Chartbeat 101

Chartbeat is real-time analytics software that checks in every few seconds with your site’s users to see where they are, what they’re doing and how they got there. And because it checks in every few seconds, it can determine how long users are spending on that content – engaged time.

From Chartbeat: “Engaged time is the amount of time your visitors actively spend interacting with your content, whether it’s reading an article, writing a comment, or watching a video. According to our research, there’s a strong correlation between visitors’ engagement and their propensity to return to a website; visitors who read an article for three minutes return twice as often as those who read for one minute.”




What does it do? Measures in real time how users are interacting with the content on a single page and ranks it against all content on that page (numerically) and against historic data for that position and specific times (colors).

What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t tell you the top story on your site. It doesn’t take into consideration other ways people could find content on a site (search, social). Nor would it track links that leave your core domain. It also doesn’t contrast types of content – video, premium, etc.

What’s it good for? Determining story play. Determining a piece of content’s life cycle. Testing and refining headlines or images.

Color codes:

Green: Above the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time).

Yellow: Between the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time) and roughly one-half of the median clicks per minute.

Red: Below roughly one half of the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time)

Grey: Hasn’t collected enough click-through data to calculate performance for this position or it repeats a position already calculated.

No color: Offsite link or too low to be calculated


On, Chartbeat pins and ranks around 60 pieces of content. So if a story hasn’t been in the top 60 in the past few seconds, or if it hasn’t gotten any clicks at all in that time, it won’t have a pin.

Dialog box:

Click on any pin to see its clicks per minute, the position’s median clicks per minute and a trend line.

Read until here:

Locates the “digital fold” where the majority of people will stop scrolling down your site, as well as tracking audience as they scroll down the page.

Installing the HUD:

To install the HUD, first pick your browser. Install it on a lesser-used one as it’s resource intensive. Then go to:

Click on “Active heads up display.” When it turns green, go to

You will see a button near the bottom of the site with an arrow on it. Click that arrow and the “heads up display” (real-time click map) will launch.


Segment by section:

If you’re a section editor, restrict your content view to just the content you focus on. You can restrict content by section by changing the “All sections” pulldown. This gives you a full slice of metrics, from audience source to engagement time, by section.

Active visits:

• Concurrents: Number of visitors from the sample on the site.
• Recirculation: % of visitors moving from a content page to another content page on the same site. Note, moving from the apps server or big gallery would detract from this, artificially lowering the %.
• Engaged time: We’re usually in the low 20 second to the mid-30-second range.

Visitor frequency:

• New: First visit to site in 30 days
• Returning: Visited your site more than twice in the last month
• Loyal: Visited site in eight of the last 16 days.

You can drill down one level and re-sort on any of these three segmentations.

Traffic sources:

• Internal: Traffic from one page on your site to another, rather than coming from a link on another site. Note this differs from recirculation in that it could be a section front.
• Direct: Visitors who arrive by entering a URL in their browser, typically landing on a homepage.
• Social: Visitors who arrive from links provided by friends or others they follow on social media.
• Links (formerly external): Visitors who arrive via links from external sites, e.g. Drudge Report, Google News.
• Search: Visitors who arrive from search engines, such as Google or Bing.

You can drill down one level and re-sort on any of these five segmentations.


Highlights your top referrers. Can drill down one level and re-sort.

Concurrents by traffic source:

First, the graph compares the current day’s traffic against 24 hours of traffic from the same day one week ago, meaning any atypical traffic would plot as a variance. Can plot 7 days or 30 days to normalize the graph to mitigate outliers.

Top pages:

The main area of the editorial dashboard displays the top 20 pieces of content based on concurrent visitors, engaged time or recirculation. The default is concurrent visitors.

You can open any of the top 20 to get a full audience reading on that item, but the dashboard provides some clues from the main page as to what’s going on.

The “L” badge marks a landing page, either a homepage or a section front.

The colored chevrons on the left-hand side of the list indicate how quickly the article is trending in popularity. Green chevrons mean the article is gaining in popularity and red means that it’s trending down. More chevrons means it’s trending more quickly in whichever direction

The “acquiring” badge means a higher number than expected of new visitors are interacting with this page.

The “retaining” badge means that this piece of content has a higher than expected engaged time and/or recirculation.

Social icons for sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit will display when over 5% of concurrent traffic is coming from that source.

Engagement time is displayed in either green for content engaged more than 30 seconds, or a pink-orange for content under 30 seconds. The brightness of each color correlates to extremes on the spectrum.

What’s numbers are good? Good engagement time is more than 60 seconds. Great is more than 90 seconds. Ideally, 30% of traffic from a single content item is from social. The Los Angeles Times gets about 20% of its total traffic from social. The Chicago Tribune averages under 10%.


The daily report ranks engaged minutes for a site’s top 20 content items, sections and authors, and also displays sitewide metrics. Can also restrict by date, section or author.

By default, the sort will flag in reverse text the content with the longest engagement time and most concurrent visitors. The main dashboard also highlights top offsite referrers and may flag a “missed opportunity,” meaning the user didn’t click on other pages on site.


The weekly report looks at broader data on users and referrers. Displays engaged minutes per person each week and their weekly return rate. It also ranks and analyzes top referrers. Can change your weekly date window.


Download a PDF of the Chartbeat 101 primer.

Download a PDF of Chartbeat’s official Guide to Audience Behavior.

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