The online advertising world is buzzing today over the announcement from the Financial Times, published in The Drum, that the company is starting to sell its ads inventory using time—audience exposure time to ads, specifically—as a currency. The Financial Times has partnered with Chartbeat to measure and now monetize their audience’s time and attention.In The Drum, Jon Slade, the Financial Times Commercial Director of Digital Advertising and Insight, says, “We can now report back to a client and say ‘we served you a thousand ads, and of those, 500 were seen for one second, 250 were seen for 10 seconds and 250 were seen for 30 seconds,” Slade went on, “The next obvious step is to sell blocks of time.”Advertisers can now buy inventory based on how long readers are actively exposed to ads, and according to Slade, so far so good: “We have three trials running at the moment, and we’re able to tell pretty conclusively so far that when we serve an ad to an audience that we know is going to spend a long time with the ad in view that the benefit to that client is far more profound.”And the data backs it up:
I’m excited to announce that Chartbeat has accepted $3.1m in additional funding led by existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Index Ventures with participation from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Freestyle Capital, LAUNCH Fund, SoftTech VC and Lowercase Capital. From two guys around one desk to today, Chartbeat is now a company serving 80% of the top publishers in the U.S. with clients in 35 countries around the world. Our ability to do this is because of the consistent incredible support we’ve had from a stellar group of investors.
What will you be using the money for?
HIRING! We’ve now got multiple product lines that touch content creation, promotion and monetization, including Chartbeat’s new paid content service, which we launched today! That’s a lot of moving pieces that require multiple engineers, designers, and product people to lead us forward. If you’re interested in building a web where quality content and good design can make money; if you want to work with one of the most interesting data sets and some of the weirdest people in the world, we want to hear from you.
Why only $3.1m?
To be honest, that’s all our finance guy told me we needed. We intend to raise a larger Series C towards the end of 2014 to fuel our expansion in the longer term.
Why not do the Series C now?
Because if you’ve ever raised a financing round you know it’s a pain in the arse and distraction from the job of building a company. Right now, we’re heads down on developing new products and working with our partners on some stuff I’m utterly in love with and I didn’t want the distraction of a second full-time job taking me away from the maelstrom.DFJ and Index told us almost nine months ago that if we ever wanted to build more of a war chest without having to go around the houses raising money they were keen to put money in at a healthy valuation. Given the product line expansion that’s been happening at Chartbeat, it made sense to make that call now. I’d like to thank DFJ, Index and our other investors for making this the easiest fund raise in history. You guys rock.
What should we expect from Chartbeat in future?
I made our position pretty clear in an article I recently wrote for TIME. We believe that for quality content to thrive on the web we need to value people’s attention as much as their clicks. We’re going to make that happen. We’re building an ecosystem of SAAS tools that enable people through the media/advertising world to do more with less and value content more effectively. If we succeed, then content creators can charge more for quality and advertisers can buy media based on their actual goals not proxies. It’s going to be a long road, but we’ve got the right partners with us and that’s half the battle.
The need for attention metrics
A few months ago our CEO Tony Haile wrote a piece for TIME that rebuked commonly-held assumptions about the internet. One fact in particular – that only 24% of readers exhibit any sign of engagement at all with sponsored, branded, native or as we call it, paid content – specifically struck a chord with many folks who read Tony’s piece. Our data science research confirmed something many of us already assumed or suspected – that most paid content failed to capture audience interest and attention – that most paid content failed to match the quality of the editorial content surrounding it.At Chartbeat, we see these low engagement numbers, depressing as they might be, as an opportunity.Right now we’re seeing that most paid content isn’t being measured by audience attention at all. A lot of publishers are tracking and reporting on paid content performance using things like clicks and impressions and shares. Metrics we’ve long-known don’t help us wholly understand content performance in terms of audience engagement. There is a clear dearth of metrics for publishers that speak to the impact of advertisers’ paid content. Publishers can’t get the data they need to answer key questions around paid content performance:
- Did their message got in front of a quality audience?
- Did that quality audience actually spend time actively reading that content?
- Did that paid content ultimately perform similarly to that publisher’s editorial content?
At the end of the day, we knew that answering these questions for both publishers and advertisers and aligning their goals and success metrics required a new product that provided core attention metrics to paid content teams.
Today we’re excited to introduce the Chartbeat Paid Content Solution.
We’ve built a product that brings content quality measurements to those on the frontlines of paid content. We created this product because we have the knowledge and the network to actually help clients better understand their paid content – the traffic it gets, who spends time with it, what social activity is relevant to this piece, and whether or not this paid content creates a native reading experience for the publisher’s audience.Because our editorial and advertising products are built on the strength of the thousands of sites we work with – 80% of the top media sites in the US and across 35 countries – we understand their goals and performance at both a mass and individual site level, we’re set up to help the industry solve this issue at the entire ecosystem level.Building this product reflects the fact that we know paid content can get better – and we know that advertisers’ and publishers’ goals can be aligned to ultimately result in a better paid content reading experience for audiences.
Three Things to Know about this Product
We wanted to bring the critical answers you need front and center, within one dashboard that helps you tell a complete story around how your paid content is performing. While I hope you’ll explore the product demo on your own, here are a few quick things to know about this new product:
- You can show your advertisers if their paid content is actually being consumed, rather than just provide click counts. You can provide advertisers with clear audience insights around how many folks begin and finish reading a piece of paid content.
- You get an in-depth understanding of where your audience is coming from and how much time they’re spending with your paid content. This product lets you dive deep into a piece of paid content’s traffic sources so you can see what kinds of traffic are spending the most time with your paid content.
- You can benchmark your paid content’s performance. See how audience attention on a piece of paid content measures up against the attention on your advertiser’s campaign overall, the attention across your whole site, or the attention averages for your site’s competitive set.
Want more?You have a few options for getting the scoop on our new paid content product:
- You can watch the nifty product video below
- You can explore a demo on your own here
- You can read more about the product here
- You can get in touch for a personalized walkthrough here
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: