Innovative technology without the FB hidden cost

Turning content into money can be a challenging proposition. It’s a noisy world filled with other companies trying to turn their content into money. How to get your content to surface above the noise and get noticed?

While we all agree people stare at their screens (including us), there is absolutely no guarantee they will actually pay attention to it or act on it. We’ve all experienced scrolling onto some really great content and thinking to ourselves “what a good idea,” then scrolling on and completely forgetting the original content. This typical scenario illustrates the difficulty in getting messages to go from the screen to the brain, and actually stay there.

To land customers and actually get an ROI on content, companies rely on pushing content onto screens. That is about ¼ of the battle. Getting the content out there is the easy part. Getting that content to stick is the challenge.

The perils of modern reading

To describe this very directly, getting your content from the screen into your viewers heads ain’t easy.

Attention transactions matter

It’s comforting to believe once your content is published, readers “just download” your carefully crafted message into their brains with 100% fidelity like a copy and paste. But modern reading environments are tough: noisy, frequently mobile, and often multiscreen. We all know multitasking is bad, yet we all do it because our modern devices and technology make it so easy. And today’s readers have fleeting attention spans that are just few swipes or clicks away from someone else’s content. Alerts, notifications, and breaking news are roadside hazards for your delivering your message. In the space between your published content and readers’ brains there’s a lot of room for information loss and message degradation. How to help your message get through?

The standard approach

Facebook does a great job of getting your content onto screens in front of people. It acts as technology that exists between you and your customers, and helps you get those customers. The events of that past months make the not-so-hidden cost is pretty clear. To get your content in front of people Facebook demands you place your content onto their platforms, where it happily exists as a data vampire, feeding on your content and making money selling and reselling your data.

 

tweet complaining about Facebook Data Breach

 

We don’t do that. Like Facebook we are technology that exists between your and your customers, but the similarities end there. Our approach keeps your content on your platforms. Our technology facilitates getting the message from the screen to your customers heads by making it easier to scan and remember information. And because we use a small (micro) charge per attention exchange as our business model, our interests are aligned. We succeed when your consumers read more.

Make it stick

Our innovative microtypography uses cues based on neuroscience to help get messages from screens to your customers’ brains. It makes messages sticky. There is no simpler way to put it.

 

Asym makes ideas stick better

 

It’s easy to get into the weeds here and dive into intricate details, but a 30,000 ft view of our technology looks like this.

Our team is stacked. We have a PhD in neuroscience who is a leading expert in word and letter recognition. Using a cutting-edge ingenious approach to visually group words  into chunks, he was able to identify the exact locations in text where readers’ eyes need cues in order to separate high-value and low-value sections of text.

Working with an ex-Google (and ex-YouTube, ex-eBay, and ex-PayPal) engineer, together they were able to deliver this cue-enhancing text chunking via a fast API to digital text. In approximately 60 milliseconds, the typography of every line on your page can be optimized for typical human reading patterns.

Readers scan and skim quicker, parse the document into sensible blocks of ideas, and retain those ideas more successfully than when reading text without the cues. This enhanced reading experience turns into more engagement (clicks), longer dwell times, greater page depth, and reduced bounce rates. The increased comprehension and engagement has real world consequences such as more add-to-cart transactions, more checkouts, and more conversions. It also happens to help people with low literacy read easier.

There is more to the inner workings of how we are able to lift conversion rates for every page of content on your site by 10-15% minimum, but don’t take our word for it. Test us. For free. Depending on the package you get, we can even tune the typography to suit the reading patterns and average reading level of your audience.

If you need a way to move the lever on every page in your site, regardless of if your site has 20 thousand or 20 million page views a month, it may be worth a try. We make your messages more sticky. You could even say we make them superstick.

You can reach us here.

Get it across innovatively. And nicely.

Our business model is built to serve you without the nasty surprises of the other business models that have been making the news. You can test us free, no commitment required to ensure the results we’ve driven for others work for you as well. Because there is no overhead expense and you can uninstall with no issues and no commitments, this is literally zero-risk.

Our technology is a different approach to winning customers. Like other approaches it exists to help get your content from screens into people’s heads, but the way we go about is very different from any other approach out there. We aren’t like others, but that may be a good thing.

Are you innovative enough to test us? Risk free?

 

Thanks for reading.

The Asym Team

Metrics – the ‘what pays the bills’ view

Asym is built to boost business success. That means defining ‘business success’ is a big deal.  At Asym we believe ‘delivering profit’ is most often the ultimate measure of business success, which is why our pricing structure requires no net spend. 

This post is the last in our series on Metrics. It highlights the metric that most clearly contributes to business profitability. It also offers examples of less common success paradigms and suggests metrics that may be more applicable in those specific situations.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The first post looks at a Harvard Business Review perspective on how Tesla shows existing metrics are outdated. The second post helps make sense of metrics by grouping them into 4 broad categories. The third post presents the traditional view of metrics, with consumption metrics driving everything else. The fourth post considers the balanced view, with each metric contributing an equal measure to business success. The fifth post looks at the business view.

 

apple logo, representing business success

 

The horse before the cart

Apple is the most profitable company in the world. When it comes to defining business success, Apple is iconic. There are other metrics that are more open to evaluation and judgement – IBM or Microsoft may have more customers using their products (thus generating more engagement), and Facebook and Google may lead the field when it comes to offering consumable media. Different metrics yield different interpretations of success. Yet Apple having a net worth higher than all but the top 16 countries in the world has a gravitas other metrics struggle to deliver. Business success remains linked to the most profitable company. Profit drives business success so closely you could say profit is business success.

 

Profit drives business success so closely you could say profit is business success.

 

When it comes to which is the cart and which is the horse, it can be deceptively easy to put data science ahead of ultimate business success. There is a logical flow to seeing consumption metrics drive business success. Yet consumption metrics can be misleading when there are many people paying little attention. Getting the largest audience doesn’t work when that audience has no intention of purchasing, or is browsing your content to kill time.

We firmly believe when it comes to choosing metrics based on business success, profit is the ultimate measure that needs to inform all other choices. With a caveat.

 

Success paradigms

Business success is not the only measure of ‘success’. The Salvation Army may not be extremely profitable, yet in providing food, shelter and employment opportunities to marginalized people it ranks as one of the most successful. The Correspondent is not the largest media corporation, yet in terms of providing bias-free thought-provoking news articles, it ranks as an industry leader.

 

Use a feedback loop to choose appropriate metrics

 

Adapting your metrics to suit your success paradigm is key to creating feedback loops that build company success. Where ‘reaching the greatest amount of those in need’ is the success paradigm, the metrics used to inform decisions will be very different from the metrics involved in maximizing profit.

 

The profit problem solves itself

When profit is seen as the ultimate measure of business success, the thorny problem of choosing which metrics lead the cart and which metrics are the cart is already defined.

 

pic of cart and horse to illustrate which metric to invest in

 

Profit is the metric that leads the cart. Profit is the ultimate measure of business success. So software, usability choices, and investments that directly boost profit are clearly indicated. Profit is the action and result that pays the bills.

Which is why at Asym we offer a free trial period. You can directly test and get results to evaluate how Asym’s microcharge per dollar of profit delivered will affect your bottom line.

 

Summing up

Bain and Company have an article on navigating data analytics that has a total of 6 recommendations. To sum up with one quote:

 

“Many will rush to invest in the latest analytics software and infrastructure vendors and hire data scientists, but the ultimate winners will align these investments with their strategic and organizational needs in ways that lead to action and results.” 

– Bain and Company Management Consultants, 2017.

 

The two specific recommendations that stand out as most unexpected may be:

  1. Put business science before data science.
  2. Look well beyond the traditional metrics.

We agree.

Hopefully, our dive into the world of metrics has been useful. Its intention was to cut through the clutter and help you inform your success the best way possible. Which leads us to a final point.

 

pic of ship used to indicate the direction is yours to choose

 

Your definition of success matters. It may be (and often is) pure profit, but it doesn’t have to be. Your company is a ship, and we aren’t here to suggest there is a best way to steer it. Our job is to provide very specific technology that can help you get closer to your destination.

Connect with us and start a conversation to see if Asym can boost the metrics that matter to you.

Thanks for reading.

Chris, Ken, & Edward

P.S. 

Here is the Bain and Company insight article.

Metrics – the business view

At Asym we take a dedicated business view to prioritizing performance measurements. We focus on optimizing the elements that make most impact on the business.

This is the 5th post in our series on metrics. It ranks metrics according to direct impact on business success. This can be different for different companies: in many cases the metric that matters most comes down to the business model of the company.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The first post looks at a Harvard Business Review perspective on how Tesla shows existing metrics are outdated. The second post helps make sense of metrics by grouping them into 4 broad categories. The third post presents the traditional view of metrics, with consumption metrics driving everything else. The fourth post considers the balanced view, with each metric contributing an equal measure to business success. The sixth post looks at the ‘what pays the bills’ view.

 

Some things matter more than others

The last article considered the ‘equal responsibility’ view, where each category of metric plays an equal role in eventual business success. The next perspective we present – the business view – argues some metrics are more valuable than others. There can be situations where the most valuable metrics are not the most top-of-mind.

The business view is the traditional view, inverted. Where the traditional view sees consumption metrics as the foundation to business success, the business view reverses the order.

Here is the traditional view, with consumption metrics driving the model and sales a distant consequence.

 

Metrics traditional view that consumption is best

 

Here is the business view, with sales driving the model and consumption metrics a distant consequence.

 

infographic - metrics from a business view

 

The business model matters

Between the traditional and the business view, which is best depends on perspective.

Consumption metrics tend to rule when number of eyeballs is the only driver and quality of attention doesn’t matter.

Ad-driven business models often use consumption metrics, with good results.

Sales metrics tend to rule when quality of attention does matter.

E-Commerce and subscription-driven business models can be misled by consumption metrics – sales metrics are a far greater indicator of success for these business models.

Many companies monetize the web using an ad-driven business model. This model is driven by consumption, and so puts emphasis on consumption metrics. This has circular effects which lead to the metrics industry constantly publishing articles on consumption metrics, stressing the importance of consumption metrics, and generally giving air-time to all things consumption. Internet behemoths Google and Facebook depend on consumption, which again tilts attention towards the over-riding importance of consumption metrics.

This leaves ecommerce and subscription-based companies in a tight spot. While consumption metrics are a shoe that fits ad-driven business models perfectly, it’s a shoe that doesn’t come close to fitting any company that depends on people acting on a message.

 

While consumption metrics are a shoe that fits ad-driven business models perfectly, it’s a shoe that doesn’t come close to fitting any company that depends on people acting on a message.

 

Consumption metrics from a business perspective

 

What does this mean for you?

For ecommerce and subscription-based companies, the internet is more like a superbowl ad. Getting 40 million views sounds great (especially in terms of consumption metrics), but those views don’t pay the bills. The metric that matters is how many of those views converted to sales. Much as a company that has great superbowl ads but poor sales won’t last long, any company outside of the ad-driven model that has great consumption metrics on the internet but poor sales metrics will also fail. For these companies, improving the impact of the messaging and optimizing conversion rates is the key to profit.

The next article (and last one in this series) is about ranking metrics in priority based on how significantly they affect ultimate business success. The article leans on insights from other industry leaders to focus on the challenges of creating and interpreting metrics. It also surfaces the number one metric your company needs to use as a compass when navigating digital transformation, strategy, and analytics.

Thanks for reading.

Chris, Ken, & Edward

Metrics – the ‘equal responsibility’ view

Asym stacks with existing optimization efforts to compound your results. The ‘equal responsibility’ model of metrics takes the same stacking approach.

This post is the fourth in our series on metrics. It introduces the idea that metrics can be seen as pillars, rather than a pyramid.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The first post looks at a Harvard Business Review perspective on how Tesla shows existing metrics are outdated. The second post helps make sense of metrics by grouping them into 4 broad categories. The third post presents the traditional view of metrics, with consumption metrics driving everything else. The fifth and sixth posts look at the business view, and the ‘what pays the bills’ view, respectively.

 

Everything matters

The equal responsibility view goes somewhat counter to the traditional ‘start with lots of consumption and work from there’ view. With this less common approach, each metric is seen as equally necessary to ultimate success.

 

infographic - metrics equal responsibility view

 

Each element stacks with the other, with no one category taking the lion’s share. The entire process contributes to business success. As we reviewed in our previous post, this approach can avoid some of the errors introduced when consumption metrics are seen as the most significant drivers of business success.

 

Categories as pillars rather than pyramid

The last post shared a compelling graph revealing how essential quality of attention is. Mobile users outnumber desktop users, yet desktop users are almost 3 times more likely to purchase than mobile users. Tablet users about 2 times more likely.

The difference between mobile and the rest? Not many people slip a desktop or tablet into their back pocket and read while doing 5 other things. Mobile suffers from poor quality of attention.

 

Mobile conversion rates worse than desktop

 

Which matters when prioritizing metrics because when quality of attention enters the picture, metrics that indirectly indicate quality of attention (metrics such as engagement, leads, and sales) deserve more investment.

 

When quality of attention enters the picture, metrics that indirectly indicate quality of attention (metrics such as engagement, leads, and sales) deserve more investment.

 

Especially with companies that have suffered through one of the 3 misleading patterns which we described previously, consumption metrics no longer hold that strong anchoring position that is traditionally given them. Instead, every category becomes a pillar, each contributing the same value to the business success. No one category drives the business, yet none are unimportant.

 

Summing up

There is an intuitive reasonableness to the ‘equal responsibility’ approach.  Where other approaches to prioritizing metrics stress the importance of specific categories, the ‘categories as pillars’ model side-steps this bias. No one category of metrics is seen as paramount to the others.

When it comes to determining the model that is best suited for your company, both tradition and opinion are less-than-ideal guides. Insight, founded on data, can inform your decision. As we will see in the next article, a more aggressive model moves away from this moderate approach and completely inverts the traditional approach to metrics. Read on to uncover which approach best fits your needs.

 

Metrics – The traditional view

Asym works by increasing the quality of attention. Quality of attention is a challenging metric that does not always fit into a traditional view.

This post is the third in our series on metrics. It highlights the value placed on consumption metrics and brings in examples of specific situations where consumption metrics may be poor indicators of success.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The first post looks at a Harvard Business Review article on how Tesla shows existing metrics are outdated. The second post helps make sense of metrics by grouping them into 4 broad categories. The fourth post considers the balanced view, with each metric contributing an equal measure to business success. The fifth and sixth posts look at the business view, and the ‘what pays the bills’ view, respectively.

 

Start with consumption

The easiest way to look at metrics is to predict maximizing consumption will maximize sales. There is a logical flow to assuming that the more people get in at the start of the process, the more people will finish at the end of the process. Starting with consumption as the foundation is an idea with clear merit.

 

Metrics traditional view that consumption is best

 

Do consumption metrics work?

For companies that get paid purely based on consumption metrics, this category clearly wins. Ad-based business models where revenue is directly linked to page views are an example here.

For companies where revenue is NOT purely generated through ads, there are 3 key elements that make this model work or fail.

In hindsight they appear obvious, yet in business practice these situations can often occur.

 

(1) Most clearly, if consumption metrics improve but sales are relatively unchanged, this model appears weak.

An example would be getting significantly more page views and dwell time. This often occurs as sites become optimized for mobile. If the viewers are there to kill time or avoid boredom (as is often the case with mobile users), more is not necessarily better. Without more sales, the increase in one category of metrics does little for business success.

(2) Less obviously, if consumption metrics are poor yet sales do well, this model appears weak.

This situation can occur in situations where many site users are poor sales candidates. When most of your users have no intention to buy, more users is not necessarily better. The core group that are actually potential buyers make it through to sales while everyone else loses interest.

(3) Finally, if consumption metrics fluctuate but sales remain steady, this model appears weak.

This pattern occurs when again there are many viewers but the quality of their attention is poor. If thousands of people periodically head downtown to watch sporting events, sites can get surges in traffic as those thousands of people dive onto sites out of boredom while on public transit. The boredom-motivated users provide noise, while the few that are interested buyers and actually do pay attention keep the business afloat.

 

Consumption counts less than quality of attention

Consumption skews reliably higher on mobile. If metrics based on consumption are the drivers for business strategy, its clear that investing in mobile is the right choice.  But consumption on mobile brings with it a more noisy and distracting environment, one that hurts the bottom line. Metrics based on revenue from sales reveal a clear picture. The least distracted users are almost 3 times more likely to buy when compared to the most distracted users.

 

Metrics based on revenue from sales reveal a clear picture. The least distracted users are almost 3 times more likely to buy when compared to the most distracted users.

 

Mobile conversion rates worse than desktop

 

In practical terms, that means if the mobile audience was twice as big as the desktop audience, the desktop audience would still contribute significantly more to profit and sales.

 

In practical terms, that means if the mobile audience was twice as big as the desktop audience, the desktop audience would still contribute significantly more to profit and sales.

 

Summing up

For companies selling page views, consumption is king. Consumption metrics work.

For e-commerce companies or other companies where messages matter, consumption is golden only when the right people – in the right frame of mind – are consuming the content. If it’s the wrong people, or the right people but in the wrong frame of mind—they may be paying distant attention to your site on their smartphone as they try to balance standing on a train without getting to close to the stranger next to them—consumption metrics can be a poor indicator of future sales.

 

If it’s the wrong people, or the right people but in the wrong frame of mind, consumption metrics can be a poor indicator of future sales.

 

Which makes indicators about frame of mind crucial to finding the right metrics to build business success. How much quality attention is being directed to your content?

The next article presents a less traditional approach that reveals the value of ‘stacking’ metrics.

 

Chart is from the latest Adobe Mobile Retail Report.

Essential optimization metrics organized into categories

With conversion rate optimization software like Asym, a key ingredient to profitability is measuring the true impact on business success. Which metrics actually deliver?

To get there we first need to put metrics into categories.

This is the second post in our series on metrics. It helps make sense of a wide variety of metrics by grouping similar metrics together into 4 broad categories.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The first post looks at a Harvard Business Review perspective on how Tesla shows existing metrics are outdated. The third post presents the traditional view of metrics, with consumption metrics driving everything else. The fourth post considers the balanced view, with each metric contributing an equal measure to business success. The fifth and sixth posts look at the business view, and the ‘what pays the bills’ view, respectively.

 

Types of Metrics

Metrics come in all shapes and sizes, with more labels than a supermarket.

wordcloud of sales metricsanother wordcloud of sales metrics

Like a supermarket, it’s easier to find what you are looking for when metrics are organized and grouped together. Lead generation doesn’t belong alongside page views, and putting time on a page alongside more sales is like putting engine oil with onions. They don’t belong together because they do different things.

So what metrics belong together, and where does the bread and butter lie?

 

Metrics organized by category

Metrics can roughly be organized into 4 main categories:

detailed look at categories of metrics

 

When people talk about Page Views, Downloads, Social Mentions, and Time on a Page, they are referring to Consumption metrics.

When people talk about Likes / Shares / Retweets, Forwards, and Inbound Links, they are referring to Engagement metrics.

When people talk about Form Completions, Email Subscriptions, Blog Comments, and Conversion Rates, they are referring to Lead Generation metrics.

And when people talk about Closed Sales or sales opportunities, they are referring to Sales metrics.

 

 

metrics categories - an overview

Each category has its own strengths and weaknesses when measuring performance, and each contributes its share to profitability.

 

So what optimizes what?

While it appears too direct to say, consumption metrics are used to optimize consumption. Sales metrics help optimize sales. Putting time and resources into one category is a great way to boost metrics for that category. But boosting consumption metrics on the assumption it will boost sales or using consumption metrics to predict sales has inherent weaknesses. As attention becomes a scarce commodity, second screen use becomes prevalent, and mobile becomes a socially acceptable way to kill time, assumptions about metrics need to be adjusted to suit reality.

 

It all depends on the size of the picture

There are a wide variety of consumption metrics that get a lot of attention, yet consumption metrics are just a part of a much bigger picture. Its the sense-making, the putting the metrics into the proper story, that contributes most to business success.

As a possible example, most companies note that mobile has about a half to a quarter of the conversion rate of desktop.

 

most companies note that mobile has about a half to a quarter of the conversion rate of desktop

 

When the focus is on consumption, the orthodox response has been putting more resources into improving the mobile experience. With a focus away from consumption metrics and more towards sales metrics, companies may begin to put more resources into desktop, because that is where sales happen. In our industry we say you can’t help people read when they aren’t there to read, and you can’t help people buy when they aren’t there to buy.

 

you can’t help people read when they aren’t there to read, and you can’t help people buy when they aren’t there to buy

 

Reality is people skim, so our software is designed to help messages stand out when people skim. When it comes to metrics, it may be time to question the effectiveness of trying to get mobile viewers to buy. It’s possible nudging mobile viewers to go to a larger screen may end up lifting the sales metrics more than anything else.

 

It’s possible nudging mobile viewers to go to a larger screen may end up lifting the sales metrics more than anything else

 

Summing up

Tesla has demonstrated that old-fashioned metrics can miss the bigger picture. The challenge is finding that bigger picture specific to the industry and niche your company is in.

To look closer at how metrics affect business success and which strategies best suit your business model, in the following posts we will review the strengths and weaknesses each category brings to the table. What is bread and butter to one business may not work for another.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Chris, Ken, and Edward

How Tesla can make your metrics better

Metrics can direct (and at times misdirect) crucial site optimizations. Better metrics lead to better investments in time, resources, and strategy.

This post is the first in Asymmetrica Labs series on prioritizing metrics. It presents examples of common problems encountered when relying on some of the most popular metrics.

The other posts in the series provide different perspectives on which metrics are most valuable. The second post helps make sense of metrics by grouping them into 4 broad categories. The third post presents the traditional view of metrics, with consumption metrics driving everything else. The fourth post considers the balanced view, with each metric contributing an equal measure to business success. The fifth and sixth posts look at the business view, and the ‘what pays the bills’ view, respectively.

 

Misleading metrics lead you astray

A recent article in Harvard Business Review (link at bottom) pointed out how Tesla proves classical business metrics are outdated. The gist of the article was about how old-fashioned metrics like market penetration and share of profit miss out on problem penetration – the extent to which current products solve existing and emerging problems. Tesla’s market penetration for electric cars is misleading when people also use Teslas as luxury items, exotic speed machines, and family camping.

Standard metrics often fail when products solve more than one problem in a rapidly changing landscape.

What the Tesla article didn’t go into was the similarities between business metrics and content metrics. When changing times lead to business metrics going wrong, content metrics can go wrong as well.

 

Times change

Famously, there was a time when carpenters used the width of their thumb as a unit of measurement. It’s what we derived the inch from. As for a foot, well, a foot used to be about the length of…

 

A foot is an example of an outdated metric

 

As times changed the width of the thumb or length of a foot just didn’t work as useful units of measurement, so those units were replaced by more accurate ones. Which is important because as second screen use increases (reaching past 90% for millennials), established metrics like dwell time and engagement rates are no longer always accurate indicators of how users are interacting with your information.

established metrics like dwell time and engagement rates are no longer always accurate indicators of how users are interacting with your information.

 

Attention has changed

People don’t sit down and carefully go through one lengthy content offering at a time anymore. Paying attention is no longer like a meal with 2 or 3 big helpings. Now it’s about taking a bit from every part of the all-you-can-eat internet buffet.

 

internet is like a all-you-can-eat buffet

 

It’s evolved into something called the Attention Economy, and it has changed the content landscape.

Here’s a question for you: Ever had a webpage open for 10 minutes on your desktop, because you were busy replying to a notification from your smart-phone?

Here’s another: ever skimmed your email inbox on one screen while also paying attention to another screen?

Dwell time was a great indicator, when second screen use didn’t exist. Now that 87% of people use more than one device at a time, dwell time is as outdated as cases for your sony walkman.

 

Content metrics are as outdated as sony walkmans

 

Time spent on an item turns out to be a rather poor indicator if that time is also spent on 3 or 4 other items, all at the same time. It isn’t about time spent, it’s about quality of attention spent on an item.

It isn’t about time spent, it’s about quality of attention spent on an item.

This doesn’t even touch on the “I can’t believe its not there” phenomenon observed by Neilson Norman group, which pointed out eye-tracking studies and dwell time get confounded when readers repeatedly spend time looking for content they haven’t found. In these cases, the more confusing or inadequate the content, the higher the dwell time.

 

Behavior has changed

Social shares are another indicator that has had a rough time lately. There is an implied assumption that content that gets shared is shared because it’s valued. That it’s been read and considered OK enough to share with others. Unfortunately, stats show that 6 out of 10 people share without even reading the content.

Clickbait was a new phenomena that is being replaced by something even more new. Now we have moved on to sharebait, where content doesn’t even get clicked. It just gets shared.

Another example of an established metric that often does a pretty poor job of measuring how much of your message actually made an impact.

 

The Bifocal view

The Tesla article in Harvard Business Review pointed out the value of taking a ‘bifocal’ view of metrics. The bifocal view considers the way things were (essentially everything standard metrics measure), while also looking ahead at problems that are emerging and where things are going.

 

The bifocal view considers the way things were (essentially everything standard metrics measure), while also looking ahead at problems that are emerging and where things are going.

 

Focusing purely on the past is likely to miss opportunities coming up in the immediate future.

In the upcoming series of posts we will look at examples of metrics that may lead you astray in the emerging Attention Economy and suggest some indicators that yield more insight into what needs prioritizing in a rapidly changing world.

Harvard Business Review article about Tesla is here.

 

Thanks for reading!

Chris, Ken, and Edward

Asym has expanded – you can now reach 49% more readers

We’re excited to announce Asym has doubled its language base: we now support two new languages, Spanish and French. Together with our existing support for English and German, Asym can now deliver text optimization to 68% of the top 10M websites and 39% of the world’s 3.6 billion internet users. That’s a growth in coverage of 27% more websites and 49% more readers since July 2015.

Asym can now boost readability for

 Total percentage of websites Asym can reach in top 10M websites
Rate of Asym Growth

 

We now have people using our content optimization technology in 224 countries and an almost complete saturation of all significant U.S. business hubs. 

 

Asym use Worldwide

asym use worldwide

 

The best news of all? Business and Personal users of the Asym platform don’t need to do anything to access the new language functionality. We’ve expanded the markets you can reach and made it completely effortless on your part.

 

Asym Use in the United States
Asym use in United States
Asym Use in Europe
Asym use in Europe

 

The API, javascript widget, and the desktop browser extensions (Chrome, Safari, & Firefox), have the increased functionality baked in. In addition we are currently working on some exciting new features that will bring increased personalization and personal control over your reading experience. These features will roll out over the next couple of quarters.
Scroll down to get details on how to get an Asym Subscription free for up to 6 months, plus see a visual map of different languages and more info on language use in the top 10m websites.

 

Word Spacing Optimized By Language

Frequency of Language use in top 10m websitesHere is a peek at how Asym can boost engagement rates for four out of the top six content languages on the internet (Japanese and Russian remain).
Asym automatically detects the language(s) on a web page. It measures the syntactic structure for each language and creates a map of word spacing cues based on structural patterns. Asym then uses that map to create unobtrusive visual cues that draw attention to important sections in the text (hence the term ‘text optimization’). Each language has a different map, therefore each language requires a different pattern of cues to help readers chunk the text. Each language also has a different word density. Asym accounts for this  and will automatically adjust spacing for languages with longer average word length such as German and French.

 

A Visual Representation of Languages

Each of these languages has its own unique syntactic fingerprint. For a deeper look at how Asym works, we’ve created syntactograms comparing word spacing maps for English, German, Spanish, and French. These syntactograms visually present some of the structural aspects of language we use to optimize visual cues in typography. Highlighted (bright bars) are relative adjustments to the spaces before and after certain words common syntactic words (ofthe, and, and a) in each language. Warmer colors (red, orange, yellow) indicate space expansions, while cooler colors (cyan, blue, and purple) indicate space compressions (cyan, blue, and purple).

Syntactic impact of the same word in different languages

syntactograms-by-language1
syntactograms-by-language2
syntactograms-by-language3
syntactograms-by-language4

 

Moving Forward in Changing Times

At Asymmetrica Labs we know reading behavior is changing. We know 87% of users use more than one screen at a time. We’re familiar with the study that suggests the average human attention span has gone from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 (famously, a goldfish’s attention span is estimated at 9 seconds). We see the world moving towards an era where attention is becoming the scarcest (and thus most precious) commodity.

As markets transition towards an economy based on attention (the attention economy), we don’t view Asym  as new technology. We see Asym as a completely new medium. We are presenting text on a new surface, we are fundamentally changing the background of text, and we are doing it in a way that optimizes text for human consumption. Where some might see Asym as the right technology at the right time, we see Asym as a new medium designed for a new time

Interested in getting onboard early? We are offering a limited number of Asym subscriptions free for up to 6 months in exchange for participating in case studies on improved conversion rates. 

  • Install Asym before Dec 10 2016 to get 3 free months.
  • Install Asym before the end of October 2016 to get an additional 3 months, for a total of 6 free months.

We are looking for a few content optimization examples from several different industries, company types, and company sizes, and we can apply Asym to web, email, and print. If you are interested please reach out to us at connect@asym.co before the spaces fill. Our new medium helps your audience read and engage with your content in four major languages. Installation takes a few minutes. Why wait? There is no better time to be part of the expansion.

 

Timelapse of Asym use across the United States
Timelapse of Asym use across the U.S.

 

Thanks for your time, and as always . . .

Enjoy your reading!

Chris, Ken, and Edward

 

P.S. Asymmetrica continues its work on new languages, along with improvements and deeper research into the languages we already support. Are there languages that are important to you or your business that we don’t yet support? Let us know!

Resources

87% users use more than 1 screen at a time – Accenture report

Attention span drop from 12 seconds to 8 seconds– Microsoft study Downloadable PDF

Technology makes us information rich and attention poor

You can’t speed read (5-10x faster) without a corresponding loss in comprehension, but it turns out that you can read faster and understand more of what you read if you improve the user experience inside the foveal window. This post describes relevant terms and examines empirical evidence on improving the user experience of reading. A link to a related white paper on improving the user experience of reading is also included.

Recently, the New York Times published an article “Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read” by Jeffrey M. Zacks and Rebecca Treiman. The article covers the challenges of improving our individual abilities to read faster without significant compromises.

Here at Asymmetrica we have over 40 years of combined experience studying visual perception, reading, and comprehending meaning, both in theory and application. Our work on Asym supports the premise that reading dramatically faster comes at a price to the comprehension and understanding of the content we read.

The Experience Shapes the Meaning

Techniques used to speed read work by rapidly scanning or skimming text. They work because they fundamentally reduce cognitive load during the reading process by leaving out significant content. The result is faster reading. But this speed comes at a cost. At best, speed reading loses critical context and shades of meaning in the author’s message. At worst, it changes the meaning of what we read.

RGB Cells
Viewing an individual RGB cell in isolation gives an incomplete picture – context is critical even to “comprehend a pixel”.

Even products such as Spritz and Squirt, which are based on the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique, have their own drawbacks. Although they don’t skip content — every word gets presented — they decrease comprehension at higher rates of speed. Words were never designed to stand on their own; they are meant to be interpreted in the context of the phrases and sentences in which they occur. Like presenting individual pixels on a screen one at a time without including the surrounding pixels, RSVP techniques strip away vital context and present fragments that were never designed to stand on their own. The result is fragments of a picture, rather than the complete picture.

Science tells us we can’t read 10x faster without significant trade-offs in comprehension. So what can we do to help our brains read better? Improve the user experience of text.

First let’s talk about what reading really is and where cognitive improvements can be made.

Natural Language Understanding = Hard AI Problem.

Natural language understanding is one of the hardest problems for computers to get right.
The human brain is extremely complex and capable of processing thought, meaning, and critical thinking in ways that even the largest supercomputers and most ambitious AIs created by some of the largest companies have yet to approximate. When we read, our brains perform a deceptively complex set of both serial and parallel functions to turn pixels, letters, words, sentences, and discourse into “meaning.” Complicating things further, human language often contains many non-literal contextual markers like humor, irony, or other indirect modifiers which invert or mean the opposite of the literal meaning. Sometimes these subtleties are the point. Or there may not seem to be a point if you miss the punchline of a joke.

The Act of Understanding

waste_less_time

Order and position matter. Often these can be a source of mistakes, confusion, or errors in one of these processes. We make mistakes – miscues – in reading all the time, but we use context to correct course and get back on track. Wolfgang Iser described reading as an act, the act of using text on a page to generate our own virtual text that translates symbols on a page into personal meaning. Reading is an act of constantly generating and comparing our virtual text to the text we are reading. While not everyone agrees completely with Iser’s interpretation, most agree reading (like listening) is an interactive process, where the reader is trying to guess the author’s (or speaker’s) intent. Reading, like other cognitive activities, is part passive perception, part active reconstruction, building understanding as we go.

This is the magic of language – you can get inside the head of someone else and understand his or her thoughts, even when those thoughts are separated by large distances or thousands of years in time. The written word has a special impact, a certain umph, maybe because there’s an implicit contract when someone takes the time to put their thoughts into writing. When writing is done right, the reader wants to understand.

You Can’t Speed Up the Clock Speed of your Brain’s Processor…

Overclocking
Hobbyists sometimes use liquid nitrogen to cool an overclocked computer processor. This is probably not a viable option for overclocking your brain.

Reading depends on biomechanical processes, and the speed of these biomechanical processes in our brains are fixed. Some brains may be more adept and some less adept at this (e.g., due to individual differences, development, dysfunction, or trauma) at certain parts of the reading experience. But in the end we are all speed-limited by the boundaries of chemistry and physics, attention and perception, and memory and cognition.

One of the limits on these cognitive abilities is anatomical. Our eyes have a specialized region in the retina called the fovea that we use for detailed visual analysis, such as during reading or driving. The fovea contains about 1% of the surface area of the retina, but the brain devotes about 50% of visual cortex to analysis of the signals coming from this tiny, crucial set of neurons. This special part of the eye has evolved to break down the world in exquisite detail, but the detail that it can see is only a small window of our visual world, typically a little more than a dozen letters, or about 2-3 words wide.

Fovea window and chunking text for speed reading
The brain devotes about 50% of the visual cortex to analysis of the signals coming from the fovea, which is only 1% of the surface area of the retina.

To read or perform any other complex visual activity, we have to move this window across the environment by moving our eyes and turning our head or body. The outside world gets represented in our heads as a series of tiny hi-res snapshots. As we scan our eyes across a visual scene, our brains integrate these snapshots into a seamless experience. Unfortunately for reading comprehension, the peripheral information outside the foveal window is blurry. We use this blurry area (the 99% of retinal real estate outside of our foveal window) for detecting motion. Thus, a real bottleneck in cognition for activities like reading is how information is packed into this narrow foveal window that we see through.

Once information is through the window, other slower forms of processing integrate the words into structure and meaning. Forcing information into the foveal window faster with technologies like Spritz or Squirt doesn’t help with understanding it better. Before your brain can integrate the information from this foveal window, it needs to be in an efficient package. But what’s an efficient package?

An Ideal Package of Information

An efficient package is a small chunk of words – a phrase – one of many structural patterns that occur over and over again in the language. Your brain is fast at recognizing these patterns, and ultimately uses them as building blocks to resolve ambiguities as you build up the structure and meaning of a sentence during processing. Ideally, the information from a single phrase or chunk would fall inside the foveal window – one chunk per foveal snapshot.

Otherwise, your brain has to determine which words belong in which chunks across two different snapshots (separated by an eye movement). This is harder, less efficient, and more prone to errors. Given the small size of the foveal window, optimization is not about faster information flow into the window, but about good packaging of the information. In an ideal reading environment, the eyes would process one package of meaning (one phrase) per window. Good packaging speeds output to the next stages of language processing, where higher order relationships among phrases can be resolved.

There are many ‘packaging’ techniques used to help readers identify meaningful chunks. The white paper Augmenting reading performance: The history and science of chunking via text formatting examines the variety of techniques used to help readers chunk effectively. Reading the white paper will introduce you to:

  • How language is organized into phrases, clauses, and sentences (chunks) during comprehension;
  • a rich history where writing systems fully marked these chunks, but modern writing systems only mark the ends of major clauses and sentences;
  • a synopsis of decades of research that show that chunking improves reading performance;
  • how good readers have eye-movement patterns that correspond to meaningful chunks; and
  • the ways to cue poor or distracted readers to have the same eye-movement patterns of good readers.

The takeaway is that distracted or otherwise challenged readers can have eye-movement patterns identical to those of excellent, undistracted readers if appropriate techniques are used to chunk text. Given the distraction-rich environments in which we read, we see chunking text as a valuable tool to enhance reading ability. We want to bring the benefits of this technique to as many readers as possible.

How to Fight a Perfect Storm?

Given society’s large shift towards mobile devices like phones and tablets, our reading experiences can now happen anywhere and anytime. Cutting cords has given us new freedoms, but also new burdens. Not only has more data and content been made available for us to read, we are now more and more distracted by mobile surroundings. The rising currents of information combined with a climate of distracting devices creates a veritable hurricane that wreaks havoc with understanding what we read.

change_the_world

This is why at Asymmetrica we have a sense of urgency. Our transition from the information age to the networked age has deluged all of us with an ever increasing wall of information. This deluge is only going to get more intense. To develop a solution, we carefully examined what we can and can’t do. We know you can’t speed up the clock speed of your brain’s processor, but you can remove unnecessary operations by chunking information into a more efficient representation. This ‘wasting less time’ approach is the heart of our solution.

Waste Less Time

Readers of content that use chunking aren’t as much reading faster as wasting less time while reading. With effective chunking, each eye movement is more efficient – our phrase-marking gives your brain natural cues for where to pause during reading. The content remains the same, but because eye movements are more efficient, the brain can efficiently integrate every chunk of meaning into the stream of understanding. With Asym, people aren’t cramming in more information faster, they’re comprehending more effectively.

Better Comprehension Can Lead to a Better World

Speed reading (1000% faster) won’t change the world beyond teaching people how to skim text. Improving comprehension is a different story. Significant improvement in comprehension is not only possible, it is practical. It can help companies keep users on a webpage. It can improve conversion rates on calls to action. In today’s post-mobile, highly networked, distraction-rich world of information overwhelm, better understanding might just lead to a better world. The 10-35% improvements we’ve seen from chunking are the difference of a letter grade (or more) for a student in school. It may be the difference between understanding and not understanding what we read. And it could be the difference between someone learning (or re-learning) to read, and someone giving up in frustration.

In the words of Herbert Simon more than 40 years ago:

In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes

    .”

He concludes by saying:

. . . a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

We designed Asym to address the poverty of attention so elegantly described by Herbert. If our solution to modern distractibility helps even a few at-risk readers, it has more than met our mission.

Asym technology is uniquely positioned at a crossroads where design and science meet typography. We hope it’s worth putting on your map.

poverty_of_attention

Asymmetrica takes on galactic literacy with Klingon support for online readers

SAN FRANCISCO – April 1, 2016 – Today, San Francisco based tech startup, Asymmetrica (asym.co) announced Klingon language support for their product, “Asym.”

Klingon expands language support from Terran languages such as English and German, which was recently announced at DLD16 in January. Klingon is the largest non-Terran language in use on the internet and an underserved audience.

Beta Quadrant Map - for Klingon Language Support
Beta Quadrant Map

 

Why Klingon?

• Speed. In battle, it’s vital to understand tactical data quickly and accurately. Asym speeds reading of battlefield reports by 13%. Less time reading is more time to achieve your enemy’s defeat.

• Conversion Rate. The written word is powerful. Research shows that demands for unconditional surrender are 28% more likely to be obeyed when formatted with Asym Spacing. Increased surrender adherence is greater glory for the Empire.

• Comprehension. Contrary to vicious stereotypes, Klingons are a literate people. But educators complain that Klingon youth prefer to spend their time watching videos of phaser tag over reading. Peer reviewed research shows that chunking improves oral fluency of Shakespeare in the original Klingon by 54%.

• Honor. In a warrior culture, asking for help can be a great dishonor. The technology is designed to completely transparent – Asym Spaces are literally transparent, so use is never obvious. And it is easy to install for both developers (two lines of code) and for personal use (a one-time installation). Klingon children and adults who struggle with reading face no shame in using this enhancement technology.

Asym is an API for businesses and a free browser plug-in for consumers that reformats text in real time. This enhanced formatting optimizes word spacing to provide unobtrusive visual cues that help readers chunk text into meaningful units. These chunking cues correspond to text locations where the brain would naturally pause during sentence comprehension, improving the reading experience across a wide range of metrics.

The patent pending technology is data driven and analyzes how a language is organized, then leverages cloud computing to asymmetrically reformat the word spaces to improve the interface between the text and the reader.

The formatting technology is flexible, fast, and provides reliable benefits to readers and publishers for any kind of text content with 7-32% increases in content sharing, completion, conversion rates, click-thru rates, and engagement.

“With more than half of reading done on mobile communicators, distraction is a serious problem not just in our local star system but also throughout the beta quadrant. This technology can improve the reading experience for both native speakers and those reading a second language,” says Chris Nicholas, Cofounder and President of Asymmetrica. “Low-literacy is a galactic problem.”

Asymmetrica offers the first scalable service to augment reading on the web since the advent of HTML nearly 25 years ago. “Today we deliver Asym Spacing at light speed, but we are looking into warp speed distribution technologies,” says Ken Brownfield, Cofounder and CTO of Asymmetrica. “Asym is engineered to be unobtrusive, but is unrelated to Klingon cloaking technology or transparent aluminum.”

“We have experimented with and like the user-experience of using transporters to beam Asym Spaces,” says Edward Wilson, Director of Communication at Asymmetrica. “But transporter technology may not be reliable enough for enterprise use. The risk is that spaces might vanish or unintentionally get doubled. Both are contentious issues for designers.”

Asymmetrica’s API’s support seamless processing for all text, creating more readable and engaging content. No special reader application or SDK is required. To download the free browser plug-in, visit www.asym.co. To view Klingon content visit the Klingon Language Institute, http://www.kli.org/.

About Asymmetrica
Asymmetrica Labs was founded in 2014 in Max Levchin’s innovation and investment lab, HVF. Our mission is to provide unobtrusive, large-scale reading improvement for web and print media. To request a key for your website, download the free browser plug-in, or to find more information, visit www.asym.co.

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Beta quadrant map image courtesy of Jack Cowan.

Media contact:
press@asym.co