Chartbeat’s New Features: Up With Engagement, Down With Linkbait

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Chartbeat is going to be launching a new version of its real-time analytics service in a few weeks, and I got a sneak peek earlier today. The big theme: looking beyond pageviews.

You can see a screenshot of the main Chartbeat dashboard above. Specifically, it’s the Chartbeat page for venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s blog, because apparently he doesn’t mind sharing. Elements of the interface might change (Chartbeat’s Lauryn Bennett and Alex Carusillo kept telling me, “Don’t fall in love with anything.”) but if they do, the basic functionality will remain the same.

So what’s new? As in the existing version, the number of current visitors to your site is displayed prominently, but there’s a new number that’s just as visible — the total amount of time that visitors have spent engaged on your site today, and the average time for each visitor. Carusillo says the engagement clock only counts real activity of some sort, whether it’s scrolling down the page or typing a comment. It doesn’t count people who just have the page open on a random browser tab.

The dashboard still includes a list of articles, but they aren’t the articles with the most views. Instead, they’re all unusual in some way — for example, the top story is getting an unusual amount of traffic from search. A story is probably valuable to you if it’s being shared constantly on Facebook or leading to an unusually high level of engagement, but you might not see that if you’re just looking at list of the most-viewed content. (If you want the old list of most-viewed articles, it’s still there, but on a separate page, and even then it also shows the average engagement time for each piece.)

“You get these kind of big, linkbait-y articles, and people spend a couple of seconds on the page, because that’s not ‘good content,'” Carusillo says. “We frankly don’t like that. We’re really trying to focus on engagement and on usage rather than just a big number that tallies up over time.”

On a broader level, Chartbeat has added graphs that show how much of your traffic is coming directly, from links, from search, from social, and internally — and how all of those numbers stack up against similar sites. Users can also drill in on social traffic and mobile traffic.

All of these changes sound particularly useful for the non-news sites and businesses in Chartbeat’s customer base, who probably care as much about how people are interacting with their brands as the do about total pageviews.

Bennett and Carusillo say that some of these features will be making their way over to the company’s news-specific product Newsbeat, but in a different form, since most news sites are still largely pageview driven. Maybe these new features will help, in their own small way, to direct news organizations away from a pageview-centric mindset, but still — we’re not going to see an end to linkbait headlines anytime soon.