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This article is presented in collaboration with Chartbeat

For hundreds of years the success of a published title was measured by the number of copies it sold and the size of its readership – so when the digital age came along a similar system was adopted.

That out-dated system led UK’s leading digital titles to measure performance by counting pageviews and the number of monthly and daily users. While this system can mimic a traditional circulation count, it fails to record the most valuable qualities a print readership offered publishers – time and loyalty.

Despite being one of the primary ways of measuring success, 55 per cent of all pageviews get less than 15 seconds of attention and around two thirds of visitors don’t return to a site within 30 days.

If you can feed people content they really want to engage with, this helps build a loyal audience for the futureJosh Schwartz, Chartbeat
With such a fickle, shifting audience, the UK’s digital publishers are looking beyond the click to focus instead on increasingly meaningful metrics – like time spent engaged with particular articles.

This approach, says Josh Schwartz, chief data scientist with digital metrics firm Chartbeat, is called the Attention Web – and publishers quantify its value in how much more content an engaged user reads, how much more frequently the reader returns to the site, and how much greater attention that reader pays to advertising on the page.

According to research by Chartbeat, users that stay on a page between 15 to 60 seconds, Schwartz says, are more likely to view ads than those that stay for less than 15 seconds (57 per cent compared to just 37 per cent). Visitors that read for more than 75 seconds, he adds, see more than 60 per cent of ads.

"The reason we think about time as a core metric is that we see pretty clear evidence that people who consume content, that really engage with it, are much more likely to come back to a particular site further down the line," says Schwartz.

"If you can feed people content they really want to engage with, this helps build a loyal audience for the future.

"What’s more, we’re moving to a world where every publisher needs to think about the 'viewability' of advertising. Ads on pages that aren't getting seen, soon just won’t be an option. Optimising pages for time, rather than views, will help build an audience and create valuable ad space."

Chartbeat provides editorial reporting to 80 per cent of the leading digital publishers in the US, and in a further 60 countries globally, using its publishing tools to help editorial staff create engaging content and design sites in ways that are compelling to readers, while also producing tools to enable commercial teams to drive revenue in real-time.

What publishers want to do is establish a good fit between the content they produce and the expectations of the audienceJosh Schwartz, Chartbeat
The primary way Chartbeat measures attention is by pinging browsers between clicks to give publishers a second-by-second understanding of the time users spend interacting with a page – reading, writing, scrolling, and watching.

Chartbeat also focuses on 'recirculation' – essentially measuring how audience members move to engage with additional pieces of content.

"What publishers want to do is establish a good fit between the content they produce and the expectations of the audience," says Schwartz.

"They want to find and produce content that’s compelling, then match that with an audience interested in that sort of content. The engaged time and recirculation measurements act as indicators and guides to make sure that is happening."

One of the ways publishers are using attention data is to find out which content resonates and how increased engagement can be gained by promoting the right stories, sharpening headlines, laying out a website in a certain way, adjusting article formats, and adding or prepositioning multimedia content.

This manner of assessing content is also leading publishers to devise new and compelling ways to sell advertising space.

In May, 2015, the Financial Times became the first major UK publisher to say it would use Chartbeat data to help sell ads based on a new cost-per-hour metric.

The FT’s announcement followed an earlier move, in February 2015, by the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s European body when it urged adoption of viewability as the basis for display ad transactions, giving a virtual greenlight for publishers and advertisers to start using ‘attention’ as a significant advertising currency.

Read the full report, 'Why publishers are killing pageviews to capitalise on attention time', on the Chartbeat website.

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