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Making Hard Choices for Native’s Survival

Parsing the good, the bad and the ugly

Scroll behavior can give useful outer bounds of behavior, showing how many bounced without scrolling at all and how many completed the content.

However, the most valuable and scalable way to measure is by capturing second-by-second attention data that can infer when a visitor is distracted or engaged and give an incredibly accurate picture of how well the content is connecting with its audience. Upworthy calls this Attention Minutes and Contently and Chartbeat call this Engaged Time.

Advertisers are likely to attempt to compare metrics such as uniques and engaged time across their campaigns. However, user behavior differs greatly across sites and this may be less useful than expected. Instead, we should look at how closely the content created a user experience similar to normal content on the host site.

To be clear, paid content is not normal content. Normal content has one master to serve, while paid has two. It is hard for native to reach the standard that normal content does and advertisers should account for that. Nevertheless, sites including Gizmodo, Refinery29 and KSL.com show that it is possible.

It's up to us to ensure native has a strong future where marketers and publishers work together to craft content that attracts and captivates the right audience. That means starting with goals and metrics that align with what advertisers actually care about. It means recognizing that these are early days and both sides need feedback more than empty A grades.

If we can do that, then native does not just act as a band-aid on the open wound of display, but as a key ingredient of a Web where quality matters.

Tony Haile (@arctictony) is CEO of Chartbeat.

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