I recently partnered with Ro Gupta from Disqus on this webinar for the Newspaper Association of America. Check out our discussion on topics like below-the-fold engagement, the value of consumption metrics like Engaged Time and how you can take advantage of readers who are spending time on your site and with your content.Follow up questions are welcome – post them in the Comments section and I’ll get back to you.
If you haven’t read “You Won’t Finish This Article: Why People Online Don’t Read to the End“, check out Farhad Manjoo‘s piece in Slate – it’s an honest and in-depth look at Slate’s audience behavior based on Chartbeat’s engagement data, researched by our Data Scientist Josh Schwartz. Manjoo explores a major editorial –and in Manjoo’s case, personal – pain point, which is the fear that readers aren’t reading the entire story– or reading the story at all sometimes.And sure, that’s a valid concern. As Manjoo says, 50% of Slate’s readers scroll to the midway point of a Slate story. There’s also data that shows people sometimes tweet about stories before they’ve actually finished them. And that probably stings when you’ve spent hours, days, and sometimes longer crafting the perfect article. Josh has said before, this is about matching the best, most-engaged readers to your content, as these folks have the greatest likelihood of becoming your loyal, returning audience.As for that 50% reader bail stat Manjoo speaks of – in general, we think the most important thing to understand is not that they’re bailing but where on the page you’re losing your readers because that starts to tell you why they’re leaving. That’s helpful data you can act on — maybe a paragraph needs to be restructured and clarified or the accompanying video needs to be promoted higher on the page.And take note: Slate gets awesome below-the-fold engagement. A whopping 86% of the time Slate’s readers spend engaging on the page takes place below Slate’s digital fold. Ad Sales teams, this is yet another example of why your most valuable ad positions aren’t always right at the top. tweet at Chartbeat. Josh is on deck to answer any data science-related queries and if you’ve got some ideas on what he should dive into next, let us know.
Last week, Chartbeat launched a new product, Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales. If you haven’t read Alex’s wonderful write-up of the inspiration and genesis of the product, you really ought take a few minutes to read it through. In a sentence, though, the product highlights exactly where on a site their readers spend their time reading, so that publishers can identify the ad positions that best capture their audience’s time and attention.
If you’re a skeptic like me, though, talk of Engaged Time around ads begs a question: readers come to a page to consume content, not ads — so, does higher engagement with a part of a page actually correlate with higher engagement with the ad that’s in view at that position?
When we started down the road toward building this product, my first focus was on answering this question, and I want to describe some preliminary work I’ve done to understand the interaction between Engaged Time and an ad’s impact.
At its most basic, the first goal of advertising is to capture a user’s attention — a person who doesn’t see an ad doesn’t even have a chance to interact with it. One simple measure of attention is brand recall — the ability of a person to recall the content of an advertisement some time after the ad is not longer in front of him — and it’s a well established metric for research on advertising’s impact. There has been a great deal of research on the effect of exposure time to an ad on brand recall for TV advertising , and other research has found a correlation between time on page and an ad’s effectiveness , so I decided to set up a simple experiment to measure whether the amount of time a reader is engaged on a page while a particular ad is in view affects their recall of an ad’s brand. The process went like this:
We created an a simple white page with a static news article and a single ad on the right rail, for a well-known national brand. No other images or headlines were on the page.
Participants were asked to read the article and told they’d be given a survey about the article’s content.
After a certain number of seconds, the screen was wiped and replaced with short survey: first we asked the participant to correctly identify the topic of the article, and we then asked them to identify the brand from the advertisement (the first mention we’d made of the ad at all).
We solicited 1,500 paid participants and randomly varied the amount of time participants were able to read before the screen was wiped — the only difference between each person’s experience on the page was the amount of time they were allowed to read for, which ranged from 5 to 20 seconds.
When the study started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as the numbers came in the results were clear: there was a strong correlation between Engaged Time and recall. Participants who read for 15 or more seconds were 25% more likely to recall the brand than those who read for 10 or fewer seconds. Even in this simplified environment, the amount of time the ad was in view had a dramatic effect on recall.
Next, I wanted to test if the same would hold true on a more complex page. We repeated a similar experiment, this time with 1300 people. As before, each person was shown an identical page — but this time it was an actual live page from a publisher’s site. Participants were randomly shown the article for either 5 or 10 seconds, the screen was wiped, and they were asked to identify the content of the article and the brand from the ad.
As we’d expect for a more complicated page, recall was substantially worse across the board, but we saw the same trend as before — participants who read with the ad in view for 10 seconds were about 30% more likely to recall the ad’s brand than those who had the ad in view for 5 seconds.
In some sense, the results I’m describing feel obvious — we’d expect the amount of time a person sees something to have an effect on his memory of it. On the other hand, the impact of display ads is challenging to understand because they’re non-disruptive — a person can consume content while an ad is in view without necessarily consuming the ad. Traditionally we’ve had to rely on metrics like click-through rate to talk about impact, but the results we’ve seen so far suggest that time itself is a meaningful indicator of the performance of an ad.
There’s much work yet to be done to understand how time and advertising go together — how to design the creative based on how much time users will see it for, how much time different types of messages might need, how time interacts with more complex metrics like brand lift — and we’re actively working with academics and other researchers on further directions of study. For now, I’m excited to be one step closer to understanding the value of engagement on advertising.
Note: Check out Ad Age’s piece on our research.
Josh Schwartz is one of our awesome resident Data Scientists at Chartbeat. He focuses on using machine learning to find human-readable insights from quantitative data. Much of his current research concerns modeling how users’ loyalty to specific publishers changes over time.
The lowdown from Josh
You already know that great content is the first step in getting people to your site, but what happens next? Earlier this month we spoke at the WAN-IFRA Digital Media Europe conference about the correlation between quality content and a loyal audience. This webinar continues the conversation about leveraging your content to increase your core reader base. I talk about the importance of thinking about traffic quality, not just traffic volume, strategies for increasing engagement on your page, and the key reader experiences that build towards a loyal, returning audience.
Check out my webinar and feel free to email me if you have any questions!
“What is Engaged Time and why is it different from page views?”
Can’t get enough ? Take it to the next level and check out Josh’s new post on Engaged Time and audience development. And see AdAge’s recent article on our new advertising product – which features some major advertising insights based on, you guessed it, Engaged Time.Hope you enjoyed getting to know Engaged Time in a new way – and please share this infographic with your friends and colleagues!