Chartbeat is to Google Analytics as Blogs are to Print Newspapers

Posted on Apr 18, 2010 | 132 comments


What do Google Analytics and print newspapers have in common?  They’re both one day out of date when you read them.  I’ve been using Chartbeat for over a month now to track performance of my blog and I find myself looking at Google Analytics much less these days.

In fact, I’m surprised by how antiquated Google Analytics feels.

Chartbeat is a relatively young company and product.  I’m not a shareholder and I’m not even actively looking at making an investment.  I’m only writing about the product because I’m passionate about it.  Basically, it rocks!

Let’s start with what I like most about the product.  That’s easy, it’s real time.  You can log in at any time and see a realtime indication of how much traffic is on your website, where that traffic is coming from, what stories people are reading and how many people are active vs. inactive.  I’m sure in the future they’ll add a whole lot more.  But it provides a great cockpit for performance.

I was recently over at the Mahalo offices in Santa Monica and I noticed that they had a great big screen TV with Chartbeat displaying their traffic data.  I

asked Tyler Crowley how they used it.  He told me that it has become an essential tool to their business.  Their staff can see in real time what’s performing and when a story starts becoming hot they can find out the root causes of what’s driving the traffic.  For Mahalo this often means making modifications to the story in real time both to update any facts and to improve SEO on a story that is already becoming popular.

Here are some great features with screen shots:

As you’re logged in the right-hand side of the screen scrolls with each new page view on your website.  It shows you which story the person is reading, when the clicked on it, where the traffic came from and where the user is located.  For example, in the screen shot my my recent visitor found my website by searching on the term “Jason Calacanis” and is located in Tennessee in the US.

The next user down is from India and came to me from India.  The next users after that is reading a blog post that I wrote nearly 9 months ago.  It’s fun when a story is blowing up to see the right hand side of your screen light up like a pinball machine.  It’s addictive.

The middle part of Chartbeat shows the pages that are being read at the moment.

It’s Sunday night as I’m grabbing these screen shots and I haven’t written a post since Saturday morning so traffic is a bit light.  But I can always see the correlation between writing a blog or publishing on a social network and traffic.  Just to show you an example I’m about to Tweet out an old story and even though it’s a Sunday night at 9pm PT (midnight ET and middle of the night in Europe) I should be able to notice a little bump in traffic.  Let’s see.

Both Fred Wilson and Chris Dixon recently wrote blog posts about how the narrative is more important than presenting numbers in your first VC meeting.  I tend to agree with them but I think that numbers are important in VC meetings.  Most VC’s still expect them and it seems to me to be prepared for what most people are going to ask.  I’ll respond to that post another day but for now I just wanted to link back to an old post I had written on the topic to show you how you might actually view Chartbeat post some sort of marketing effort (newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, SEO refresh, whatever).  Below are my numbers about 3 minutes after I Tweeted.

It’s now 20 minutes later and there are still 64 people active on my blog.  I can now see that some of the people who read my “business plan” post stuck around to read other posts and I can see what they’re reading.  Another part of Charbeat that I monitor is traffic sources as shown below.  Here you can see that some of my traffic right now is coming from HackerNews (news.ycombinator.com).  On occasion I’ll see this number at 200 and know that a post that I did is “blowing up” over there.

Or I might notice 50 incoming links from PEHub (one of my favorite websites and a daily read for me), which is usually my first indication that they’ve covered me that day.  On the left nav they cover “minutes on page” and “reading/writing.”  This latter section is never accurate – I don’t understand why they have it.  I’ve never noticed any correlation between that and reality.

Like most analytics tools I can get my geo map from Chartbeat.  I find this addictive.  You can scroll around the map  and you can see an actually count by location.  If I’m up early it’s fun to see this lit up on the East Coast and then by 7.30am PST it’s lit up on California.

Finally, as with any great tool these days it can pull in information about who is talking about my blog in the social networks – mostly Twitter.  You’ll see the shot below.  It’s a great way to quickly scan whether people are sending out Tweets covering your blog.

Oh, and know I can head over to Google Analytics to see … how I performed yesterday.  Yawn.

I’m flipping back to Chartbeat.  It’s an hour since I first started this post and I’m still holding strong at North of 60 readers.  Oh, and now that I’m hitting publish on this you can imagine I’m enjoying watching my Chartbeat conversions come in.

And final example just for anybody interested / still reading.  You can see the Chartbeat report from this AM now that the story has been published.  I noticed that traffic is coming in from HackerNews (news.ycombinator.com) so I flipped over there and saw the story on the front page.

  • http://www.jasonwolfe.co.uk/ Jason Wolfe

    I'm glad I read the replies to this. After reading the article I was going to post “show me action, not insight!”.

    My company's product could easily be described as “analytics” (http://www.sessioncam.com), but we've worked hard to show that is in fact a service that triggers processes, not just delivering moments of “Ah, OK, that's nice”.

    We primarily deal with busy corporate marketers. They don't have time to examine what their various data feeds are saying in the way that they'd like (rather like Mark mentions in his reply).

    We've focussed instead on helping them overcome the “so what?” moments that many analytics platforms generate. Even Google Analytics has embraced this to some degree now, triggering alerts for breached conditions.

    I don't know the Chartbeat product at all (although I'll have a look now), but I suspect that they may want to look at ways that it can trigger actions, not just deliver insight. Insight, for people with no time on their hands, is simply not enough.

  • http://www.jasonwolfe.co.uk/ Jason Wolfe

    I'm glad I read the replies to this. After reading the article I was going to post “show me action, not insight!”.

    My company's product could easily be described as “analytics” (http://www.sessioncam.com), but we've worked hard to show that is in fact a service that triggers processes, not just delivering moments of “Ah, OK, that's nice”.

    We primarily deal with busy corporate marketers. They don't have time to examine what their various data feeds are saying in the way that they'd like (rather like Mark mentions in his reply).

    We've focussed instead on helping them overcome the “so what?” moments that many analytics platforms generate. Even Google Analytics has embraced this to some degree now, triggering alerts for breached conditions.

    I don't know the Chartbeat product at all (although I'll have a look now), but I suspect that they may want to look at ways that it can trigger actions, not just deliver insight. Insight, for people with no time on their hands, is simply not enough.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeschinkel Mike Schinkel

    Hi @krave:

    I agree with @dereklicciardi. I was going to try your service but now I might wait. I just fundamentally have a problem providing a credit card before I'm sure something will have value for me, and I don't want to worry about forgetting to cancel.

    -Mike

  • http://twitter.com/mikeschinkel Mike Schinkel

    Hi @krave:

    I agree with @dereklicciardi. I was going to try your service but now I might wait. I just fundamentally have a problem providing a credit card before I'm sure something will have value for me, and I don't want to worry about forgetting to cancel.

    -Mike

  • http://twitter.com/mikeschinkel Mike Schinkel

    Be careful what you wish for! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/mikeschinkel Mike Schinkel

    Be careful what you wish for! ;-)

  • http://www.emergingenterprisecenterblog.com/ Dave Broadwin

    Chartbeat sounds great, and my first instinct was to go try it. I wonder how important to a blog are instant analytics? I understand that stats are fascinating particularly when they are yours. There is a ton of data but does having it at your fingertips instantly result in you doing something you would not do having it the next day, the next week or later? And, the stats or analytics don't touch on the most compelling reason to read (or write ?) blogs — to see what people think about the posts in their comments. That you get with zero analytics.

  • http://www.emergingenterprisecenterblog.com/ Dave Broadwin

    Chartbeat sounds great, and my first instinct was to go try it. I wonder how important to a blog are instant analytics? I understand that stats are fascinating particularly when they are yours. There is a ton of data but does having it at your fingertips instantly result in you doing something you would not do having it the next day, the next week or later? And, the stats or analytics don't touch on the most compelling reason to read (or write ?) blogs — to see what people think about the posts in their comments. That you get with zero analytics.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Jason. I just checked out your website. Indeed it looks comprehensive and I can see the attraction to a marketer.

    For me, Chartbeat is just simply providing visibility. I'm not sure I would really be ready to figure out what actions to take since it's not my day job. The only things that cross my mind are: a) how to write articles people want to hear about and b) how to find the time to do it! Also, I am interested in SEO but don't believe it will ever be a huge driver for me. Who knows?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Jason. I just checked out your website. Indeed it looks comprehensive and I can see the attraction to a marketer.

    For me, Chartbeat is just simply providing visibility. I'm not sure I would really be ready to figure out what actions to take since it's not my day job. The only things that cross my mind are: a) how to write articles people want to hear about and b) how to find the time to do it! Also, I am interested in SEO but don't believe it will ever be a huge driver for me. Who knows?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    For sure. Honestly, ChartBeat for me personally is just a bit of tech fun. I pay $10 / month so no biggie. But I'm far more interested in readin and replying to comments. Which is why I'm such a big fan of Disqus.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    For sure. Honestly, ChartBeat for me personally is just a bit of tech fun. I pay $10 / month so no biggie. But I'm far more interested in readin and replying to comments. Which is why I'm such a big fan of Disqus.

  • joeldowns

    While not really tuned for real-time, I've found that Google Analytics does give near real-time updates – you just need to change the date range to include the present day. And, of course, you need to keep hitting “refresh” to get the latest… I can't say exactly how up-to-date it is, but my guess from checking it fairly often is that it's updated every 30-45 minutes. I have often used this to discover trends like which stories are popular or what traffic sources are trending up so I can react accordingly. I do plan to try out Chartbeat, though, because it sounds like a more frictionless solution to the problem; thanks for the heads-up.

  • joeldowns

    While not really tuned for real-time, I've found that Google Analytics does give near real-time updates – you just need to change the date range to include the present day. And, of course, you need to keep hitting “refresh” to get the latest… I can't say exactly how up-to-date it is, but my guess from checking it fairly often is that it's updated every 30-45 minutes. I have often used this to discover trends like which stories are popular or what traffic sources are trending up so I can react accordingly. I do plan to try out Chartbeat, though, because it sounds like a more frictionless solution to the problem; thanks for the heads-up.

  • http://jarinheit.com Jarin Udom

    Chartbeat is very nice. I actually prefer Clicky more, because in addition to the real-time view (not as pretty as Chartbeat's but also good), it has really good campaign and goal tracking. It's extremely useful to me to be able to manually trigger goals with a dollar amount, and it automatically tracks campaigns using the standard Google Analytics utm_ variables.

    I'll probably go back to Chartbeat if they add those features, but for now it's Clicky for me.

    http://getclicky.com/181480

  • http://jarinheit.com Jarin Udom

    Chartbeat is very nice. I actually prefer Clicky more, because in addition to the real-time view (not as pretty as Chartbeat's but also good), it has really good campaign and goal tracking. It's extremely useful to me to be able to manually trigger goals with a dollar amount, and it automatically tracks campaigns using the standard Google Analytics utm_ variables.

    I'll probably go back to Chartbeat if they add those features, but for now it's Clicky for me.

    http://getclicky.com/181480

  • enako

    There's an obnoxious bait and switch credit card signup required in order to try out the service, who knows what it would take to cancel? No thanks.

  • enako

    There's an obnoxious bait and switch credit card signup required in order to try out the service, who knows what it would take to cancel? No thanks.

  • http://mikebracco.com/ Mike Bracco

    Hey Mark. Yes…I've commented here a couple times as well as interacted with you on Twitter once or twice. I'll definitely say hello the next time you're in the office – or perhaps I might see you Wednesday Startups Uncensored. Cheers! Mike

  • http://mikebracco.com/ Mike Bracco

    Hey Mark. Yes…I've commented here a couple times as well as interacted with you on Twitter once or twice. I'll definitely say hello the next time you're in the office – or perhaps I might see you Wednesday Startups Uncensored. Cheers! Mike

  • http://www.elieseidman.com Elie Seidman

    BTW, to nitpick, GA is not one day out of date as you state. You can get same day stats in GA. I think they may be on a lag of some amount but its minutes or an hour, not a day. If you click on just the current day in the calendar widget within GA, you can see the stats for the day.

  • http://www.elieseidman.com Elie Seidman

    BTW, to nitpick, GA is not one day out of date as you state. You can get same day stats in GA. I think they may be on a lag of some amount but its minutes or an hour, not a day. If you click on just the current day in the calendar widget within GA, you can see the stats for the day.

  • http://twitter.com/kumarshah kumarshah

    Definitely meant “Mark”. My apologies! Will try not to comment on blogs during the middle of my work day. I am in Mumbai working for an environment focused investment firm, but I spent considerable time in the tech industry in Bangalore and Gurgaon – I am guessing you set up your development center in either of these cities?

    Btw also read in a more recent post that your wife is a Wharton alum – I am a Wharton grad as well and I agree that the undergrads are 2x smarter at the very least.

  • http://twitter.com/kumarshah kumarshah

    Definitely meant “Mark”. My apologies! Will try not to comment on blogs during the middle of my work day. I am in Mumbai working for an environment focused investment firm, but I spent considerable time in the tech industry in Bangalore and Gurgaon – I am guessing you set up your development center in either of these cities?

    Btw also read in a more recent post that your wife is a Wharton alum – I am a Wharton grad as well and I agree that the undergrads are 2x smarter at the very least.

  • jt

    agreed – double ding for chartbeat: making me give up my email address, then requiring credit card.

    thanks – but no thanks.

  • jt

    agreed – double ding for chartbeat: making me give up my email address, then requiring credit card.

    thanks – but no thanks.

  • jt

    by offering a free trial, collecting an email address, and then requiring a cc you guys are deceiving your potential customers right out of the gate – that's not going to get you very far i am afraid.

  • jt

    by offering a free trial, collecting an email address, and then requiring a cc you guys are deceiving your potential customers right out of the gate – that's not going to get you very far i am afraid.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com/ markslater

    i just commented on this fred on your blog – its a great demo!

    i read marks original post and went and installed it on our service at getsms – its very cool although the team is trying to figure out exactly how we extract value from it at this stage. We are about to launch a beta phase in two cities are we are trying to see how we can use the tool and extract some meaning as people begin to use the service….

    Also – there is some referral dynamic going on here – i will usually try a service that either of you guys talk about – i am sure many others do the same – its a great onramp for a startup to be referred in this way…

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com/ markslater

    i just commented on this fred on your blog – its a great demo!

    i read marks original post and went and installed it on our service at getsms – its very cool although the team is trying to figure out exactly how we extract value from it at this stage. We are about to launch a beta phase in two cities are we are trying to see how we can use the tool and extract some meaning as people begin to use the service….

    Also – there is some referral dynamic going on here – i will usually try a service that either of you guys talk about – i am sure many others do the same – its a great onramp for a startup to be referred in this way…

  • http://www.justinherrick.com Justin Herrick

    This would be great if my blog got some decent traffic, perhaps later on, but for now its a phenomenal product, only wish they had a free version, even if it was a crippled one.

  • http://www.justinherrick.com Justin Herrick

    This would be great if my blog got some decent traffic, perhaps later on, but for now its a phenomenal product, only wish they had a free version, even if it was a crippled one.