Archive for the ‘On Our Minds’ Category

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!

Source: Al Jazeera

Source: Al Jazeera

From the time the UK referendum on EU membership was announced in February, several hundred articles per day were published on the topic of Brexit. This number broke into the thousands on June 13, ten days before the polling, and peaked at over 22,000 articles on June 24 when the Brexit results were announced.

So what can the data around Brexit teach us about how people read the news, what topics capture their attention and how they use news sources vs social and search? For this post, Chartbeat took a look at how Brexit has been covered and read, tapping into data from our network of more than 50,000 publishers, and we uncovered a few interesting patterns:

  • More coverage does not necessarily mean more reader attention
  • The channels by which readers discover stories change during an event’s lifetime
  • Traffic driven by social and search reflects people’s differing interests in Brexit stories


Let’s dive into each.

 

Media Coverage Does Not Always Equal Reader Attention


It’s not surprising that the media gave high priority coverage to this topic , yet public attention wasn’t quickly swayed toward the referendum. After all, 14 months ago the concern over the EU was only the seventh most important issue on voters’ minds according to Ipsos MORI’s survey, noted by
Peter Preston in his Guardian column.

 

The upper panel on the above chart shows how many articles mentioning Brexit were published across the Chartbeat network on a daily basis, while the lower panel shows how many hours people spent reading those articles. The dashed lines mark some important dates related to the Brexit referendum. To many voters, the polling was like a final exam that didn’t gain proper attention until the last minute.

 

hourly_posts_vs_attention.psd

Zooming into media coverage and reader attention, this second chart shows a similar trend on an hourly basis. It illustrates a “pulse” on both the supply and demand side for each day. However, while the media had a strong beat right at the start of the polling on June 23, people’s reading behavior didn’t echo as strongly until much later.

 

Story Discovery Changes During the Lifetime of a News Event


In terms of total attention, June 23 appears to have been another lukewarm day. However, when we break consumption down by referral type, it actually reveals one of the rare moments when
search traffic catches up with social traffic, highlighted in yellow on the following chart. Why is that worth noting? Social traffic is generally driven by passive browsing of news feeds and the like, whereas search traffic is driven by proactive inquiry of specific questions and topics. For that reason, social traffic tends to beat search traffic, as we see on all days other than the polling on June 23 in the following chart.

What’s also notable here is the spiking traffic driven by internal navigation. It indicates that media companies did a great job promoting Brexit stories on their websites and attracting substantial attention from their audience. When the referendum results were announced on June 24, social traffic had a huge jump, which implies people wanted to talk about it for various reasons, such as victorious joys for the Leave camp, surprise and anger for the Remain camp, consequences for overseas jobs, driver’s licences, pensions, and more.

The search spike from the announcement of the referendum results didn’t last: search traffic dwindled on June 24 as information became sufficiently diffused through social media and other communication channels.

 

hourly_referrer_type_logo_annotated

 

Even Regarding the Same Event, Search and Social Readers Consume Fundamentally Different Stories


The last chart further reveals the gap between the supply and demand for particular types of stories about Brexit. The following chart shows how many articles were published in our network around the same story (or group of articles written about the same topic and covered by various news outlets), and how many hours readers spent engaging with each story.

 

*Engagement measured in hours

The stories shown above are the top 20 as ranked by the number of articles published about that story (visualized in the upper panel). Story volume is generally driven by major events, such as the start and end of the referendum, and major forces, such as power struggles among political figures and fluctuations of financial markets.

However, in the lower three panels, we see that traffic volume, search volume, and social volume, measured by engaged hours, differ across stories. Via search, people sought explanations relevant to themselves beyond mere facts. The top searched stories are generally long-form explainers and analyses, such as “what happens if UK votes to leave” and “economic consequence if Leave wins.”

The top social stories have a distinctly different flavor. Not necessarily informative, they carry more emotions, e.g., “regrets and anger about results,” surprises, e.g., “Farage breaks Brexit pledges,” and oddities, e.g., “Brits Google what the EU is.” Unsurprisingly, Mr. Trump buckles up in the front seat on the social wagon.

Brexit news won’t be slowing down any time soon. With Boris Johnson announcing last week that he will not be running for prime minister, the debate around Scotland’s future, and the halo effect of the UK’s decision on the upcoming US election, we’ll have plenty of news to analyze and report on in the coming months.

photoshop1-1Digital content creators need metrics that are meaningful, insights that are actionable, and tools that are powerful. Here’s why Chartbeat fits the bill:

First things first: Let’s talk about roots.

Chartbeat Publishing was born and bred in the newsroom. While several peers offer great options to cover a wide range of clients, these tools are often developed to be one-size-fits-all analytics solutions. Some, in fact, were designed with e-commerce sites or blogs in mind. But we’ve collaborated with our editorial partners all along, offering products and features designed to surface data specific to the online publishing workflow.

That’s where we started. Now, we’re humbled to work with over 50,000 domains in 50 countries, including The New York Times, the BBC, and TIME. With access to a rich, global dataset, we help publishers understand and make the most of transnational trends (before everyone else does) – for instance, the most-read posts of the year.

End-to-end data for content creators

See, we don’t just drop spreadsheets in your lap. We build tools. We integrate specially-curated data into products and features that speak to every step of the content creation process.

Looking to see what topics are trending worldwide? Check out Chartbeat Rising. Want to know how your piece is performing right now? Head over to the Editorial Dashboard. Eyeing the perfect homepage placement? Heads Up Display will blow your mind. Not at your desk? Your Spike Alerts — notifications which identify potentially viral content — come delivered straight to Slack. Looking to do even better next time? Build long-term strategies by digging into your site’s historical data with Report Builder.

However you work and no matter what your responsibilities are, there’s a data-driven feature or tool that can help you out.

Real-time measuring that matters

We’ve always shirked popular conventions around click or view-based metrics. Instead, we focus on measuring the data that truly gives you a sense of your live, real-time audience. Chartbeat, like a good parent, is constantly checking in – pinging your site every fifteen seconds to be exact – taking attendance and tracking how long, on average, your users tend to stick around. Most other analytics tools only check in just once. To see specifically how our numbers vary from Google Analytics figures, check out this infographic.

engaged-time

Measuring your audience’s interest, not their clicks

Thriving in online publishing is sort of like running as fast as you can whilst juggling, i.e., tons to do in a very short time frame. If you want to do it right, you need metrics that are both accurate and meaningful. It’s not enough to show you how many folks are visiting a page –  those stats need life and context. Enter, Engaged Time. We are the pioneers of the Attention Web, measuring visitor activity by tracking scrolling, mouse movements or keystrokes –  so you know how many people are actively consuming your content and for how long.

Because a reader’s Engaged Time correlates with his or her likelihood to return to your site as well as reading comprehension, when you measure attention, you measure quality. And that’s a big step towards building a sustainable web.

Want a recap? – here’s a cheat sheet

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