Chartbeat gets certified to measure attention, tries to move advertising away from clicks and pageviews

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For some time now, media companies and content producers of various kinds have been trying to convince the rest of the industry — and especially advertisers — to move away from flawed measurements like pageviews and unique visitors and focus on measuring attention. The Financial Times, the Economist and even viral sites like Upworthy have been at the forefront of this movement, and so has web analytics firm Chartbeat — and now Chartbeat says it has become the first analytics company that is certified to measure reader attention.

Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile says the certification came from the Media Ratings Council, the national standards body that decides what can be used as a currency for advertising in the U.S. After a nine-month auditing process that investigated every part of Chartbeat’s analytics engine, the council said the company is now accredited to measure attention metrics for both display advertising and content.

We’ve been talking for a while now about the attention web, and lots of people have said they liked it as an idea, but it was just an idea. But now it’s official — so now, there can be an attention economy, in which both publishers and advertisers buy and sell attention minutes or metrics as a measurement.

Unlike pageviews, which simply measure whether a page has loaded, or even unique visitors — which some media companies argue are closer to being like physical readers of a newspaper or magazine — attention metrics like “active exposure time,” which Chartbeat tracks, can determine how much time a reader spent with a specific piece of content, by measuring whether they were actually looking at the page.

Chartbeat_Ads Product_Impressions Breakdown

Chartbeat looks at a variety of factors, Haile said, including what portion of the page is within the viewing window (so it can tell you how far down someone got in the article or piece of content). But the crucial one is to sense whether someone is actually looking at the page, and it does this by tracking movement or interaction — based on the fact the average user touches the mouse or keyboard at least once every 4.8 seconds.

The Financial Times has been using Chartbeat’s “active exposure time” to sell advertisers what it believes is a better measurement of the actual value they are getting, and the Economist has been experimenting with the same thing. Upworthy collaborated with Chartbeat to develop what it calls “attention minutes,” and open-sourced its methodology by uploading its software to Github.

Haile said his intention in promoting the idea of the “attention web” is to help publishers build sustainable businesses around advertising, instead of constantly having to chase eyeballs or clicks in an attempt to generate as many pageviews or visitors as possible:

This gives brands exactly what they want in a transparent way — they want the attention of their audience, and this gives them that in a completely measurable way. And for publishers, they want to know that they’ve created something valuable that holds people’s attention, and this tells them that.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Thinkstock / Tay Jnr

3 Comments

Milan Dolinar

This kind of measurement is done for more than 6 years from companies like meetrics and others Europe. At the end, the advertiser only wants to know if he ads where visible (and long enough visible). By the way, when the users is reading the articles, his attention is going away from the ad space…

Veasey Conway

Exciting. Thanks for covering this. I’d be curious to see your take on this new way of measuring traffic.

A question: Do you think these new analytics implicitly encourage longform-type pieces or simply encourage content — whatever the length — that is engaging all the way through? I can see how this would cut back on the number of clickbait-y headlines that don’t ‘deliver,’ but would it change the number of lists, gif-sticles, etc. we see? (Maybe it would encourage Vox/Wonkblog-type lists that are engaging but take a fair amount of time to read and discourage Buzzfeed-type lists that are engaging but can be breezed through in one minute.)

If these new analytics are adopted industry-wide, could the contours of the industry shift to something like this: A writer is given an ‘engagement target’ of 300 minutes/month/user (or something like that). However they hit that number (lists, long-form, ‘takes,’ etc.) is fair game.

Editrix Steph

Thank you — this is an excellent overview. There’s been a lot of vague discussion of the concept, but knowing about the viewing window and mouse touch measurements is very useful.

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