The people behind the popular realtime analytics tool Chartbeat launched a new version today specifically designed for news publishers, called Newsbeat. It is a more powerful tool for understanding your Web traffic, but also comes at a higher cost.

An example of the Newsbeat dashboard.

The new product has some compelling and probably addictive features. You see real-time charts and numbers about the number of visitors and where they are coming from. And you can see it for every article or page on your site (Chartbeat only shows you the 20 most active pages).

You also get some handy analysis of that data, such as whether stories are trending up or down or getting significant social media referrals. It even figures out algorithmically when a particular story is seeing an unusual traffic spike and can alert you by email.

Newsbeat is designed to be “a command center for the new newsroom,” says Tony Haile, general manager of Chartbeat.

“Using these kind of tools is how you grow traffic in the age of the social Web,” Haile told me in an interview. “You get a huge amount of traffic to a very few pages in a short period of time, and your ability to succeed in that social world is based upon your ability to adapt to those moments, to double-down.”

That essential intelligence is what makes Newsbeat worth the price, Haile said, which begins at $199 a month for the most entry-level subscription (more than even the most-advanced Chartbeat subscription tier of $149). Other options are $499 or $899 a month for higher-traffic sites. The company does offer a free 30-day trial though, so you can test it out yourself before deciding whether to pay for it.

Here are what stood out to me as the most compelling features:

  • Decision-making data. Newsbeat doesn’t just tell you want your top stories are, it tells you if they are accelerating or decelerating in traffic, and if social networks are driving it significantly, so you can adjust your homepage or social media posts strategically.
  • Customized dashboards and permissions. You can create user accounts with different permission levels. A reporter can sign in and just see data for her own stories. A sports editor can see how all the sports stories are performing. A managing editor can get the whole overview and drill down where desired.
  • Charting trends. Several charts display the trend of visits over time, and they’re color-coded by referral source, new vs. returning visitors, and engagement level. It also charts the number of tweeted links to your site over time. Facebook referrals will be added soon, Haile said.
  • Sorting through direct traffic. Newsbeat attempts to bring some clarity to the big pool of visits for which no referral site is recorded. Most analytics lump all that traffic together as just “direct traffic.” But Newsbeat makes educated guesses. Article visits likely came from “email, IM or apps” because a user probably didn’t type the long URL directly into their browser. A homepage or traditional landing page visit with no referrer is usually considered true direct traffic.
Green and red arrows indicate a story is getting more or less popular.

Many large publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and Gawker, have been using a trial version of the product for months while helping the Chartbeat team figure out what features need to be refined and added. As of Thursday, it’s open for anyone else to sign up.

Haile asserts that “if you’re in the business of publishing content, then you need to be looking at this kind of data.” I think it’s an easier sell to the giants of news publishing that can justify the cost based on their high volume of content and sharing.

For the smaller news publisher, it’s a more difficult question. Chartbeat is still out there as a basic option starting at $10 a month, and it shows most of the data you want for your top 20 pages at any given time. But if you can free up the money for Newsbeat and you have Web producers or social media people who can capitalize on the data, it is certainly a flashy, desirable and useful tool for publishing on the real-time Web.