Now in Beta: Heads Up Display Link Performance

We’ve been hearing lots of positive things about one of our newest Chartbeat Publishing features, Heads Up Display, which lays data you need over your own webpage and article content. Heads Up Display shares info like the concurrent visitors on the page, top articles on the page through simple rank pins, clicks per minute on each article, and a whole bunch of other stuff. And while it’s amazing to know that your top positioned article is the #1 article on the page – there was one question we (and lots of you) wanted to know: Is that article performing as well as other articles have done in that same position in the past, or is it just doing well because it’s in the top spot?

So we’re testing exactly this question with a new feature in beta right now that we’re calling Link Performance– all to get your feedback, thoughts, high fives, and no ways. With this guy now incorporated in your Heads Up Display, you can answer questions like:

  • Is an article getting a ton of clicks because it’s new or in a prime position or because the content is actually compelling?
  • Where are the hidden gems on my page?  Which articles are actually doing well for their position, but are maybe getting lost in the clutter?
  • Which headlines look like they need some love?
  • Which articles need to be removed?
  • Has my article reached its peak and need to be swapped out?

Here’s how it works: Link Performance measures certain effects like where the link is on your page and how long the link has been in that particular position. This measurement also takes into account the real-time speed (what we call click rate) that readers are clicking on a link to an article as a percentage the overall pool of people who could actually click now. We’ve built models for every position on your homepage – yours specifically, not some general homepage template – and these models take into account the amount of time each article has been in its current location. By knowing how long an article has been in that spot, we can tell how it’s done performance-wise since you posted it – has it reached its peak yet or still gaining speed? That way you know when to swap it out. We’ve added a visual tracker that shows just this – how long a link has been in this position and how it’s performing against other links that have been in that same position. The Heads Up Display uses these models to determine how each article is performing relative to those three factors: article position, how long the article has been in that position, and the number of potential readers. Simple, color-coded signals show you how an article is doing in real-time:

Overperforming/Green = Good, the article is doing better than average

Performing on average or baseline/Yellow = Potentially good or time to swap it out. Depends on the content and your call, as the decision maker, if it should be changed up.

Underperforming/Red = Not so great. Time to get another story in here that’ll do better in this position than this current story.

If you’re seeing gray pins, that could be for a number of different reasons, most likely because it’s a brand new story/placement and we just need another minute to gather and share the data.

Based on all this info, we hope you’re better armed to take action to shift things around, rewrite some headlines, layer on more content, whatever a particular piece needs to get a through-the-roof performance out of that link in that position (or another).

Again, this is something we’re testing to see how you’re using it (or not), what you like (or don’t), and what thoughts (or questions) you have as you play around with it. With your feedback, I, along with my fellow Chartbeat data scientists and our Product and Engineering teams, can iterate and build on this feature to make sure it’s as useful as possible. So first, get started with Chartbeat Publishing if you aren’t a client already and once you’re playing around with Heads Up Display and Link Performance, let us know what you think.

Note: The three above images are displaying mock data (we don’t share your data without your permission)

Send Us Your Big Boards!

Numbers tell the whole story? Usually not. But in the case of Gawker and many of our other clients, they can be pretty damn important.

Nick Denton said it best on MSNBC’s Rock Center segment when he shows off the Chartbeat Big Board  – your top pages, all prettied up for the big screen – and talks about just how important it is for Gawker Media.

These guys display the Big Board in every room of their office. Seriously. We’ve seen it. It’s up there so everyone – not just the research analysts and strategy execs in their back offices – can instantly see how they’re doing.

That’s how real-time data should be used. Front and center for everyone to see and take action on.

Are you guys using the Chartbeat Big Board? Take a pic and tweet it our way.

Video courtesy of MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/46662714#46662714

Your Social Traffic is Higher Than You Think

Direct traffic. It’s a nebulous beast. Most web analytics products toss any visitor without referrer information into this category. That means any number of people like those who have:

  • Typed in the exact URL
  • Bookmarked the URL
  • Come from a URL using HTTPS
  • Clicked on a link from a non-browser-based application (e.g., email, Twitter, IM)

That last point is the tricky bit, right? We live in the social web now, and we have for quite some time. For your team to not know how important email, Twitter, or IM is to your site traffic because it’s being thrown into some Direct Traffic black hole isn’t productive – it’s hindering and frankly inexcusable at this point.

Our Newsbeat crew wasn’t having it. So we decided to fix it.

We met with some of our alpha partners, had a few chats, and came to the conclusion that users generally only type in the exact URL or bookmark a link if it’s a key landing page (e.g., forbes.com or forbes.com/opinions/).

That makes sense, right? For new and transient articles, it’s highly unlikely anyone going to type the direct path to the page. (e.g., “http://gizmodo.com/5884660/mattel-is-finally-making-the-back-to-the-future-hoverboard”. ) It’s pretty clear that people without referrer information who visit articles like that will have received the link from someone else via a social app like Tweetdeck or Yahoo Mail and shouldn’t be counted as Direct Traffic.

So within Newsbeat, our data scientists – with the typical magic and fairy dust you’ve come to expect from their algorithm genius – programmatically classify these kinds of pages into two types: articles and landing pages.

We feel confident that those long, complicated linked articles can be pulled out of the Direct Traffic bucket and can live under Social with a referrer of “Email, Apps, IM.” Traffic with unknown referral data for landing pages, the shorter, simpler links will stay as Direct, and we label them with an “L” for landing page.

Basically, we just took some time to really understand and identify the purpose of each page from your user’s point of view. That led us to understand what Direct Traffic means on a more intelligent level. And that allows you, in turn, to understand your users on a more intelligent level.

What does all this mean in the end? It means you should go buy your social team a beer – they’re doing a lot more than most people give them credit for.

Metrics that Matter & the Death of the Page View

Page views are a pain in the ass. It’s the metric that lies behind so many of the bad design decisions on the web. Time on page is too. The way it’s been measured has often been more akin to a finger in the air than the solid metrics we expect. Neither really take into consideration how users are actually viewing information – from social to mobile – or at least not well.

As Lewis DVorkin states in his latest Forbes piece, “the page view engagement metric of the last decade served its purpose.” He’s right. It did. But now, RIP Page Views. It’s time for us to move on and start using metrics that truly matter to your site’s performance – those are the metrics that tell the full story of your content.

That full story is not told in a page view. Sure, it might tell you that you’re awesome at driving traffic to your site, but beyond that…? What kind of traffic? The right kind, the kind what will come back, the kind that will genuinely engage, share, and chat about you?

We, the Chartbeat crew, are pretty certain the future lies in engagement. Engagement – or specifically a new metric we’re rolling out called engaged minutes – is all about how and how long someone is actually, actively engaged with your content. It’s about knowing precisely what that user is engaging with and how. For instance, is this page linkbait, driving clicks but no engagement? Or is this piece of content a slow burner that’s hidden behind a bad headline, so readers have a tough time finding it, but when they do, they love and engage with it? If so, it might be time to change how you position and promote those stories as a result.

And that’s the point, right? To take action and make decisions. That’s why you’re using real-time data, to adapt and react to who is engaging with your content and how, whether those actions are immediate or longer-term. And you can’t take meaningful action on page views.

So, please pack up your things, page views. Engaged minutes is on its way to usurp your throne.

Newsbeat: Introducing Benchmarking for stories

Real-time analytics like Newsbeat enables you to understand what’s happening on your site right now, but it can still be hard to understand whether an article is performing better or worse than it should be. Today, we’re trying to make that easier by introducing benchmarking for articles. Our algorithms model the typical path of a story published at that time on your site over the first 12 hours of its life cycle and give you an instant understanding of whether your article is performing above or below that typical path. Simply go to the performance tab and click on an article (our algorithms automatically ignore landing pages) and you’ll get a sense of how that article is doing.

In the example above,  the red line showing actual performance is just under what would be typical performance for a story on that site published at that time; it is underperforming against the benchmark. In the example below, the red line showing actual article performance is beating the benchmark of typical article performance; it’s a great story!

When looking at your top 10 stories you should expect them to beat typical performance by quite a bit; that’s why they are your top ten stories! However, as you delve into stories below the top rank you’ll see their performance converge with typical and instantly be able to see when an unexpected event like a link from Drudge or spike from social moves you away from that typical performance. Once you’ve published a story, come back to our dashboard and see if it is out performing your standard articles. If it’s falling short, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to promote it through your site and social media. When a story is exceeding expectations, then it might be time to give it some homepage love, or understand how you can apply this success to all your other content.

We’re constantly working on improving the models, incorporating more factors, and providing more context around the data to ensure that you can extract as much value from our product as possible. Please email us anytime at: support@chartbeat.com, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Newsbeat: Introducing Spike Alerts

One of the biggest values of a real-time data product is its ability to highlight unusual activity on your site – activity that directly translates into actionable information. However, in order to identify what’s “unusual,” you must have a good sense as to what is “usual.”

Over the course of our research, we’ve found that the number of active visits on an article, as a function of the time since it was posted, generally follows a few typical patterns. Armed with those patterns, we designed a newsbeat “Spike Alert” system to identify and alert our users when an article’s traffic suddenly and unexpectedly deviates too far above its expected levels.

For every article, we evaluate the incoming traffic on a source by source (i.e. Social, Search, Links) basis to identify whether there is a spike in traffic from that source.  (The number of active visits in the Spike Alert email is specifically from that source, not for the article as a whole.)

We determine that a spike is occurring by taking into account a number of factors, including:
  • Predicted increase in traffic. This is to avoid sending alerts for expected, and therefore, uninteresting, increases. For example, an article posted at 2 a.m. that starts to pick up traffic at 9 a.m. is not that interesting.
  • Rate of increase in traffic
  • Absolute increase in traffic
Newsbeat Spike Alerts are configurable at a site, section, or author level and can be received by email, SMS, or iPhone push notification.

As an initial means of throttling the number of alerts we send, we created a default thresholding system based on the site’s 30-day maximum number of active visits. Sites with large amounts of traffic will have a higher threshold than sites with smaller audiences. Going forward, we’re exploring a number of different options to allow for more customized Spike Alerts.

It’s incredibly important that we hear your feedback, so we can continuously improve our product. Please email us at support@chartbeat.com with questions or feedback on Spike Alerts, or any other newsbeat feature!

Tools for sharing your data with the world

Displaying data about your site, on your site, has become part of the standard user experience – from the number of Facebook and Twitter shares to the total page views on every article.

Business Insider's Engage-O-Meter

Last Wednesday, Business Insider took it one step further when they launched the Engage-O-Meter, a customized chartbeat-powered widget showing how many people are on their site right now.

They also made their chartbeat dashboard accessible to the public.

By opening up their real-time data, Business Insider joins a group of other chartbeat users who are showing off their numbers:

  • Midi Libre is displaying both active visits and traffic to top stores at the top of their home page
  • Hark.com has a real-time feed of where their users are arriving from and what they’re reading
If you want to join this growing list of users, we have a few tools and widgets to get you started. And don’t worry if you aren’t a coding genius – many of these options require minimal engineering skills.


Active Visits

The Active Visits Dial shows the total number of visitors across your entire site with the classic chartbeat gauge. You can customize color and size, refresh rate, and the widget label. Please note that you will need to proxy the api request to use this, so it’s a little more developer intensive than the rest of the widgets.



Active Visits by the Numbers shows the number of people that are currently on a specific page or across your entire site. It can show either the total number of people, the new vs. returning users, or the reading/writing/idle activity on a specific page or the entire site.

Mapping Your Visitors

The Incoming Visitors Map is a simple mashup of Google Maps and the chartbeat ‘recent’ API call that plots the physical location of visitors to your site, along with what page they’re reading. The mashup is open source. View a live demo.

Top Stories

The Big Board is a dynamic overview of which articles are trending at the moment on your site. As traffic moves around your site, the pages will automatically rearrange themselves in order of popularity and arrows will indicate the direction of the traffic to that page. The Big Board is an open source project. View a live demo.

The Top Pages widget is a list of the current most visited pages across your site. You can select the number of stores to be shown in the list.


If you’re interested in displaying recent visits and referrers data, check out our Site Widgets page for easy-to-embed widgets. Or, if you want to build something from scratch, sign up for an API key and have all your data at your fingertips.

As always, we’re here to help. If you run into any problems installing the widgets or have an idea for other tools you’d like to see, let us know. Or, if you do something amazing with your chartbeat data, drop us a line. We’d love to see it!

Newsbeat, The Command Center For The New Newsroom, Opens Up To Public Beta

Today, we’re proud to announce the beta release of newsbeat, the first real-time analytics service designed exclusively for publishers.

We’ve spent the last six months working with publishers from The Wall Street Journal and Forbes to Fast Company and Time to create a service that thinks the same way editors, producers, and content creators do – and gives them the tools they need to build a new kind of newsroom.

Newsbeat dashboard

Newsbeat gives your newsroom’s front-line team detailed information on every single page on your site in a way they intuitively understand. You can dive as deep as you want and find the diamonds in the rough.

But newsbeat doesn’t overwhelm you in a flood of data, it sorts the signal from the noise. Newsbeat’s finely tuned algorithms analyze every page in real time and predicts their expected traffic paths.

newsbeat spike alert

 When something unusual happens, like a spike in traffic, you’ll be immediately alerted by SMS or email and be in the best position to respond.

Chevrons denoting acceleration of new visitors to your pages also appear on the dashboard, giving you an early warning signal that a story is about to blow up, or is losing its heat.

One of the key features of newsbeat is the ability to create personalized dashboards for every person on your team. The sports editor no longer has to wade through data on politics and world news to find the data that’s important to her. She can log in and immediately see her traffic, her stories and her referrers.

Newsbeat reporter view

A flexible user management system with granular permission settings means you only have to share the data you want, giving you the confidence that your data is secure.

Please check out the newsbeat product tour, sign up for your free 30-day trial, and join us in building the new newsroom.