Chartbeat shares lessons learned on monetising audience, not traffic

Chartbeat is an attention measurement and monetisation company that tracks 55 billion pageviews a month for 4,000 media companies, including 80% of the top publishers in the United States.

Tony Haile, the company’s chief executive officer, spoke to delegates at the second day of the INMA European Media Conference in Budapest, Hungary, about how media companies in more than 60 countries around the world use Chartbeat to help them understand how people interact with their content and ads.

During the last five years, Haile has led Chartbeat from two guys around one desk to an 90+ person company. He is an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University and has been named one of the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company and 40 under 40 by Crain's New York Business.

Prior to entering the start-up world, Haile competed in an around-the-world yacht race, and led and managed polar expeditions in the high Arctic.

Start-ups are similar, with less chance of losing a limb.

Haile spoke about the impact of user experience on growing audience, and the direct impact of user experience on growing revenue.

The metrics we choose matter a lot, he said. Most publishers monetise traffic, but not too many monetise audience. This is a huge difference, as audiences are the people you know, who will come back. It is most important to care about this group of users as 55% of all pageviews get less than 15 seconds of engagement.

Chartbeat looks at two billion pageviews and selects most clicked-on and most-read stories, as well as the most-clicked and least-read. Publishers have to make sure they are in the business of what people read, Haile said.

Peaks in traffic may mean nothing for publishers if those people don’t come back; sometimes it may be the second referral responsible for traffic. Twitter users are 30% more likely to come back, Facebook user are 60% more likely to click.

The challenge, however, comes with mobile. People reading an article from mobile sources don’t tend to go to the homepage. That’s because mobile traffic is predominantly social. It would be more advantageous for publishers to spend their money on social promotion than on trying to convert mobile user to a mobile homepage user, Haile advised.

One of the key facts to know is that mobile is growing to up to 60% of Internet use, which many understand as killing the desktop. But it’s not a zero sum game, as device usage varies from day to day. Publishers are available to catch more and more of users’ time than they used to.

Re-circulation is the percentage of users who read one story and are willing to read another one, Haile said. They are more likely to convert to a returning user. Publishers should think of how to use internal link to steer users behaviour on the page. Re-circulation, however, doesn’t happen on mobile. Users come from the feed, which they trust more than publishers on what to read next.

Publishers must focus on content. If they can hold someone for three minutes on site, those users are more likely to return. This metric is much more important than attracting a larger group of users for a shorter time.

There is no correlation between social shares and engagement on the page. Haile gave the example that the reason for liking his sister’s photos on Facebook does not necessarily have to mean that she’s the world's best photographer. Facebook does not look at the number of likes but at the amount of time users spend with the site.

Time matters.

Display advertising still centers around clicks and pageviews. Yet again, this is the reason to care about user experience, as keeping the user for longer time increases viewability of the display ad, Haile said in summary.

About Marek Miller

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