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Guest post: Chartbeat, hacking on digital ad measurement with Vox Media

Our guest blogger today is Wes Chow, CTO at Chartbeat.

One of the reasons why I enjoy working at Chartbeat is that every six weeks we get to take a week to hack on anything we want, so long as the hack forces us to learn something new or partner with a teammate we don’t normally work with. It’s part of our culture of continuous improvement — we want to learn new ways of doing things and expose ourselves to outside ideas as often as possible.

Diving into Data

While Hack Weeks always tend to be fun, instructive, and impressively productive, things got really interesting last month when we were lucky enough to have a few Vox team members come and hack with us and our data for a few days.

Chartbeat recently applied our key metric, Engaged Time, to advertising , and have been tracking time ads spend in view for a few clients. The difference between Engaged Time on view and ad impressions is fundamental and significant. Viewers recall ads better when engagement is high, which more closely aligns with content quality and reading experience. As a content creator, why would you ever want to optimize for clicks?

Welcome, Vox Squad

Our ad data intrigued Vox, who have been creating some stunning ad campaigns meant to be seen and taken in, not clicked. Similar to Chartbeat, Vox Media believes that engagement metrics give you a better picture of how an audience is interacting with and influenced by ads, as compared to measuring by clicks or impressions. So when Vox suggested we partner up and work on some ideas they’d been incubating, the planetary alignment seemed so good that we jumped at the opportunity.

Fast forward to the Vox squad – Michael, Pablo, Trei, Aaron, and Niv– showing up at our offices to build with us during our most recent Hack Week. I, along with Chartbeat devs Harry and Matt, got to work tapping into data on our end that had previously seen limited use, and we ended up feeding it to the (seriously cool) Vox dudes who over the course of two days, built out an ad products metrics dashboard that the Vox team had been working on previously.

Building, Hacking, Making

Over the course of a couple of days, Vox and Chartbeat partnered to get Chartbeat engagement metrics like Average Engaged Time and Total Engaged Time into Vox’s ad dashboard. This data is recorded using existing technology derived from the Chartbeat Publishing for Ad Sales product, however the Vox needed it in a form we weren’t already computing. While Vox devs worked on integrating Chartbeat metrics into their Ads dashboard, Matt, Harry and I built out a new API that allowed them to get what they needed in real time.

We demoed the product to the whole Chartteam that Friday afternoon, and since then the projects have been completed, with Vox now working with the APIs we released to them. In the future, Vox plans to use Chartbeat data along with other metrics to measure how their ads are performing – particularly how their audiences are engaging with their ads.

Good Times, Better Outcomes.

So what did we learn? Overall, the experience was informative on a lot of fronts. We got to see how a client looks at our data, plus the form of the data was one that we hadn’t thought about before. We also got to explore the flexibility of our system architecture, which has traditionally been fit to work exclusively with Chartbeat products. Being able to adapt it to Vox’s needs within just a couple days was quite exciting – and encouraging.

The partnering experiment was, in my view, an unqualified success. We loved having the Vox team at Chartbeat HQ with us – come back soon guys – and appreciated the new ideas they brought along. Not only are we now more gung ho than ever to do experimental work with other companies, but we’re looking forward to exploring uncharted territories as we continue building with Vox in the future.

PS - Check out Michael Lovitt’s guest post for the Chartbeat blog.