Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

While I’m now an Outreach team member, spending my days at Chartbeat developing partnerships in the U.S. and abroad, prior to joining the Chartteam I spent some time working for a nonprofit in Fiji. I learned a lot during my time in Fiji – and since I’ve been back  those learnings have become applicable in all sorts of ways.

I recently wrote a piece for AlleyWatch that draws parallels between Fijian farming traditions and and strategies shared by lean startups and publishers. Check out this link for the whole article, and enjoy the excerpt below:

Before I entered the world of tech, data, and office dogs, I lived in Fiji and worked for a human-services nonprofit. I was lucky enough to help out at a 186-acre farm where dozens of subsistence farmers worked the land to feed their families and raise their children.

Beyond their immense generosity, two things jumped out at me immediately: the farmers walked extremely slowly, and they planted all of their crops on an incline. Seemed a little strange to me, so I talked with a few farmers and found out they did this because they understood the exact amount of calories, power, and reward that they would extract from a single plant, even a group of plants.

By planting on an incline and walking slowly, they expended less energy to get the same reward, maximizing the deal they made with mother nature.

So why is this at all relevant? Because, when you think about it, this is exactly what lean startup teams do — or should do, at least.

Lean teams with endless responsibility and an autonomous, no-heavy-oversight-layers-of-management working style have to be conscious of how they spend their time. Every hour spent iterating on that perfectly flat design, creating the right Facebook presence, user testing again and again, or searching for someone to promote the biz, must be quantified. Did that hour actually move the needle? Thinking in the way of our Fijian farmers, how slow do we need to walk and what incline do we plant on to get the ripest fruit?

Keep reading here. And please let me know what you think in the Comments!

As you may have heard, at Chartbeat we’re able to measure data about audience loyalty, engagement, and referrals. We strive to build the best tools possible based on our data to help our partners make better-informed decisions for their sites. That said, we know our talented clients are capable of doing great things with our data. Thus we make the Chartbeat API accessible to clients, giving them the opportunity to build great things alongside us.

Over the past few years, we’ve been constantly wowed by all of the incredible widgets, programs and visuals our clients come up with by taking advantage of our API – from top page modules to quirkily-customized data visualizations to some clients even making their data available to the public on their sites.

In this month’s awesome webinar we show you what you can do with the Chartbeat API and celebrate some of the more creative or useful projects our data-nerds and clients have built using our data.

Already doing great stuff with the Chartbeat API? Share the fruits of your labor in the Comments section.

Enjoy the webinar!

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!


Joe joined the Chartteam in 2013 after several impressive years as ESPN’s Senior Director of Product Development. At ESPN, Joe led teams that created a variety of innovative apps and video platforms that vastly expanded the scope of ESPN’s digital presence. His experiences bring a progressive, industry insider’s perspective to his responsibilities as Principal Product Owner of Chartbeat Publishing.

Strategy, monetization, metrics… all concepts usually talked about around digital content in general. When it comes to digital video, however, it’s still a very confusing and ambiguous discussion. Strategy doesn’t really exist and the level of experimentation is hard to justify given the high cost of creating videos – but the opportunity is huge.

When asking publishers what their strategy is you will typically hear comments like “We are simply trying to understand what is working when where and why, we are far from a real strategy but doubling down this year.” While it’s a common situation these days, it’s far from ideal, right?

Know what your audience wants

What’s often missing from the discussion is a true understanding around what the user actually wants to consume. Many times what a user wants to read or skim is very different than what they are willing to commit to watching, especially on a mobile platform. It’s all about the content, integration of that content, and building the loyal audience who know they can return to find more of that quality content easily day after day.

Asking questions around what particular need you are satisfying will help you determine what video content will truly resonate with your visitors.

Content adjacency, at the page level or the digital video level, is a key factor in building a user-focused digital video strategy. This can be as simple as embedding video within the story based on that topic, or as complex as developing a recommendation system to provide continuous playback from one video to the next, all around a user’s specific persona. Digging deeper to understand what digital video content can be resurfaced to provide context or can offer a fresh angle on a newly written story, is one of the fastest ways to increase the quality of the user experience without the additional investment of creating new digital video content.

Get cozy with your digital video team

In order to achieve the deep content integration it’s important to think of how your teams will communicate and interact as one. Digital video creators need to be an integral part of the content creation teams within the newsroom. This means using tools like instant messaging or email groups to communicate, or ensuring, when possible, teams sit near each other to facilitate the content integration. All are important aspects to think about when creating and restructuring the new digital newsroom. When the topics or stories of the day/week are discussed, you should always be determining how to integrate video to help tell the story in context of the topic.

Get actionable insights from your video data

So how do you know what is actually working? Many content creation teams are flying blind when it comes to understanding the success of their digital video due to the lack of integration and missing insights. Others focus solely on things like video starts. The missing insights are all around context. For example, people rarely know if the video started automatically, the length the user watched, how the ad impacted their experience, or what caused them to abandon the video or worse, the site overall.

video dahs

The Chartbeat Publishing Video Dashboard brings clarity to a lot of these unknowns. It focuses on the context of the video, the engaged audience, and the impact of ads on that audience. Like all of Chartbeat Publishing products, the Video Dashboard has a set real-time insights to provide a clear understanding around what’s resonating with your users. We’re also introducing a new signature measurement we call “Engagement Score” that blends several critical metrics to provide an overall quality benchmark against which you can measure all of your video content. And take note: these metrics can be used by all of your internal teams – editorial, video production, digital, etc. – so regardless of whether they’re creating written or video content, everyone is aligned through measuring with the same metrics.

I hope what I shared today was helpful – feel free post your follow-up questions and thoughts in the Comments section. Later this week, Chartcorps member Doug will introduce you to our brand new Video Dashboard.


Audience development is a topic on the mind of everyone in publishing, and we here at Chartbeat spend a great deal of time thinking about what actions affect your audience and how to measure their effects.

Today, I want to talk about how to use Average Engaged Time as a metric for audience development. I’ll give you some numbers to watch, walk you through a few use cases, and give you a few hints about some products to come.

The process of audience development can be broken down into four (simplified) steps:

  1. Visitors come to your site
  2. They find content they’re interested in and engage with it
  3. They like what they get, and they choose to come back to your site again
  4. If you’re lucky, they also share what they found with others

Each of these parts is critical, and there’s drop-off at every step along the way — users who come don’t always read and those who read don’t always return — so doing what you can to improve each step can have a huge effect on the growth of your audience over time.

Traditionally, the analytics industry has gotten pretty good at measuring steps 1 & 4 — raw traffic and social media statistics — but quantifying user engagement and propensity to return has always been difficult to do. Engaged Time provides a valuable metric to help fill in those missing data points.

Before we dive in, I want to give a quick definition of how we measure Engaged Time. While a user is reading a page, we count up the amount of time she spends with the page in an active browser tab — a foregrounded tab where the user has recently scrolled, typed, or moved their mouse — and then average that number across users. Note that this number contrasts with traditional time on page, which measures how long users keep pages open rather than how long they actually engage with pages for. For more information, check out our previous post explaining how we measure.

Page views and engagement – What’s the difference?

If you think that page views are sufficient to measure engagement, think again: all traffic is not created equal. Our goal on the web isn’t just the first step — to bring people in the door — we want folks to actually read the pages we’ve worked so hard to make.

Unfortunately, raw traffic volume numbers don’t speak to how people interact with your pages.

Click data on article pages tells you how enticing links were, not how engaged readers were with the content inside.

To see the difference between clicks and actual engagement, I pulled a sample of 100,000 page visits to Chartbeat sites across a week.1 Of those, about 34,000 of them resulted in users leaving after less than 15 seconds of interacting with the page —

A full ⅓ of the visitors leave without exhibiting any signs of engagement.

But that ratio isn’t the same for all pages: of the 10 most popular articles I looked at, one had 91% of visitors actually engage with the content and another had 93% of visitors leave without ever scrolling down the page.2 From the perspective of page views, these two articles were almost exactly the same, but I think we’d all draw very different conclusions about the success of their content: certainly traffic volume to a story matters, but you also have to ask yourself whether people actually read it.

Readers who don’t engage represent missed opportunities — it’s hard enough to get readers in the door, and we want to make every visit count.

Average Engaged Time is a Chartbeat metric that measures the amount of time that users spend actively interacting with a page – reading, writing, scrolling, watching – and it’s a great place to start when looking at how well your content matches with your audience.

To see what I mean, take a look at the figure below, which shows users’ Average Engaged Time on one specific article, broken down by where they came from.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 5.19.00 PM

Clearly the traffic source dramatically affects not just the volume of traffic, but how long users read for. For instance, the article took off on Facebook — its top referrer — but we can see that readers who came from Facebook links spent dramatically less time reading than readers who came from internal links.

When looking at an article’s Engaged Time, think about how long you’d expect a reader to take to consume a piece of content. For some rough guidelines: we typically see 60-90 seconds of engagement for news articles, 5-30 seconds for landing pages, and 3+ minutes for long-form content. If an article’s Average Engaged Time is substantially below what you’d expect, it’s not reaching an audience that wants to fully read it:

  • Is the headline out of step with the content, so people are not reaching the story they thought they were getting?
  • Is the format of the article off?
  • Are you reaching out on the best traffic sources for this story?
  • Or is the article simply not as engaging as you’d hoped?

Conversely, if an article’s Average Engaged Time is exceptionally high, you’ll want to get as much traffic as possible on the page – create internal links and take a look at where its current audience is coming from and outreach to similar traffic sources.

Of course, not all content takes the same amount of time to consume, but you should always make sure that you’re getting as much as possible out of each piece of content you produce.

Converting engagement to visitor loyalty over time

We started to measure users’ visits to sites across time and investigate what parts of a visitor’s browsing behaviour indicate that they’re likely to spend more time on your site in the future. The call to action here is clear:

About ⅔ of visitors to an average site don’t return again in the next 30 days.

But, there’s a lot you can do to have a dramatic effect on that number, and even small changes can have large effects on your site’s traffic over time.

One thing that stands out across the board is 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.


Visitors who read an article for three minutes returned twice as often as those who read for one minute.

Intuitively, this makes sense: if you can get someone to actually find an article that they like enough to read, they’re much more likely to return.

Of course, we can’t confuse correlation with causation: we can’t say that high Engaged Time causes readers to come back. But, since we know that users with high Engaged Time do come back more often, we can say that when you see an article with high Engaged Time, it’s much more likely that the readers of that article will visit your site again in the near future.

This idea isn’t something we’re seeing in a vacuum on our sites, others have found similar results; ex-New Republic Editor Andrew Sullivan reported similar findings in this great podcast on developing a paid audience.

So, what can this do for you?

If I can stress one thing, it’s that you want to do whatever you can to make sure that all of your readers find their way to some piece of content that’s highly engaging everytime they visit.

If a short piece of content suddenly blows up, don’t miss out on the opportunity the traffic spike presents: try to drive people from that piece to other, longer-form content that’s likely to be engaging to your audience.

Coming from the other side: pages with high Engaged Time are likely being read by your most loyal audience. These pages are your best candidates for things like subscription links and newsletter signups that are designed to take interested readers and make them directly loyal to your site.

The unifying message in everything above is that you want to try to put the right content in front of the right audience.

Doing so will drive up visitors’ time on your site right now and increase their loyalty to your site in the future.

What’s next?

There’s a lot in the pipeline for the coming months here at Chartbeat. Most relevant to this post: we’re currently alpha testing a new product we’ve built for measuring and improving audience development, and we expect to launch it to all of Chartbeat Publishing in the coming weeks. It’ll focus on where your most loyal audience comes from, where people spend their time on your site, and what you can do to improve how much and how frequently your users read.

We’ll also be back here soon to talk more about what sorts of real time decisions you can make to build your site’s audience.

Feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the Comments section – your feedback is welcome.


1 Non-paywall sites, to ensure that the numbers weren’t thrown off by people being unable to read articles after they hit a paywall.

2 Both articles were roughly the same height; the lack of scrolling wasn’t because of a shorter page.