How ABC13 Houston uses Image Testing to optimize visuals, increase reader engagement

ABC13 covers breaking news and weather for the fourth largest city in the U.S. and, not surprisingly, equips its fast-paced newsroom with innovative and strategic data practices. Longtime users of Headline Testing, Chartbeat’s headline experimentation tool, ABC13 was among the first digital publishers worldwide to adopt Image Testing.

We spoke with Keaton Fuchs, ABC13 Houston’s Senior Manager of Data Strategy, about how they’re testing images and optimizing their homepage visually to increase reader engagement.

The value of visual experimentation

“We have come short of mandating that every piece of homepage text be optimized with Headline Testing,” says Fuchs. “It’s sort of an unwritten rule.” Having seen double-digit CTR  increases from Headline Testing experiments, ABC13 naturally looked to take their testing capabilities even further. Image Testing, Chartbeat’s latest optimization tool, provided the opportunity to do just that.

Similar to Headline Testing, Image Testing allows ABC13 to test unlimited images and see what visuals resonate most with readers. “The real-time feedback we get on image performance is vital,” says Fuchs. “It allows us to understand what changes in our behavior lead to an increase or decrease in audience engagement.”

Image Testing’s natural integration with Headline Testing means the ABC13 newsroom can experiment with headlines and images together — right on their homepage — and find ideal combinations. 

“It’s not ‘do it once and forget.’ It’s ‘keep testing so you understand where your audience is.’”

With real-time visibility into reader preferences, Fuchs and the ABC13 newsroom have experimented more with content and seen long-held assumptions refuted, while having fun in the process. “It’s fun for us to watch the horse race,” calls out Fuchs. “An element of fun is added. We get excited predicting what is going to happen and seeing what actually does.” 

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Furthermore, ABC13 understands that reader behaviors change rapidly, and Image Testing helps them adapt on the fly.


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“We have best practices from six months ago that were probably accurate then. But as our audience has changed, specifically in pandemic times, we can adjust in real time.” Fuchs continues, “That’s what’s great about continually testing. It’s not ‘do it once and forget.’ It’s ‘keep testing so you understand where your audience is.’”

Related reading: Test headlines, work smarter: How MLB.com’s culture of experimentation improves reader engagement

Testing images to create reader loyalty

For ABC13, it’s not enough for their homepage to simply attract readers — they want to make sure their readers stay and come back. “The most important pillars for our digital content are habit and loyalty,” says Fuchs. “Those serve our business model in the long-term.”

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With that in mind, Image Testing’s ability to measure click-throughs and Quality Clicks (when a reader clicks into an article and engages with it for over 15 seconds) helps them curate and select images that will help achieve company-wide KPIs. 

“There’s no secret here that we find immense value in these tools.”

Additionally, being a broadcasting — and inherently visual — organization, means ABC13 can apply learnings found via Image Testing to other platforms, like newscasts and social media

“There’s no secret here that we find immense value in these tools,” states Fuchs. “Image Testing is a business decision that is about real dollars, which is critical for publishing, more than ever. There’s money for us in making sure our content is optimized.” 


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