishers are rewarded for feats of journalistic strength, and where advertisers can buy an audience’s collective attention. Why does it matter? What does it mean? Who’s leading the charge? Check out our infographic, which we think is pretty damn awesome. Because rocket ships.




As Advertising Week Europe gets into full swing in London, native advertising is undoubtedly the talk of the town. Our own UK representative, Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, couldn’t make it across the pond to attend, but he did sit down yesterday with the Media Briefing to talk about the question on everyone’s minds: Does this newfangled native advertising content work?

For some advertisers, he says, yes. But Tony adds in the sit-down interview: “Right now, though, we’re in a situation where the vast majority of what we’re seeing is underperforming in terms of what an advertiser’s actual goals are. If you’re wanting to get your content in front of an audience, a specific audience, and have them engage with that content in the way they would engage with normal content, then a lot of native advertising is missing the mark.”

And that’s backed up by the data, too, as outlined in Tony’s recent article in Time:

On a typical article two-thirds of people exhibit more than 15 seconds of engagement, on native ad content that plummets to around one-third. You see the same story when looking at page-scrolling behavior. On the native ad content we analyzed, only 24% of visitors scrolled down the page at all, compared with 71% for normal content. If they do stick around and scroll down the page, fewer than one-third of those people will read beyond the first one-third of the article.

Here’s a two-minute clip from the interview:

You can check out the full video interview at

Writing for yesterday, our fearless leader Tony Haile thoroughly debunked four myths about the Web. It turns out, clicking on an article isn’t the same thing as actually reading it, there’s no relationship between social sharing and engagement, native advertising has an attention deficit disorder, and conventional wisdom about ad placement is totally upside down. We’re outlining a few key highlights here, but we’d strongly encourage you to check out the full article—it’s a humdinger. (You will read the whole thing, won’t you?)

#1: For starters, he says, we’re mistakenly conflating clicking with reading: “For 20 years, publishers have been chasing pageviews, the metric that counts the number of times people load a web page. The more pageviews a site gets, the more people are reading, the more successful the site. Or so we thought.” As many of us know by now, someone clicking on a provocative headline doesn’t always translate into engagement—and, in fact, that’s the case more often than not. So, it’s crtical to ask, “What are my visitors doing after they click?”


#2: Addressing another piece of conjecture, Tony challenges the assumption that social sharing and engagement have a directly proportional relationship. That is, “the more content is liked or shared, the more engaging it must be, the more willing people are to devote their attention to it.” But, the data says it just ain’t true: “We looked at 10,000 socially shared articles and found that there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.”


#3: While publishers and advertisers are giddy to saddle up and explore the new great frontier of native advertising, many are already on rocky footing: “Brands are paying for—and publishers are driving traffic to—content that does not capture the attention of its visitors or achieve the goals of its creators.” But we shouldn’t just give up on native advertising altogether. Native advertising that engages an audience and holds their attention can be influential, but “driving traffic to content that no one is reading is a waste of time and money.”

#4: A successful ad needs two things: great creative and great placement. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom has led many to pay top dollar for the parts of the page that capture the least attention, not the most: “66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold. That leaderboard at the top of the page? People scroll right past that and spend their time where the content not the cruft is. Yet most agency media planners will still demand that their ads run in the places where people aren’t and will ignore the places where they are.”


So, to the days of the click, we say sayonara. Now let’s usher in the age of attention.



There are a number of social media analytics platforms that tally tweets, retweets, mentions, hashtags—the works. And certainly there are cases in which these measures can be helpful, but they’re no proxy for true audience engagement. They’re surface-level metrics, and they don’t tell you the whole story. As a social media editor, you need to clearly understand how your off-site social activity is contributing to the development of your site’s loyal audience.

A social media manager’s work isn’t just about getting visitors to an article for a quick hit. No sir. It’s more important than that. You want those visitors to stick around and actually engage with your content. That means reading and scrolling down the page, writing a comment, watching a video—showing any sign that they’re tuned in and paying attention. You need to know where folks are spending time, and once they’re finished reading, where they go next.

Here are five questions social media editors can answer with Chartbeat Publishing. (If you’d like to play along, you can check out our demo of the Chartbeat Publishing Dashboard.)

1. Which Social Networks Are Working Best For Me?

With a splintering social web, it can be tough knowing where to spend your time and effort. Social media managers have a bunch of platforms to pick from. Of course, there are the old standbys—e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Then there’s the expanding stable of junior networks: Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.. So, what’s the best channel for your team? Where are you engaging your audience and which channels send visitors who will return?

To help you meet your audience where they are, Chartbeat Publishing breaks down your top-ten social referrers by traffic volume. Because our technology checks in with every one of your visitors every second of the day—yep!—we can tell you which social referrers are sending the most traffic to your website right now. Better yet, we can tell you about the quality of visitors: the percentage from any given referrer that are actually coming back.


2. What Content is Resonating With my Social Audience?

Every article is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your audience. But the hard truth is that not every article, gallery, or video is going to be primed for success. There will always be content that flourishes, and then, of course, other content that flounders—for whatever reason. The point is, if you’re a social media editor, you need to know what’s working. The content that resonates will lead to return visits, and eventually, brand affinity.

Chartbeat Publishing gives you a real-time view of your top social pages. If a particular piece of content is gaining strong traction on Facebook or Twitter, or experiencing a huge surge of traffic from Digg or Reddit, you can see the real-time percentage of traffic coming through that social referrer. That might inform your decision to double down on promoting one article over another article, or guide you toward a more effective cross-platform promotion strategy.


3. Which Tweets are Actually Driving Traffic to My Website?


In a flurry of conversation, it can be tough separating the signal from the noise. Social media managers know that not every single tweet makes a splash, so Chartbeat Publishing shows you the ones that do—the tweets that are provoking meaningful conversations, the tweets that are driving folks to your site, the tweets that are helping you build a loyal following. Knowing where to focus and with whom to engage can make you smarter and more effective.

Chartbeat Publishing helps you figure out not just who’s worth retweeting, replying to, or following, but also how your content is actually resonating with your followers. Is there an angle to the story that you missed but readers are picking up on? Can your editorial team seize an opportunity to add new information to the article or write a follow-up? Could you tweak the headline to make it more engaging, or even change the next tweet’s format or language?

4. Am I Contributing to the Development of Our Audience?

You want to know that the work you’re doing every day is making a difference—helping your organization grow its followership and nurturing your followers’ brand affinity. You want to know: What’s the contribution of social traffic relative to your website’s overall traffic? Is your website’s percentage of social traffic increasing over time? And more specifically, which tweets in the past week or month have had the largest impact on your website’s traffic?

Pivoting on social traffic will give you a bird’s-eye view of the size of your social audience—not just for today, but also for the past 7 days and up to the past 30 days. By being able to take a couple steps back, you can more clearly see the day-by-day growth of your audience in the context of the specific tweets and interactions that were actually helping to drive big spikes. You can finally prove that off-site social activity is growing your on-site audience.


5. How Can I Understand My Social Audience’s Behavior?

Perhaps the most powerful tool for social media managers is the ability to pair ‘social’ as a traffic source with just about any other element of the dashboard. That can provide much-needed insight into the actual behaviors of various audience segments. For example, you could drill into visitors coming from Facebook who are coming to your website for the first time in 30 days. Or, maybe you want to know what your loyal Twitter visitors are reading.

Alternatively, you could even dissect your social audience according to the devices they’re using. Try double-pivoting on ‘social’ and ‘mobile’ to see what this segment is consuming. Heck, take it a step further: Try pivoting on ‘social’ and ‘mobile’ and add ‘Chicago’ to the mix, which puts the magnifying glass on visitors who are arriving at your site from a social source, using a phone or tablet, and living in the city of Chicago. There are a bazillion ways to dig in.

Want to talk more about your social media strategy and goals? We’d love to chat with you.