March 23, 2017

Chartbeat and CrowdTangle today announced a major expansion of a tool for measuring how stories are performing on social platforms. The two companies began a beta version of the Offsite Social service in September 2016.

Two months later Facebook acquired CrowdTangle. The announcement says that Facebook is now making a “robust” (but unspecified) additional investment in expanding what’s measured and taking the service global including to European Union countries and India.

The pilot service required both a CrowdTangle and Chartbeat subscription.  Now it will be an option for any Chartbeat customer.  Facebook does the lion’s share of offsite publishing but the tool can track other platforms, including Twitter.

The announcement said the expanded service aims at “enabling transparency on metrics around quality news consumption.”

Chartbeat chief marketing officer Terri Walter offered this explanation by email:

Publishers are trying to understand how their articles are performing on social, which has been a bit of a black box. As such, what Offsite Social does is enables them to understand readers’ engaged time on content, who is amplifying it, what types of stories are popular, etc. On a platform publishers don’t control, Offsite Social gives them a lens into what’s happening on that platform, so they can monitor, interact and understand, amplify or pull back. The more we can empower quality news distribution, the more we can offset fake news.

There is a business context for each of the partnering companies in upping their collaboration.

Chartbeat, not quite a decade old, had as a founding principle measuring engagement with content in various ways beyond the raw number of uniques and pageviews.

Related Training: Creating Your Social Media Strategy

That enhancement and easy-to access real-time metrics make it a widely-used service for digital editors, who can monitor which stories are doing well and poorly and make adjustments to increase traffic or engagement.

The original suite of Chartbeat products was for measuring traffic on publishers’ own sites. Now those are being adapted to include content published and then shared on social sites.

Facebook accounts for 40 percent of global mobile referral traffic, according to the announcement. So analyzing what happens offsite becomes critical to a full picture of how a publisher’s content is performing.

A Facebook spokesperson said that the deal is another of several steps to widen the reach of CrowdTangle. Since the service was made free, it has added 165 local U.S. newsrooms and a number abroad.

A similar partnering arrangement is in place with Reddit. More of these collaborations are planned and new features will soon be added, the spokesperson said.

Facebook’s skyrocketing growth as a publishing venue has forced it to consider an assortment of unfamiliar issues.  Much focus lately has been on what Facebook can do to flag and eliminate “fake news” postings.

But at the same time, Facebook has turned its attention to developing tools that will help its publishing partners — ideally enhancing both traffic and revenue opportunities.

A detailed report by Digiday’s Lucia Moses earlier this week, argued that Facebook is scrambling to invent the kinds of tools that Google has introduced over the last 15 years for publishing partners.

My analysis and others see Facebook, like Google before it, sucking up national and local ad revenues in a way that is threatening the business viability of legacy publishers.

It’s a thorny problem because Google and Facebook ad products reach a huge and targeted audience and are effective and relatively cheap for a range of advertisers.

Neither company has expressed any interest in creating an endowment for good journalism, as some have suggested, instead offering help in kind.

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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds

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