Articles about "Chartbeat"


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The politics of reforming digital audience metrics — don’t underestimate the status quo

Long-time critics of imprecise unique visitor and page view metrics like me have had reason to cheer in recent months.

Both the Financial Times and Economist have started to offer advertisers the alternative of rates based on time spent rather than raw traffic numbers.

Chartbeat corrected a major flaw in existing measures of time spent, then got its system “accredited” by the influential Media Ratings Council. And Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile has been an effective evangelist in interviews and speeches for a more sophisticated way of looking at the attention of digital audiences.

That’s real progress. But plowing through dozens of articles and interviewing a few key sources, I have concluded that it is way early to declare victory and a new day dawning in digital measurement.

Oddly, although we like to think of the digital world as fast-moving and progressive, there is an established status quo for counting digital audiences backed by powerful vested interests who remain mostly happy with the unholy triad of uniques, page views and clickthroughs.

Start with the digital big guys — Facebook, Google, Yahoo, AOL. They lead the pack in traffic volume as conventionally measured. With targeting capabilities, they suck up a huge share of digital ad spend — even more now with the shift to smartphones than they already did in the desktop/laptop era.

Uniques and page views have also been good to the most popular start-up digital-only content providers — Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Upworthy and more.

A more surprising source of resistance is a large slice of the advertising industry, as spotlighted in Ad Age’s excellent takeout a month ago, “Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?” It summarized the resistance this way.

“Agencies are among the entrenched interests,” said Benjamin Zeidler, director-research and analytics at digital-marketing agency Tenthwave. “They’re good at buying ads. They know how to do it. It’s probably scary to change the mode of how they do business — how they sell it, price and benchmark it.”

Also, as you may have heard, these are boom times for “programmatic buying” — eliminating the middle men of sales people and media planners and instead relying on algorithms to locate and book available inventory at the lowest possible rate. Thoughtful consideration of a range of attention metrics would only get in the way of that process.

Pay-per-click may be a relic of the early days of internet advertising. But the measure still makes sense for a certain kind of ad — trying to grab attention for the unfamiliar — like the pitches for Harry’s Razors or the Bellroy Skinny Wallet that stalk me as I move around the web.

A middle-of-the-road constituency may buy in intellectually to a case for more varied metrics, but as a practical business matter needs to keep selling the way most advertisers are buying.

That was the drift of a thoughtful rejoinder from News Corp.’s Raju Narisetti to an earlier screed of mine this spring denouncing uniques and page views. In his view, some of this kind of criticism comes from print traditionalists who would prefer not to give audience metrics a prominent role in news coverage decisions.

Narisetti made the additional good point that metrics like page views per visit or repeat visits per month, “variations on relatively conventional” measures, are a reasonable way to identify attention.

Trade groups like the Newspaper Association of America and the MPA magazine association also do versions of the straddle. Both have working groups exploring new metrics that may capture what they see as unique strengths of their digital offerings for advertisers. But neither is abandoning the standard measures just yet.

NAA, for instance, puts out regular releases on industry gains in uniques and page views. That has always been a charm of the two measures — between the steady movement of audience to digital platforms and the easy tricks available to inflate the numbers, a growth story is all but sure to emerge.

Another slightly different middle ground position fits auditing, rating and standards groups like the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly ABC), Nielsen and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They naturally watch carefully for any new metric offerings in their core business. The IAB even has instigated important reform with work showing that the majority of “impressions” as measured a few years ago were not even seen (because they did not load fast enough or were too low on a screen page).

But the heart of the auditors’ business interest is that if something new is going to be measured, they want the contract to be the recognized verifier of those numbers. For example, Nielsen, facing some new disruptive competitors like Rentrak, announced Tuesday a collaboration with Adobe on a new set of measures it is developing for digital viewing of television shows and other video.

I also need to concede that the reformers have a self-serving agenda of their own. The Economist and Financial Times have strong paywalls, dedicated high-demographic readers but relatively modest total audience numbers. So it is to their advantage to shift the discussion with marketers to time spent engaged with their quality content and accompanying ad messages.

Chartbeat and CEO Haile have made a great case for the flaws in traditional measures and the logic of shifting to time and attention (which are finite) from “impressions” which seem to multiply endlessly and are often fleeting at best.

Chartbeat in its accredited “time spent” measure also did the good deed of correcting earlier stabs at such a metric — the loophole that counted a tab left open while the user shifted to something else conceivably for minutes or hours, as time on site. The Chartbeat refinement is that “time spent” is counted only if some indicator of viewer action registers every five seconds.

Haile also announced this week that he will make the company’s methodology public, aiming for even further credibility, accepting some risk of giving away competitive secrets to a knock-off vendor.

All that said, Chartbeat (and the similarly oriented Moat in the video sphere) are fighting the good fight for what they have to sell against established competitors who have built a good share of their business around uniques, page views and clicks.

More sophisticated digital agencies like Razorfish are also in the camp advocating a combination of metrics and strategies they provide that are missing from more perfunctory ad placement methods.

Where does this state of play leave legacy media or local digital startups in searching for a business model in the digital sun? Even the pioneers like the Financial Times are hedging their bets — their minutes viewed metric is being offered to a limited number of pilot advertisers in a beta test (going well according to Haile) while the majority of ads are still sold the old-fashioned way.

I would look for companies like the New York Times, with good raw traffic numbers, to also explore alternative attention metrics. And the trade associations are likely to at least give a nudge to consideration of a suite of metrics in measuring audience and pricing ads rather than just the conventional big three.

Jerry Hill, Gannett’s top audience executive and chairman of the newly formed NAA task force, told me the group is starting by surveying advertisers and agencies about “what they look at” now in evaluating effectiveness. The next step, he said would be to identify new measures that could be validated and “communicated out in simple terms.”

The MPA has launched what it calls the “360-degree brand audience report,” a monthly update by participating magazine sites that measures audience on multiple dimensions in a standardized format, including, for instance, referrals from five social media channels.

Mark Contreras, then of E.W. Scripps, led a crusade for better digital audience metrics during his term as NAA chairman in 2009. He hoped to establish a better “gold standard,” perhaps with a nudge from government, as happened with a move from chaotic claims from competing vendors measuring television audience in the 1950s and early 1960s to the agreed-upon methodology Nielsen and others now follow.

A gold standard does not appear in the cards right now, but movement to a more  varied and logical set of metrics has at least started. Contreras, now CEO of a small private TV and newspaper company, Calkins Media, told me in a phone interview that the logic remains unchanged: “For local papers, relying on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) economy is not going to grow digital ad revenue as we need to.”

One alternative, Contreras added, is to “find niches and sell sponsorships” on roughly the same principle as “soap operas did in the 1950s,” aimed at stay-at-home housewives. Targeting is more important than a raw audience count for a sports site or a food site, and smartphone apps or specialized sites lend themselves to the “brought to you by…” format.

A number of the articles on this fall’s metrics developments stumbled upon the same summary phrase — “a step in the right direction.” That seems about right. The current system is unlikely to be turned on its head anytime soon.  But content providers who think they can offer sustained attention are beginning to get some tools to make the case to advertisers that they offer a superior value. Read more

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Star Tribune runs ad bashing transgender kids

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. News Corp buys online real estate business: Move, Inc., owns Realtor.com, Move.com and ListHub. News Corp will “turbo-charge traffic growth” to Move’s properties, and it will “benefit from the high-quality geographic data generated by real estate searches,” CEO Robert Thomson says. (BusinessWire) | Last year Move “reported $600,000 in profit atop $227 million in revenue.” (NYT)
  2. Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an ad bashing transgender kids: The Minnesota Child Protection League ran a full-page ad Sunday in an attempt to influence the Minnesota State High School League, which may “approve a new policy that would allow transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity.” Strib VP Steve Yaeger tells Aaron Rupar: “The ad in question met all the requirements of our ad policy.” (Minneapolis City Pages) | Earlier this year the Strib took some heat for how it reported on a transgender person. (Minneapolis City Pages)
  3. Esquire botches attack on ESPN: There was no all-male domestic violence panel planned, ESPN said Monday. (Deadspin) | Esquire apologized for that and for “saying that ESPN is not in the business of journalism,” Hearst Digital editorial director Kate Lewis writes in a note on the piece. Esquire is owned by Hearst, which has a 20 percent stake in ESPN, Jeremy Barr reports. “A Hearst spokesperson did not respond directly to a Capital inquiry about whether the company’s investment in ESPN played a role in the apology.” (Capital) | Despite the apology, Esquire kept a sentence that said “ESPN is not a company in the business of journalism” in the story until later that evening. (WP) | Craig Silverman finds articles with the erroneous information were shared far more widely than articles that corrected it. (Emergent)
  4. Roxane Gay will edit cultural criticism site: The Toast has hired the bestselling author to head up a new site called The Butter. (Capital) | Not at all related but this was the only item I could wedge it into: Piers Morgan will write commentary for Daily Mail Online. (Politico)
  5. Newsweek places editor’s note over Zakaria archives: “Fareed Zakaria worked for Newsweek when it was under previous ownership,” the note, which also rides along on Zakaria’s archived articles, says. “Readers are advised that some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others.” (Poynter) | “New Fun Trawling Through Fareed Zakaria’s @Newsweek Archives, Part 1″ (@blippoblappo)
  6. Will Bill Simmons stay at ESPN? He “did not think that what he said or how he said it was worthy of one of the harshest suspensions in ESPN history,” John Ourand reported Friday in a tick-tock of how ESPN decided to put its star on ice. Simmons’ contract will be up next year, Ourand writes, and “it will be interesting to see whether this suspension derails those talks.” (SportsBusiness Daily) | The clash reflects a generational conflict at ESPN, Jason McIntyre reported Friday. “The old guard has its fingers crossed they can pester and annoy Simmons to the point that he pulls the trigger on a plan they claim he’s been mulling after spending so much time in Hollywood: decamp from ESPN to a venture capital-backed solo operation with contributions from his West Coast buddies Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla.” (The Big Lead) | Erik Wemple: Suspensions “are effective primarily in forgetting and neglecting the root causes of the stupidity that materializes on air.” (WP)
  7. Chartbeat can now measure readers’ attention: The Media Ratings Council has approved Chartbeat’s bid to measure attention rather than pageviews or unique visitors. (Gigaom) | “If you’re dealing with something where you can prove attention better, you can charge more,” Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile tells Andrew Nusca. (Fortune) | Haile noted in February that there is “effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.” (The Verge) | Rick Edmonds in March: “Time to ditch uniques and page views for engagement in measuring digital audiences” (Poynter)
  8. RIP Joe Nawrozki: The investigative reporter worked for three Baltimore newspapers, dug up political corruption among pols, and “taught martial arts for more than 40 years.” He died Saturday. He was 70. (The Baltimore Sun)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: Taiwan’s Apple Daily fronts the Hong Kong protests. (Courtesy Newseum)

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  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Ann Shoket will be a consultant for Hearst. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. (Capital) | Kal Penn will be a special correspondent for Fusion. Previously, he was associate director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement. (Politico) | Richard Tomko is now publisher of amNewYork. Previously, he was a consultant at Boost Digital. (Email) | Tony Brancato is now executive director of Web products and audience development at The New York Times. Previously, he was head of product for the Web there. (The New York Times) | Sandy Johnson is now president and chief operating officer at The National Press Foundation. Previously, she was the excecutive editor at Stateline.org. (National Press Foundation) | Jeff Simon will be a video producer at CNN. He’s a producer for The Washington Post. (@jjsimonWP) | Cynthia Littleton will be Variety’s managing editor for television. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of television. Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein are now co-editors-in-chief at Variety. Eller was editor-in-chief of film at Variety. Wallenstein was editor-in-chief of digital there. (Variety) | Sonya Thompson will be director of news projects for Tribune Media Group. She was news director for WJW in Cleveland. Mitch Jacob will be news director at WJLA. He was news director for WSYX in Columbus. Jamie Justice will be news director at WSYX in Columbus. Previously, she was assistant news director there. Rob Cartwright is now news director for KEYE in Austin. Previously, he was news director for WSYR in Syracuse. Jeff Houston is now news director for WBMA in Birmingham. Previously, he was an assistant news director there. (Rick Gevers) | James VanOsdol has been named newsroom program manager at Rivet News Radio. He is an anchor at HearHere Radio LLC. (Robert Feder) | Job of the day: Politico is looking for a tax reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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Chartbeat: Mobile traffic dropped 8.5 percent during Friday’s Facebook outage

Chartbeat

Facebook’s 19-minute outage on Friday corresponded to a 3 percent drop in traffic at news sites, according to Chartbeat chief data scientist Josh Schwartz:

In a blog post, Schwartz observes a decrease in mobile traffic correlated with the Facebook outage:

As I discussed in my last post, a huge percentage of mobile traffic comes from Facebook. Given that, we’d probably expect mobile traffic to be hardest hit during the outage. And, indeed, entrances to sites on mobile devices were down 8.5%, when comparing the minute before the outage to the lowest point while Facebook was down.

Traffic to desktop sites, meanwhile, actually increased by 3.5 percent, Schwartz noted: “While we certainly can’t claim that the outage was the cause of that uptick in desktop traffic, the timing is certainly notable.” Read more

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Forest

Should publishers be taking better advantage of evergreen content in their archives?

For most publishers, less than 10 percent of June page views came from traffic to evergreen articles — stories that were more than three days old by Parse.ly’s definition.

Among the publishers included in the analytics company’s data: Upworthy, Conde Nast properties, The Atlantic properties, Fox News, The New York Post, Mashable, Slate, Business Insider, The Daily Beast, The Next Web and The New Republic.

Nearly half of the publishers see less than 5 percent of their web traffic attributed to content that is more than three days old, according to Parse.ly:

parselyevergreen

Unsurprisingly, Parse.ly found that topic-specific sites generally received a higher percentage of traffic from evergreen stories than breaking-news sites did. Upworthy doesn’t include timestamps in its stories, and many of Slate’s pieces are less time-sensitive than stories from The New York Post or Fox News and thus more likely to have a long shelf life of shareability. The mileage you get out of people coming across old stories varies a lot depending on what kind of content you have.

Parse.ly uses the data to suggest that publishers should actively take advantage of archive material, not just passively observe readers coming across it via search: “Integrating evergreen posts into your distribution strategies can attract and grow readership without having to increase editorial costs.”

New York Magazine and Business Insider

At Nieman Lab, Joshua Benton recently highlighted a 10-month-old New York Magazine piece that became the second-most popular story on the site thanks to the magazine posting it on Facebook “as if it were a new story.”

The story, “Why I’m Glad I Quit New York at Age 24,” naturally received lots of complaints on Facebook, but only one commenter, Julian Garcia, mentioned the fact that it wasn’t new: “You constantly post this article.”

Readers might not care so much about newness if a timeless feature or essay is good, but there’s certainly an expectation that most of what you see on Facebook is new news. It’s called the News Feed, after all, so transparency when it comes to old stories seems important. Then again, I wonder if the Facebook post would have taken off like it did and reached so many interested readers if it had come with a “from the archives” disclaimer. Would it have biased readers against reading a story they’d otherwise be interested in?

Here’s a good example from Deadspin, which identified a news hook for sharing an old story on Friday. The tweet is transparent about when the story was originally published, but the note about when it was published isn’t so prominent that it was likely to be a turn-off:

Digiday’s Ricardo Bilton also recently reported on how some media organizations are strategically resurrecting old content. He notes that Business Insider resurfaced a four-month-old story, “7 Reasons You Should Teach Your Children To Speak French,” for Bastille Day. That satisfies our journalistic urge to justify resurfacing old content with a current news hook. But Business Insider’s rationale for putting an October 2013 article about “How Sugar Is Destroying The World” back on the site’s homepage this month is less clear.

Bilton goes on to note:

The trouble comes when publishers confuse readers. Just look at the Business Insider story: Not only was it given a new timestamp on the homepage, but it was also placed among all of Business Insider’s legitimately new content without any special labeling. Someone visiting the homepage, unless they were surprised to see Perlberg’s name again on a new story, would not have any idea the piece was old.

Does resurfacing old content require a news hook?

In February, I noticed a 2013 Poynter post about the first season of “House of Cards” was performing well on Chartbeat thanks to search referrals. Because season two had just been released on Netflix, I felt comfortable sharing it again on Twitter.

But what about Roy Peter Clark’s defense of the Oxford comma, which was a big hit this year and certainly addressed a timeless topic? Would our readers feel deceived or cheated in some way if we pushed it out again in January without any specific news hook? Or would it be serving our readers well to strategically extend the life of this evergreen content and distribute it to those who may have missed it the first time around?

That’s how New York Magazine’s Stefan Becket justified reposting Friedman’s piece on Facebook:

On Twitter, journalists frequently preface links they share with a “late to this” disclaimer — even if the content is only a day or two old. My instincts say it’s weird to dig up old content without a specific reason, but it’s worth asking if our hyper-sensitivity to timeliness can get in the way of serving readers who might not care as much about news hooks or newness as we do.

So on a slow day, why not try sharing something evergreen from the archives like New York Magazine did — but with a Deadspin-style note indicating when it was published — and see how readers respond? As Parse.ly says, it doesn’t cost a thing.


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The Day in Digital: Inside the New York Times CMS and the impending Amazon phone

Content management systems are so in this season. Luke Vnenchak has a fascinating look inside Scoop, The New York Times’s “homegrown digital and (soon-to-be) print CMS.”

Jeff Bezos is expected to announce an Amazon smartphone today. How can the company compete with Apple, Android and Samsung? Quartz’s Dan Frommer has some thoughts on the strategy.

The Atlantic’s in good shape, for lots of reasons. Here’s another one, from a Jeff Sonderman tweet during American Press Institute’s summit on video:

Media critics weren’t critical enough of Aaron Kushner’s print-centric strategy at the Orange County Register, Clay Shirky writes, helping to poison the minds of young people who need to understand that print is in a death spiral from which it can’t recover.

“Do you really need another app for sharing photos and videos with your friends?” Ina Fried asks at Re/code as Facebook releases its new Snapchat competitor, Slingshot.

At PBS MediaShift, Dorian Benkoil explores efforts by Chartbeat, Upworthy, the Financial Times and more to measure “what advertisers and publishers really want — people actually paying attention.”

Yahoo revealed its worldwide workplace diversity. Employees are overwhelmingly white and Asian, and 62 percent male.


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Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.23.06 AM

Why NY Mag and Chartbeat tracked what turns first-time visitors into loyal readers

Last year 46 million Web users visited New York magazine’s pop culture site, Vulture, for the first time. Of those, 7.6 million came back at least once. To use a term and concept that free news sites haven’t widely adopted, that’s a 17 percent conversion rate.

Because few media organizations without hard paywalls are focusing on what they can do to retain first-time visitors, it’s hard to put that number into context, said Michael Silberman, NYMag.com’s general manager. But he sees that 17 percent as a baseline from which Vulture can grow.

“I see tremendous value in that gap and in figuring out how to identify those among the 46 million who with the right nudge would be most likely to want to come back again,” Silberman told Poynter via phone. “And once you get them coming back one more time, they’re that much more likely to come back two more times, three more times.” Read more

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Young woman in office working on desktop

Time to ditch uniques and page views for engagement in measuring digital audiences

When Nieman Lab’s Josh Benton asked me in December for a New Year’s prediction, I leaned toward the bombastic and led my wish list for 2014 as follows:

Ditch uniques and develop a better metric. Then-Newspaper Association of America president Mark Contreras was right when he made this case four years ago. It still hasn’t happened. One- or two-time visitors are not a business opportunity — they are an accident.

So we are two-and-a-half months into the year, and I am sorry to report that uniques and its evil twin, page views, are still with us — offered as the basic yardstick for digital audience for both individual sites and whole industries.

But I took cheer last week when three separate sources made the case that attention and engagement matter more.

Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile led off with an iconoclastic essay for Time.com titled “What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong.”

Chartbeat’s existence and success are themselves indicators of the imperative to get beyond clicks. Chartbeat’s products are real-time measures of traffic, time on story and time on site that editors rely on for decisions on how to play pieces and how long to leave them up in a prominent position.

In my recent profile of USA Today, I found that its national news desk, like many other digital operations, keeps a billboard-size display of Chartbeat indicators in plain view.

Haile’s whole piece is worth reading. His lead graf postulates:

We confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. We mistake sharing for reading. We race towards new trends like native advertising without fixing what was wrong with the old ones and make the same mistakes all over again.

He continues his case that attention should trump visits and clicks:

At the core of the Attention Web are powerful new methods of capturing data that can give media sites and advertisers a second-by-second, pixel-by-pixel view of user behavior. If the click is the turnstile outside a stadium, these new methods are the TV control room with access to a thousand different angles. The data these methods capture provide a new window into behavior on the web and suggests that much of the facts we’ve taken for granted just ain’t true.

Other highlights:

  • An internal Chartbeat study of 2 billion visits found that stories with strong news content far exceeded clickbait in time spent.
  • Many people who share stories on social media do not actually read them. Ditto the recipients. The same internal research found that only eight of 100 articles read were accessed by Facebook and only one in 100 via Twitter.
  • Banner advertising is not as dead nor are native ads as vibrant  as current coverage would have you believe. Part of the reason, Haile said, is that nearly two-thirds of those accessing a home page go “below the fold” of the first screen to see what else is being featured.

Jeff Jarvis, with whom I don’t always agree, played off Haile’s piece in a BuzzMachine post on:

What the right metrics for media ought to be….How do we create positive feedback loops that improve the news not degrade it as uniques, page views and other relics of mass media have done?

Drawn from his persistent efforts at City University of New York to birth sustainable local news sites, Jarvis considers time spent (maybe efficiency summarizing news should matter too), then suggests several other measures of engagement: outcomes, follows, bookmarks, citations and embeds.

Finally my colleagues at Pew Research (whose annual State of the News Media report will be out a week from today) offered a study documenting what you might expect — direct visitors to websites spend more than double the time there than those who come via a Facebook referral, search or other side doors.

As this post is being edited and produced, I am on my way to Denver for the annual Newspaper Association of American mediaXchange conference. I will be moderating several panels and auditing the rest.

The great metrics debate is not formally on the agenda but may come up in segments on big data, a new American Press Institute study of audience behavior tracking news and another panel on advertisers’ perspective.

If I hear something new, I will report on it when I’m back. Read more

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