Archive for the ‘On Our Minds’ Category

Tony Haile’s Data State of the Union

October 14th, 2014 by Alexandra

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;DW 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

    On the Facebook News Feed Algorithm Changes and Why Short-Form Content Will Be Just Fine

    August 25th, 2014 by Tony

    Facebook announced today that is is making some changes to its News Feed algorithm to combat clickbait. Primarily, the social network will be looking at how much time people spend reading away from Facebook.

    “If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.”

    Focusing on attention and time is nothing new for Facebook. On its last earnings call, Facebook specifically spoke about the size of their market opportunity in terms of the available time and attention they were able to accrue. On a more practical note, Facebook has been factoring how much time people spend away from Facebook after clicking on an ad into its pricing algorithm for some time now. In some ways, the news today is simply a wider application of that action.

    Second, the decision to enable greater previewing of links, effectively giving the visitor more information to decide whether the content is interesting to them, potentially confirms a theory that Chartbeat’s data science team has held. On average, traffic from Facebook spends about 60% more time reading than traffic from Twitter. While there are likely a number of factors in this, the more sophisticated previewing in Facebook is a clear differentiator that we think affects this.

    Take together these two actions confirm that Facebook is taking its users’ experience incredibly seriously and are leaning more and more on the fundamental concepts of the Attention Web to do so. That’s good news for quality publishers everywhere.

    But what does this mean for great short-form content? The one potential challenge to this was raised by Matt Galligan of the excellent news service Circa:

    It’s utterly logical to be concerned that content designed for brevity would suffer under this algorithm. However, I think this underestimates the comparative wealth of attention that even content designed to be brief gets. The depressing truth of the Internet is that short-form content hangs out on the same end of the distribution curve of the Internet as long form when it comes to attention.

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the majority of pageviews on the internet get fewer than 15 seconds of engagement. Facebook is looking for those incidences when people come ‘straight back’ to the feed, suggesting that the threshold they’ve set for clickbait may be rather low. If your content matches the intent of your headline (ie. you’re selling what you’re promising), then you’re highly likely to beat Facebook’s threshold even with short form.

    Bottom line: Focus on creating quality content, match it with an accurate headline, and you’ll be fine.

    It’s Time for the Attention Web

    May 19th, 2014 by Kyle

    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.

    CHECK OUT THE FULL INFOGRAPHIC ▻

    attention-web


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    You’re Invited! “Building the Attention Web” at Our Office on Monday, May 19

    May 16th, 2014 by Alexandra

    We’re in the business of measuring and monetizing attention on the web. We work with publishers and agencies and brands to help them do just that. In doing so, we’ve learned that in order to move the media industry past valuing only clicks and impressions, it’s going to take all of us working together.

    So, let’s do it. Let’s get together to start solving the parts of the advertising and publishing world that are broken.

    On Monday, May 19, we're getting a few smart folks (that’s you) together at our office in Union Square to talk about the value of content and advertising on the web.

    We call it "Building the Attention Web." But you can call it free snacks and nerdery.

    — RSVP NOW —

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    The panel discussion will feature:
    • Joy Robins, VP Advertising & Strategy at Quartz
    • Jen Ray, VP Account Director at Havas Media
    • Patrick Yee, Executive Vice President for Marketing & Strategy at Refinery29
    • Daniel Mintz, Head of Business Intelligence at Upworthy
    • Shane Snow, Co-founder at Contently

    And of course, everyone’s favorite Brit, Tony Haile, our CEO, will be moderating the panel—by moderating we basically mean heckling and inserting as many bad puns into the conversation as possible.

    So let us know if you can come. We’ll save you a seat! But wait, that's not all...

    Also on our agenda for Monday: A Breakfast Engagement with Fred Wilson

    Our friends over at Disqus are hosting a breakfast summit that seeks to close the gap between what advertisers and publishers measure and what matters to the people they're trying to reach.

    Tony and Jay Lauf of Quartz will be squaring off to talk about premium content, premium audiences, and what’s next in the world of content measurement. The event will also have talks from folks at Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Etsy, and more.

    Looks like we’ll be doing a whole lot of hanging out on Monday, huh? See you then!

    Where Views Fail and Why Measuring Your Audience’s Time Is So Important

    February 6th, 2014 by Lauryn

    Today, Upworthy introduced a metric they're using on their content, which they're calling Attention Minutes. As we've done with our friends at Medium and the good folks at YouTube when they've introduced ways to understand how their audience is engaging with content beyond clicks and pageviews, we're extending a giant virtual high five.

    It’s another big win for people, like us, who care about making sure awesome, quality content is the backbone of the media industry.  We've all been pushing in this direction for a few years now, and the flywheel is starting to spin faster and faster—Upworthy’s announcement is further proof of that.

    You guys know us, and know we've spent just about every day of our company's history working with thousands of publishers across the globe to solve the problems of where the click and pageview leave off and how we can actually quantify what and how people read. We introduced one of our key metrics, Engaged Time, a couple of years back, and it's quickly become how lots of folks measure the quality of their content across the web. It tells them not just if people are clicking, but also if they're actually reading—there's a big difference.

    chartbeat-most-reads-least-reads

    How Do We Measure Engaged Time?

    We silently ping every single visitor's browser every few seconds to check what they’re doing. First, we look to see if a browser tab is active or inactive—are they there or grabbing a cup of coffee in the kitchen?—and then we look for a few key triggers, such as moving or clicking a mouse, typing on a keyboard, or watching an on-page video. It's pretty different from traditional time on page, which estimates how long users keep pages open, rather than how long they actually engage with pages.

    Why Is Measuring Time So Incredibly Seriously Must-Do-It Important?

    Well, not only does it go beyond surface clicks and page loads to tell you what happens between those clicks, but we've done a lot research that says it's a huge indicator of the core goals most every publisher has: Building a loyal audience and monetizing that audience. Our data team found that users’ Engaged Time is strongly correlated with their loyalty to your site. Below is a figure showing the relationship between the maximum amount of time visitors spent reading articles one day and whether they returned to the site across the rest of the week.

    joshgraph_2c

    Visitors who read an article for three minutes returned twice as often as those who read for one minute. If you get them to read your stuff, like your stuff, and come back again to read more of the stuff they like, you've done your job. Why? Because that's the kind of content and audience insights your marketing team can use to target the right audience with paywall upgrades or newsletter signups. And most importantly, it's information your ad sales teams can take to your brand advertising partners and sell. They can use this information to prove that your best content is read by your best audience and should be sold at a premium.

    It proves your content is worth more than the headline that someone clicked on it. It's worth the value of someone actually reading that. Because when they read more, as this study on brand recall below shows, they're more apt to recall the brand that advertises next to that content they just consumed. That's pretty damn valuable, we're told.

    Correlation between brand recall and engaged time

    But don't just take our word for it. Exposure time as it correlates with recall has been supported by the work of the biggest advertising companies out there from Microsoft to Yahoo and Google, as shown in their research here:

    Yahoo Recognition & Recall

    Source: www.dangoldstein.com/papers/Goldstein_McAfee_Suri_Ad_Exposure_EC11.pdf

    Google CTR Ads Views

     Source: adwords.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-importance-of-being-seen.html

    So let's go! Let's all—tech and analytics nerds, editors, ad sales teams, agency planners, brand advertisers—keep this momentum going. Let's stop letting the metrics of what we could measure in the past get in the way of what matters to our audience.