Here’s why your content doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The takeaway to this article? Readers don’t decide to block off 5–10 minutes of dedicated attention to read your stuff. They are constantly paying micro-attention to bits of your content, evaluating how soon they can stop reading and move on to something else.

It’s managing micro-attention that makes or breaks your content performance.

 

Micro-attention needs a micro-solution

Micro-attention consists of the small but critical transactions that occur as the fickle reader skims your content. Each moment hangs in the balance as the reader decides to stay on your site for a few more eye scans, or succumbs to the pull of the rest of the internet. Or the pull of real life, because let’s face it: no one is reading your carefully honed wordsmithing in a quiet library. Instead, your readers are bringing the noise of modern life into the reading experience of your content.

For modern websites, reader distraction is digital death by 1000 cuts. This article examines the myriad forces that drive distraction, how traditional macro-level strategies like great content and great design are insufficient, and how to leverage the Asym micro-typography platform to win readers’ attention on a level that has never been possible before.

 

Overview

Let’s uncover the real enemies to content performance.

  1. The first enemy is the mobile experience. Mobile isn’t your friend because of both environmental noise and device noise.
  2. The second enemy is digital optionality. Indirect competitors are your greatest competition.
  3. The third enemy is content and its downward spiral.

The solution to these problems? Read on.

 

Mobile—panacea or perfect storm?

Your content is no doubt great, but chances are that half of your audience is reading it on a mobile device. Strike One. Mobile readers are harder to engage – fewer page views and shorter dwell times are par for the course with mobile.

Yes, mobile changed everything ten years ago as phones became smart and took on new roles. Where before phones were used to make calls, smartphones morphed into opportunities for personal messaging, group messaging, email, social apps, browsing the web, shopping, games, and generally a perfect storm of distraction.

Smartphones made people accessible. You can now deliver your content to them at any place and any time. But engagement seems to correlate strongly with the size of the device. So it is true that there are millions of users right now on their devices who could be reached by your content.at this very moment wherever they might be. But how much of their real attention – the deep consumption of your message – do you really have? Probably not as much as you think. More likely you have their shallow attention as they multitask on their pocket- and purse-sized distraction device. Studies show that even when reading on a desktop computer just having your phone on and within reach is a distraction to productivity.

Environmental Noise

Part of the problem is environmental noise – your mobile audience is reading in line, standing or walking on the street, in that boring meeting, while watching another screen, at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, with screaming kids . . . you get the idea. Yes social media helps you reach a wider audience, but social media (and society) can rip audience attention away from your content.

woman distracted by social media

 

Device Noise

The other side of the coin is device noise. How many notifications arrived during your 7 minute Medium post? Maybe the reader just remembered to write that work email they forgot about. Or received an actual phone call that takes over the entire screen (some people still take calls on their phone). Mobile audiences are attractive to publishers for the same reason mobile audiences are unattractive: they are easy to get (and equally easy to lose).

social media distractions

Mobile audiences are attractive to publishers for the same reason mobile audiences are unattractive: they are easy to get (and equally easy to lose)

Facebook recognizes the role of this factor and has limited how often publishers can have breaking news. Audiences have developed “fatigue with urgency” and Facebook knows this is bad for business. If Facebook sees user attention as a finite resource to be protected for its own ends, then everyone who competes against Facebook – and this is everyone who puts out content they want read – needs to consider the intrinsic value of attention.

Attention is being monetized – sometimes just a glance or a few seconds at at time. Devices and their apps now push urgency via notifications, banners, and badges. These often encourage if not demand interaction – preferably now – pulling away readers’ attention. Commodity or resource, attention is how many ad-supported businesses drive revenue. Attention isn’t free. Consumers have only so much time, patience, or interest. And they have many options where to spend it.

 

Optionality

The optionality of modern consumption is Strike Two. Optionality is about the siren call of other apps, or surfing to another topic, or clicking / swiping away to the next ephemeral experience. Reflect on your own mobile consumption habits and ask how often you stick with the destination you just clicked on? Do other options intrude and pull you away from your original content?

Do you think your readers behave differently?

On any mobile device (or any non-mobile device for that matter), spontaneity wrecks havoc on reader engagement. Because as easy as it was to get to your content, it is just as easy to get somewhere else. How easy? Intentionally or accidentally, a click, a swipe, or an idle scroll is all it takes. The rest of the internet lurks uncomfortably near. Your audience is just one or two gestures away from becoming someone else’s audience.

distracting trending media

Your audience is just one or two gestures away from becoming someone else’s audience.

 

Disposability

The disposability of so much content on the web is Strike Three. It can be tough for your quality content to surface when readers are deluged with disposable content constantly throughout the day. Disposable content exists because many publishers make the mistake of optimizing for shallow attention. The reasoning is clear: if we just had the audience scale of Google or Facebook, think how much reach and revenue would follow. This leads to wars of attention among providers, struggling to compel more clicks at any cost. The strategies are often short term, and use humor, salaciousness, or outright misinformation to compel the click. This industry practice even has its own (infamous) name: clickbait.

The problem is worse on mobile because mobile audiences are prone to treating mobile experiences as temporary. If you are “killing time” on your phone throughout the day, it changes your mindset and your relationship with the information you view through that mobile porthole to the internet. The phone screen becomes a place of amusements and disposable actions. And that affects how your readers frame the content they encounter. There is a good chance your mobile reader expects to be interrupted while reading your content. Not a good frame to drive the performance of your content.

There is a good chance your mobile reader expects to be interrupted while reading your content.

 

The pervasive damage of disposable content

The problem with creating disposable content as a business strategy is that, let’s face it, publishers don’t have the reach of Facebook and Google. Clickbait has consequences – namely shifting your audience even more into this shallow mode of consumption and devaluing your brand. By treating your audience’s attention as a cheap commodity, you cheapen your relationship with them. Your influence, trust, and perception of quality suffers. Sure, you won their attention for 60 seconds. But is this what your really want as a publisher? Why prefer eyeball quantity over eyeball quality? Why prefer shallow attention readers over deeply engaged readers who might read the next article and return again tomorrow?

It’s understandably attractive – clicks and page views are easy enough to measure and are concrete. But trying to scale your way to success via short term solutions devalues the internet. Content providers and content consumers both share a responsibility here. We’ve done this to ourselves as a society. By creating more and more information as providers we’ve created too much information, too many options for the reader. Studies show that consumers react poorly when confronted with too many choices. How do they react with nearly infinite choice? By having shallow, superficial relationships with content. This quickly spirals into a content ecosystem where it’s a race to the bottom and the results are shorter attention spans.

 

Solving the attention problem

How do you reach a mostly mobile, definitely distracted audience with infinite choice and a disposable-information mindset?


Of course, there are common solutions based on macro-level strategy:

  • Great Content: Stand out from the competition with content that’s useful for your audience. Rather than providing content that’s brand-centric, provide content that’s user-centric.
  • Great Design: Design for people who skim rather than read. Use Gestalt principles to help your readers spot key ideas and group information into separate, easy to understand chunks. Readers spend less time trying to understand your content and more time using or acting on it.

While these are fantastic approaches and solve genuine problems of information design, they don’t address the catastrophic issue of fractured attention. How can we go beyond these well-worn paths?

How do you defeat death by 1000 cuts? Go small. The best way to solve micro problems is with micro solutions.

antman, representing a micro solution to a micro problem

 

Micro-chunking—the secret to Asym

What can be done on a macro level can also be done on a micro level. Technology now exists that allows companies to do automated information design at the sentence level. Asym, our micro-typography platform, is a novel solution for the emerging economy driven by micro-attention. It’s a win for the reader and a win for the publisher.

Much as a skilled orator uses pauses to effectively group ideas together, Asym cloud-based software can instantly insert subtle differences to the spacing between words. These variable spaces between words provide visual cues that guide readers’ eyes and indicate which words belong together and which words are separate.

Justlikewordspacingmakesstringsofletterseasiertoread, asymmetrical spacing helps make multi-word chunks easier to read. Rather than the reader working hard to evaluate the importance of each and every word, these cues provide just enough asymmetry to draw micro-attention to the most valuable parts of your content. The end result is content is easier to understand.

Easy to understand content reduces cognitive load, which can help you either retain the reader just a little longer or more efficiently transfer your message from page to brain before you lose the reader. The message is noticed, perceived, and remembered better. Text becomes more engaging. If your audience is poisoned with information overload, deeper comprehension – even of just a few words at a time – is the best antidote to transient attention.

Asym is the only automated, scalable tool you can use to optimize your site for micro-attention. The principles have been around for more than 60 years, but we are the first to bring to market the technology required to apply it in real-time to digital text. We started with research-based text optimization that reduces cognitive load. Over the past three years we’ve honed that optimization over a wide variety of edge and corner cases. We deliver text that has been proven time and time again to increase concrete actions such as add-to-cart transactions, deeper average page depth, more repeat visitors, more shared content, and other high-impact metrics that drive revenue and improve your bottom line.

 

More of a good thing

Your audience’s attention is valuable. We know your attention is as well. We developed Asym to be as lightweight and easy-to-implement as possible so you can increase content performance without having to dedicate extensive time or resources.

As a technology company we recognize that providers and consumers are locked in an attentional tug of war and that this situation will only get worse. We do our own part to combat the core problem by helping companies retain precious audience attention. We’re also hopeful that by highlighting the forces that shape modern content consumption, both readers and providers will examine where their own habits and practices contribute to making the ecosystem more shallow. Enabling deeper understanding on the web is good thing.

Thanks for reading

 

Chris, Ken, & Edward

 

Antman pic: by https://www.flickr.com/people/28277470@N05/ – https://www.flickr.com/photos/28277470@N05/19671958442/in/dateposted/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44379583

 

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