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Upworthy Has a New Success Metric for Content. But Why Should B2B Marketers Care?

This week, Upworthy introduced the world to “attention minutes.” This metric is—from now on—how they’ll define the success of their content.

When I first saw this article from Nieman Journalism Labs, I thought, “Oh great. Another metric.”

But as I dug deeper into Upworthy’s newest KPI, it became clear that there’s something exciting happening in the content kingdoms of Internet-land. And the attention minute is the newest sign of change.

Content analytics sometimes feel like “settling.” For example, tracking pageviews and unique visitors signal success, but they don’t paint the full picture. What about social sharing metrics? Yep, those are good. But every once in a while, we see a high number of retweets without any shift in visitor metrics—people sharing your post, without actually reading the article. 

Every system of measurement has flaws—some more major than others. But instead of continuing to settle, innovative companies (like Upworthy, YouTube, Medium, and Klout) are pushing the boundaries on how they track content that hits its mark.

The attention minute is a step in the right direction toward meaningful measurement, throwing out the “go-to” metrics that give us little more than a glimpse into the value we create.

What are Attention Minutes?

Attention minutes are an analytic that essentially track how long a user interacts with something online. There are two forms attention minutes take. Here they are straight from the folks at Upworthy:

Total Attention on Site (per hour, day, week, month, whatever) — that tells us (like total uniques or total pageviews) how good of a job Upworthy is doing overall at drawing attention to important topics.

And Total Attention per Piece, which is a combination of how many people watch something on Upworthy and how much of it they actually watch. Pieces with higher total attention should be promoted more.

There are a few important elements here. Mainly, this is meant to decipher how invested people are in the content they’re reading (not how many people see it). And while Upworthy is a media company, there’s a lot that B2B brands can learn from how media companies approach and organize content.

Here are my key takeaways from Upworthy’s announcement, all of which can be applied by B2B marketers right now.

1. They Start with a Goal.

“If we’re trying to maximize attention for meaningful content, let’s actually solve for that.” -Upworthy

Sometimes, marketers can get caught tracking and measuring things that have nothing to do with the actual goals of the organization. What good do those numbers do? Well, they’re good at sucking up your time and energy. Track what matters. If you don’t know how to choose the metrics that matter, try locking yourself in a room with both creative and analytical thinkers from your company and get brainstorming.

2. They’re Willing to Change.

“We love thinking this way because it rewards us for sharing content that people really enjoy and find valuable — not just stuff they click on a lot.” -Upworthy

For better or worse, Upworthy is most well-known for their tested, sharable, and crazy clickable headlines. They could be settling. They could continue to promote the idea that clicks are the most important metric for content success because, heck, they’re already amazing at generating those. Upworthy has chosen not to settle. Even though they’re succeeding with one metric, they’re willing to move away from it instead of perpetuating a myth that makes them look good.

Sometimes, marketers can be scared to restructure the way they measure. It’s a gamble. But it’s not valuable to use outdated models of success because it ultimately leaves your business outdated, too.

3. They’re Looking at the Whole Picture. 

“A comprehensive approach that looks at clicks + watchability (attention minutes) + shares + engagement (comments and Likes) can give a strong signal about which content users find highly satisfying and rewarding, and which content they’re bored by.” -Upworthy

Notice, attention minutes are just one piece in Upworthy’s analytic toolkit. While this is their main metric, it needs to be looked at in conjunction with other metrics to see the full picture. Ultimately, I think organizations will move to a single score, a single metric that takes multiple factors (based on goals) into consideration and weighs them accordingly. But until then, look at each of these metrics individually. Then look at them together. What do you find?

But…Is This Really the Whole Picture?

When I looked at the equation for measurement above, then looked again at Upworthy.com, I realized that there are some very critical elements missing: conversions, leads, and opportunities.

Upworthy may not have a product to sell like we B2B marketers do, so leads and opportunities might not be applicable here, but I don’t understand why Upworthy wouldn’t include subscribers as conversions. These are people who raise their hand and say, “Yes, Upworthy! I care so much about what I’m reading that I give you permission to communicate with me all of the time!” Isn’t that the ultimate measurement of successful content?

Especially because I know that they care. How do I know? Because of this:

And this:

And lots of other calls-to-action across their website.

So attention minutes are an excellent start, and all B2B marketers should take this as a challenge to push their content marketing efforts toward quality content.

But are attention minutes everything? Not quite. If everything content marketing stands for holds true, Upworthy’s move toward better content will lead to higher conversions (how ever they define that). And if it does, I hope they share that in a follow up blog post. Because that’s a metric I’d like to see.

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