Archive for the ‘News & Press’ Category

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.

Facebook announced today that it’s updating its News Feed ranking in an effort to show users more of the content that matters to them. The social network will now be factoring in how much time a user spends viewing a story in his or her News Feed.

How is this different from what they’ve done in the past?
Traditionally, Facebook has relied on people’s actions—liking, commenting or sharing a post—to determine what should appear at the top of a user’s News Feed. However, after surveying a number of people about how they use their News Feed, researchers concluded that these factors don’t always indicate whether the content was meaningful to a person.

They found, in many cases, that a user may have chosen not to like or comment on a story, but he or she still found the story to be important or interesting.

“We’ve discovered that if people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them.

Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past [a] post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.”

Why is this a big deal for publishers?
These new updates, along with the News Feed algorithm changes Facebook made last August to combat clickbait, show they’re taking important steps toward surfacing quality content that captures and holds readers’ attention. And as the social network continues to lean on the fundamental ideas of the Attention Web, quality content stands to win big.

Naturally, we’re pretty excited about these changes. For the better part of a decade, Chartbeat has been talking about getting the industry to align the quality of content with the value of a page, instead of with empty clicks and impressions. We’ve been building products around Engaged Time (methodology here for the curious) on written and video content and around Active Exposure Time and Lifetime Exposure with display ads to make it easier for content creators and advertisers to do so.

The more we work together as an industry — publishers, advertisers, platforms, and other tech companies — to reward the best content on the internet, the better the internet as a whole becomes. We’re looking forward to seeing how other major media players follow in Facebook’s footsteps.

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.

Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of talk about data privacy and specifically passing personal information (e.g., age, zip code, income) to third-party data sites. Chartbeat is paid by clients like to help content teams understand how people visiting the site engage with the content, so the folks behind these sites can create the best possible visitor experience.

With that in mind, I want to take a second to talk about what Chartbeat does and doesn’t do (since there are a lot of data providers out there and we all collect and measure different things), what happens when we inadvertently receive personal information in our data, and generally how anyone using data tools for their website can do so effectively while simultaneously taking care to protect their users’ information.

Chartbeat and the data we collect

First, there is a lot of legal stuff. I know, I know. But it’s actually all really important to know about us, what we care about as a company, and how we compare to other data providers out there.

  1. Chartbeat ONLY shares data about a specific client site or the visitors of that site with the owner of that specific client site. Under no circumstances do we share or sell that data to third parties, advertisers or otherwise. Specifically our Privacy Policy states: “Except as expressly provided otherwise herein, we will not sell, lease or exchange the personal information of our Customers or any end user (to the extent that we obtain such information) to third parties without first obtaining their express consent, unless required by law or to protect their status as a Customer.”
  2. Our JavaScript pings, which report information, only do so via HTTPS when client sites are HTTPS, to help prevent third parties from intercepting that data in transit.
  3. We do not ever intentionally collect personal information. As our Privacy Policy states: “Chartbeat does not collect any personally identifiable information from users of Customer Websites, provided that (i) Chartbeat does collect IP addresses from visitors to Customer Websites in order to show geolocation information, and (ii) the Customer configures the Chartbeat code on the Customer Website in accordance with the instructions and documentation provided by Chartbeat, so that URLs containing personally identifiable information of end users are not captured by the Service.”
  4. In our client contracts and Terms of Use, we specifically state that our clients need to scrub any personal information before passing it through to Chartbeat.

When personal information is passed through to Chartbeat

But the last point (point 4 above) doesn’t always happen. So then what?

If there is a time when we learn that personal information may have been passed to us from a website, we do the following:

  • Immediately get in touch with the client / owner of the site
  • Identify the location of the personal data (e.g., what’s the URL)
  • Advise the client on how to fix their code implementation issues in order to immediately stop the sending of personal data through to Chartbeat.
  • Determine the best way to purge our system database of this data and purge that data accordingly

It’s a quick, efficient, and effective reaction. But being reactive isn’t good enough. We’ve also got to be proactive.

In light of the concerns raised this week, we’re also performing ongoing audits of our entire network of thousands of client sites to see if we can identify instances of personal data to alert clients and ensure they update the data they pass to us immediately.

How we can all get better at taking care of our users’ data

The above is all specific to Chartbeat and we take the data we receive incredibly seriously. If I’ve gotten nothing else across at this point, I hope it’s that.

However, it’s important that we all, as website owners and data users, do our part to be better shepherds of data of all kinds—personal or not. A few ways to do so (and I’m positive you all have more suggestions, so please email me with them and I’ll update this post accordingly):

  • Never pass data in the URL itself. Because most analytics providers report at the URL level, the contents of the URL are likely to be stored by any analytics firm you work with.
  • If your web pages are served via HTTP then consider moving them to HTTPS. HTTP is insecure and data sent over HTTP could be read by a third party on the network.
  • Get to know your data partners. They are the experts in the data they collect, the way they collect it, how they store it, where they store it, and how it’s used. Ask them about it. Make sure you completely understand the terms of use, privacy policy, and any contractual language before putting their code on your site. And when you’re at the point of implementation, make sure you’ve checked with them to ensure you’ve done so properly. If you have any questions about Chartbeat implementation, our Chartcorps team is your go-to.

Chartbeat is in the business of building a better internet. As much as that means making sure the best content gets the most attention, it also means making sure we all, as users, fully understand the data that’s powering the web. We’ll do our very best to continue to be transparent about what we measure, how we measure it, and what that means for you.

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;DR 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