Archive for the ‘On Our Minds’ Category

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.



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.




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.


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


When you work with as much data as we do—and trust me, it’s a lot—it’s humbling to show off the actual journalistic output we support. So, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 stories that held your attention longest in 2015 — for a grand total of 685,231,333 Engaged Minutes (or more than 1,300 years). These were stories that held you breathless. Enraged you. Inspired you. They were long-form reports, rich with narrative, like #1, 7, 11, and 17, which show that readers really do respond to quality (!!). They were live coverages of the attacks in Paris (#3, 4, 6) or the elections in Britain (#5). They were confessional essays and impassioned arguments, investigations and elegies. These are the stories that prove that digital storytelling isn’t just alive, it’s kicking ass.

1. What ISIS Really Wants

The Atlantic | February

2. The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress

Wired | February

In-depth examinations of global newsmakers topped the list in 2015. Undoubtedly, this was the year of long-form narrative.

3. Paris attacks: as they happened

BBC | November

4. Paris attacks: Bataclan and other assaults leave many dead

BBC | November

5. Election Live

BBC | May

6. Paris massacre: At least 128 killed in gunfire and blasts, French officials say

CNN | November

It goes without saying: Breaking news will always grab and hold attention.

7. Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

The New York Times | August

8. Scott Weiland’s Family: ‘Don’t Glorify This Tragedy’

Rolling Stone | December

9. How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life

The New York Times | February

10. Police: Bryce Williams fatally shoots self after killing journalists on air

CNN | August

11. The Lonely Death of George Bell

The New York Times | October

Honed craft. Timeless themes. Notice that these Times pieces are even more examples of the power of narrative journalism.

12. Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and Patriots apart

ESPN | September

13. At least 14 people killed in shooting in San Bernardino; suspect identified

CNN | December

14. The “Food Babe” Blogger is Full of Shit

Gawker | April

15. I Found An iPhone On the Ground and What I Found In Its Photo Gallery Terrified Me

Thought Catalog | April

16. No. 37: Big Wedding or Small?

The New York Times | January

Sometimes, the most engaging content is the most distracting. Readers will engage deeply with more than just serious news items.

17. Split Image

ESPN | May

18. This is Why NFL Star Greg Hardy Was Arrested for Assaulting His Ex-Girlfriend

Deadspin | November

19. The Coddling of the American Mind

The Atlantic | September

20. The Joke About Mrs. Ben Carson’s Appearance Is No Laughing Matter

The Root | September

Want to see how your stories stack up? Get in touch.

We’re all about attention. Here are a few stories from the week that captured ours.

“The Shire” or “Darwin’s Game”? Here are 4 visions of what journalism might look like in 2025

Nieman Lab | Madeline Welsch | June 19    (3 min read)
“The future of journalism will come down in one of four ways.”

Time to start thinking of smartwatch mini-editions of your newspaper

Poynter | Mario Garcia | June 17     (5 min read)
“We must be prepared to have mini editions of our publications on the face of that watch.”

Reuters Digital News Report: Why Research Matters

Tow Center for Digital Journalism | Claire Wardle | June 17     (5 min read)
“[This research] is an important reminder that change is happening at different speeds, in different ways in different locations. ”

Forget the Click? Online Time May Be More Meaningful

Wired Magazine | Julia Greenberg | June 16     (6 min read)
“The more time we spend lingering over a post […] the more likely we might be curious for more of the same.”

9 key takeaways from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015

The Media Briefing | Damian Radcliffe | June 16     (7 min read)
Average weekly usage has grown from 37% to 46%, and mobile devices may well overtake desktop in 2016 as the most important device for online news consumption.

How publishers try to build mobile-first cultures

Digiday | Ricardo Bilton | June 16     (3 min read)
Publishers are ginning up new ways to infuse mobile-first thinking into their content-creation strategies and overall organizations.

When a reader helps you write a social headline

Sarah | Sarah Marshall | June 14     (1 min read)
“Ever struggled to find a concise way to tweet or share a story on Facebook? Here’s a tip: use the power of the audience.”

What I’ve learned during my first year in publishing

Medium | Matt Karolian | June 13    (4 min read)
“Think about where your reader will find your story. Think about where readers will share your story. Think about what apps are on the home screen of your readers’ phones.”

The most recent Chartbeat webinar focused (loosely perhaps) on some of the larger trends in digital publishing industry and what we can expect in 2015. An excellent discussion was had, with digital prophets Justin Bank of the New York Times and Jonathan Goldner of MTV traversing topics such as emerging mobile strategies, video strategies, personalization and the future of paid content.

Take a listen to the full discussion here.

Want the skinny, but don’t have time to tune in for the whole thing? Well, you’re in luck. Below is my TL;DR (sort of) take.

Some highlights from the discussion:

Adam: Responsive design was a big deal in 2014. Is it going to be a big deal in 2015?

Jonathan: I think it’s a big deal to users that when they click the link it works. If it gonks or takes 42 min to load or isn’t available in my region, then I have a bad experience. We wouldn’t go to a movie theatre and—if the film was out of focus—respond with ‘welp, they tried’. Consumers just expect things to work and it’s no longer acceptable for things not to.

Adam: But is it enough? Responsive doesn’t seem to fully exploit the mobile platform. Shouldn’t organizations be trying to create a purpose-built mobile experience?

Justin: Sure, but it’s hard. It’s the easiest way for news organizations to catch up to a multitude of browsers and apps and different experiences. Responsive is a bridge to somewhere. In the future, news organizations will figure out when to put a greater lift into a custom experience on a more mature platform. Deep linking Google results [browser-based search results that take users into the app instead of mobile web version of the content] could get us there. Responsive is a very safe space to go right now to make sure it looks good. And if you can bet on something later good for you.

Adam: So if I’m a news organization trying to decide between designing a responsive site and a native app, I shouldn’t go for the app?

Jonathan: Your app has to really solve a need, have a great experience and content. And there are risks: will people find it? Will they download the updates? Will they be okay with allowing limited (or not so limited) access to their device? Are you willing to commit to the expense and effort involved in iterating the product? Will the experience be superior to the one I can get from other content-based apps? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram become your competitors. I don’t know that a lot of branded apps demonstrate enough value to usurp what Facebook offers.

But a device agnostic or responsive design is more future proof. And when the Nike smart shoe comes out, eventually the content just flows into that. There’s no need to create a new app and, besides, users really just want the content. For example, Reddit or Imgur are successful because they deliver just the content stripped of any gift wrapping.

Adam: Video is hard. It’s expensive and tough to scale. But it’s lucrative. Will we see more video in 2015 or will some organizations give up on video?

Jonathan: Yes – it’s really hard. We are used to really polished looking video and there’s a whole art to it – it has to be well framed, well lit, technically polished, which is expensive. Is it worth the investment? Sure it’s lucrative but that’s a result, not a reason to do something. Instagram didn’t decide to build something that could be sold for $7M dollars and then a bunch of stuff would happen in between. Instagram wanted to make the definitive sharing, quirky and mobile-only experience. In other words they focused on the experience and product.

But video does have some inherent advantages. It travels very well and is more viral that text. A killer story can be easily paraphrased, requoted, and repurposed. But a killer video can only be embedded or linked to – you can measure it, represent your brand exactly the way you want to and hopefully run pre-roll ads everywhere. So yeah, doing a list of the 12 best things about things is ephemeral so if you can do video and not suck at it …

Justin: We learned how tough it is to do cable news. New York Times is doing great work and I’m confident we’re going to figure it out. For smaller orgs – you can’t build the starship enterprise, but there are certainly some great things you can do with vines, raw video, gifs, or with a talented artist who can mess around in Final Cut.

There is this incredible moment of video distribution now which makes the competitive landscape flatter and has lowered the bar to entry into the marketplace. But that disruption will calcify and normalize and new market leaders will emerge – Youtube is already reaching that point, broadcast diginets will fill up, any potential cable carriage deal imaginable will be negotiated and claimed, smart TVs will have universal standards (or at least slicker UIs that make it appear that way), aero will make it’s triumphant return. The dominant video players from this era who navigate those waters will be in great shape. Insurgents that made the right bets will be able to catch up. Others will be further behind than ever before.

Adam: Is paid content a threat to journalism or a critically important source of revenue? Will the debate intensify in 2015 or have we accepted the fact that it’s here to stay.

Justin: If people are good at it it’ll stay. If they’re bad it’ll go.

Jonathan: Agreed. We may start using the word ‘spicy’ in all of our Facebook posts, but if it feels forced, then nobody gets value out of it. But this Edward R. Murrow line in the sand where the newsroom shouldn’t be responsible for revenue anymore is over.

Adam: How much personalization will there be in news products this year?

Justin: As much as the technology will afford.

Jonathan: I’m not willing to go that far. I don’t like Lady Gaga but if she gets arrested I still want to know about it. There’s a taxonomical distinction between subverting the user’s selection while still understanding their need. We see that with different artists. People tend to share the Taylor Swift content in different ways than the Bieber content. Bieber is polarizing – he generates love traffic and hate traffic. The DUI stuff gets shared a lot and it’s not something that people want to read.

Justin: Ok but personalization isn’t just one person and his interest and likes. There are broader shades. It could be breaking news. At NYTimes we know how to report on things at different levels – with different depths, emotional tones, etc. that frame the content in a personalized way.

So, where do you think things are headed in 2015? I’d love to hear your take. Give us a shout in the comments or hit me up.