Archive for the ‘Data Science’ Category

This week, we partnered with The New York Times – The Upshot on a study of supply and demand in the news. Essentially, we sought to uncover how many articles news organizations wrote about a given event compared to the demand for these articles among their readers, measured by Engaged Time.

In a time of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” there’s a perception that the media isn’t covering the issues fairly and may be only covering the issues that align with the publication’s political leaning. We wanted to find out if this was really what was happening.

Bowling Green Massacre Article Supply and Demand

We looked at 148 news publishers, divided into liberal and conservative buckets by The Upshot using scores from a study done at the University of Michigan, and studied article supply and reader demand of six recent news topics:

  1. Inauguration crowd size debate
  2. Alleged Bowling Green massacre
  3. Muslim travel ban
  4. Michael Flynn’s resignation
  5. Super Bowl LI
  6. The Grammy Awards

In the end, we found this perception of media bias is not completely true, as publishers on both sides are writing about each topic roughly equally. Instead, this perception may stem from the reader demand side of things; while supply of articles written on each topic was generally consistent across conservative and liberal news outlets, readers on each side do not read the same topics equally.

It’s not media coverage but actually consumer behavior trends that shape what gets read and what doesn’t.

The polarizing perceptions of reality are not only shaped by the content supplies from newsrooms but also by demands from their audiences because, after all, news consumers are the ultimate constructors of their own realities.

Head over to The New York Times’ The Upshot to check out the full study.

What a year it was. From major political events like the U.S. Election and Brexit to the summer Olympics; from gun violence and terrorism to gripping personal narrative on issues of social justice, the stories of 2016 captured our attention.

Chartbeat is proud to release the Most Engaging Stories of 2016, featuring the most captivating journalism of the year across the Chartbeat network as defined by Total Engaged Time — the total amount of time visitors spent actively engaged in content. This year’s top stories, which surfaced out of more than 46 million articles, cover a wide range of topics and span format types like interactives, live blogs, and longform content. See the stories that defined the breadth, the depth, and the power of journalism in 2016.

And follow along on Twitter with #MetricShift this Friday at 1pm to tweet about it with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!

Most Engaging Stories of 2016

So what were the key trends?

 

Politics

Political stories ruled 2016. Between the U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, political stories made up the majority of the top stories, including nine of the top ten. This differs greatly from 2015, which only had one political story make it into the top ten. Even more surprising is the breadth of formats delivered this year: from interactive polling experiences to live blogs and fact-checking, this year’s political coverage proves that innovative storytelling is alive and well.

 

Interactive

In many ways, this was the Year of the Interactive, with election prediction pages and live results pages captivating our attention and driving a massive number of engaged, repeat visitors. The top story, 538’s General Election predictor, received more Engaged Time than the top five stories of 2015 combined.

 

Breaking News

Breaking news stories were second only to politics this year and made up a solid 24 of the top stories. While many of the top political stories built up traffic across the year, the top breaking stories garnered most of their traffic in the hours and days after the events they covered. That attention runs the gamut from major storms to winning Powerball tickets, proving that breaking news comes in all shapes and sizes.

 

Longform

In a world where attention is scarce, 2016 proved that longform content still has a strong role in engaging and moving readers, with articles on Tiger Woods, 9/11, and El Chapo leading in this category. While last year’s overall top story was The Atlantic’s longform piece, What ISIS Really Wants, with 3:00+ minutes of average Engaged Time, longform was pushed to just outside of the top 10 this year.

 

Opinion

Powerful, personal narratives dominated the list of top opinion articles, driven by strong social traffic, demonstrating that when we emotionally connect with a story, we’re more apt to share and discuss it. Many 2016 opinion pieces focused on the moral, ethical, and emotional reasons one might support Clinton or Trump.

 

Justice and Rights

Articles with a strong social message were a major part of the national discussion in 2016. Notably, many of them were told from a first person perspective. From major investigative pieces rooted in undercover work to the moving letter from a Stanford student to her assailant, first-hand accounts and breaking news affecting personal and societal rights captured our attention as well as our empathy.

 

Check out the full list of the most engaging stories here. Have any questions or comments? Reach out to marketing@chartbeat.com and let us know your thoughts.

Don’t forget to follow along with our #MetricShift Twitter chat this Friday at 1pm to discuss more about the most engaging stories of 2016 with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!

Recently, there’s been a big push for social over search – the idea has emerged that social channels are the main, if not only, sources that consumers turn to to get their news. While it’s true that social promotion is an important part of anyone’s content strategy – we know Facebook isn’t going away anytime soon – Google still drives more traffic than any other referrer. This is especially true during big news events. So how should this affect your strategy during extraordinary news events?

 

Search vs. Social Traffic During Election Day

We’ve written before about how search leads social in the early hours of major events. Take, for example, our analysis of Brexit, where we note that in the hours leading up to polls closing in the UK, search overtook social traffic. We concluded that this behavior happens overwhelmingly in big news events as people proactively seek out news, instead of passively ingesting information from their Facebook newsfeed.

Following these conclusions, we decided to delve a little more into this behavior using the US Presidential election as a case study. Like Brexit, the US election represents a special type of news event: one where publishers have prior knowledge of the event and can prepare ahead of time to optimize their content strategy.

The graph below shows the breakdown of publisher traffic coming from Google versus Facebook between 12AM on Election Day (November 8th) and 12AM on the 10th (Eastern Standard Time), as compared to the trends we see on an average day (denoted by the dotted lines).

Search vs Social Traffic During Election Day

On an average weekday, we tend to see about 36% of referred traffic in our network coming from Facebook, while 41% comes from Google. As we can see in the graph above, Google traffic throughout Election Day was already performing higher than expected. From midnight on November 7th until polls started closing on the 8th we saw an approximate four point increase in Google traffic and six point decrease in Facebook traffic.

As the first US states started closing their polls at 6PM, there was an even surge in traffic from Google as readers became more and more entranced by the final results. This trend continued until slightly after the last polls closed in Alaska at 1AM EST. During this period, Google traffic shot up by an average 14 percentage points across our network. This uptick in Google referrals corresponds to readers proactively looking to Google for information about election results.

After the race was called at 3AM, we see a very noticeable swing to Facebook as readers flocked to share the news of the election results, read opinions of others in their peer network, and consume the overwhelming amount of post-election commentary.

 

Takeaways For Publishers

So what does this tell us about reader trends during Election Day, and how they relate back to trends during major breaking news events? We see three main takeaways:

  1. Concentrating on SEO strategy before big news events is critical to maximizing traffic during the event. The majority of referred traffic in the first few hours of an event will inevitably be coming from search.
  2. The most successful stories on Facebook tend to have an emotional versus strictly informative lens, as seen with the shift of traffic to Facebook after the election was called. So while search traffic is important to harness during breaking news events, keep in mind that social traffic picks up again in the aftermath.
  3. Despite the growing commentary on social media contributing to “filter bubbles” in the news people seek out and ultimately engage with, during large impactful news events readers don’t settle for what materializes on their Facebook feeds. We still see major trends in readers proactively scouring the web to stay up to date and informed on the progress of events as they unfold.

Stay tuned for more election trends, or get in touch with any questions.

Tomorrow’s US elections will bring an unprecedented amount of web traffic to news sites. At Chartbeat, we’re predicting the total volume of readership we measure across the web (including non-news sites) to be close to 20-25 million concurrents, roughly double that of a typical day’s 13 million, with a selection of sites up in traffic by factors of 10 or more. This increase in overall traffic represents a huge opportunity for audience building, with news sites seeing large increases in new visitors. But how?

 

Turning election interest into readership

Election days aren’t regular news days by any means. Traffic patterns during an event like the elections are quite different from the norm. In fact, it is important to note that according to our research, search and direct traffic are initially critical to audience building during major breaking news events, followed by social.

When we think about traffic in general, we tend to think about social traffic first — due to the fact that the top referrer to any major news article is likely to be Facebook. But, because Facebook traffic about a particular article tends to have a significant ramp up period, reader behavior is quite different during breaking news events. For example, during the Paris attacks in late 2015, Google traffic to The Atlantic’s What ISIS Really Wants spiked 12 hours before Facebook traffic reached its peak.

minute-by-minute-traffic-paris-attacks

In fact, during the 2012 US elections, search and direct traffic vastly outweighed social traffic, and events like the Brexit vote in the UK demonstrated the same pattern more recently. That means that concentrating on these two areas — search and direct traffic — is critical for news sites hoping to maximize their traffic on election night.

 

Capitalizing on search traffic

For search, that means — perhaps obviously — that the sites topping the Google rankings for terms like “election map” and “elections results” will have search traffic climbing to millions of concurrents. Additionally, search engine optimization around key terms has the potential for massive returns.

Although traffic will be highest for google.com, we should expect readership spikes on the magnitude of 100,000+ concurrents for search traffic from many non-US countries as well, so search placement in google.fr, google.de, google.com.au, google.co.uk, google.es, and others is also critically important.

 

Maximizing direct traffic

Garnering an increasing share of direct traffic is by no means easy, but the sites that people tune into for election coverage will likely crack into the millions of concurrents. Therefore, anything you can do to remind your users to choose your site as their go-to for the evening is likely to reap rewards. Critically, and unlike during “traditional” breaking news topics like weather and terrorism where visitors value hard factual sites the most, we typically see that during major elections there’s a bias in traffic toward sites with a unique angle.

 

Following through on social traffic from Facebook

We often see that the most successful stories on Facebook have an emotional versus strictly informative lens. For example, during the Brexit vote, only a few highly emotional topics received significant Facebook traffic.

 

14-brexit

Because Facebook traffic is extremely concentrated, looking for stories beginning to gain traction late Tuesday night and doubling down on them on Wednesday morning is the likeliest route to success.

As for social traffic, we can expect Facebook to become the dominant traffic driver on Wednesday morning, following the election results.

There’s much that remains to be seen about traffic on Tuesday night — will more prominent data directly on Google search results pages hurt traffic? Which sites will end up with the coveted top search positions? Will traffic peak early in the evening or continue on late into the night? And how will Facebook amplify traffic?

I’ll be live tweeting patterns as they emerge at @joshuadschwartz and we’ll be following up with more in-depth analyses in the days after the election. Feel free to reach out!

What time of day is the best for social sharing?

Social media strategists are constantly testing and re-testing to find the answer to this timeless question. Of course, time of day nuances will vary based on your specific audience, but we took a look at the wealth of data from sites in our network to see how social traffic compares to overall traffic throughout the day:

 

Social Traffic by Time of Day

The verdict: social traffic substantially underperforms overall traffic from the morning through to the early afternoon, and substantially overperforms overall traffic during evenings and nights. So if your goal is reach, late afternoon through night is the best time to attract readers on social media and get them to click through to your site. And, as you might expect, we see social media strategists adapting to the behaviors of their audience.

Below, we see a graph of how frequently these sites posted to Twitter, compared to their volume of social traffic.

 

Social Traffic and Social Sharing

Posting to twitter is strong all morning and reaches its peak in the afternoon and early evening, as traffic from Twitter dramatically picks up around noon to midnight. By increasing posting when traffic is already its strongest, publishers in our network are capitalizing on reader trends to continue getting their traffic even higher.

Want to put your social data to work? Download our Insider Guide to Getting to Know Your Social Readers.