Bounce Rates on News Sites

I was asked by someone about typical bounce rates on news sites. Keeping with my rule that an email response sent to more than a few people is better served if it lives out on the web where it can be discovered and referred to with a link rather than locked away in an email archive, I decided to share what I wrote.

Bounce Rate is defined as, “the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing on to view other pages within the same site.” Generally bouce rate more useful when you’re measuring the drop-off of visitors to an e-commerce site where you are guiding people along on a “funnel” towards a transaction or other anticipated result.

This makes it a less useful metric when measuring performance on a blog or news site where typically you serve what the reader came for on their first pageview. That said, here are some things to look at and how you can use bounce rates as an effective metric.

News site bounce rates are all over the board and I’ve seen rates anywhere between 30 – 80%. The important thing is to segment your audience into populations that have different experiences so you can see which levers are impacting your bounce rate.

Are mobile users bouncing more than desktop? Maybe your mobile website is slow.

Are users on a particular browser bouncing higher? Check your site load times.

What about regional differences? If your international readers bounce rate is higher check with Ad Ops, maybe the remnant inventory served is impacting performance.

Another cause could be click-baity headlines. Take a look at your stories that have a high bounce rate and see if the headline is saying one thing but the post another. Do less of that.

Look at your largest referral sources. Are Twitter readers bouncing higher than Facebook? Maybe your social sharing unit needs work.

One other source of bounce rate is when a reader just leaves the page open and the session eventually times out. A quick hack to record an additional event that “tricks” analytics to preventing a timed out bounce is a “toaster” which you often see appear offering a follow on page as the reader scrolls down a page. This will improve your bounce rate but I would argue that it provides little value except as yet another link to follow and may distract you from understanding your reader’s true behavior.

Finally, look at the difference between new and returning visitors. If returning visitors are bouncing, get rid of pop-ups to subscribe or other CTAs that get in the way of reading a page.

All that said, bounce rates are not that helpful to measuring a news site’s performance. Most news sites are designed to give you what you need on one page. A visitor who follows a link to a story and leaves is the definition of someone who bounces. Bounce Rates were invented to measure conversations on Anne-commerce sites funnel. For news sites you’re better off optimizing for time spent, pages/session and conversion to subscribers.

Have anything to add? Please leave your thoughts below.

Kanye being Kanye

Kanye West is a master at manipulating mass media to his advantage. Say what you will about his stunts such as renting out Madison Square Garden, his legendary twitter rants, or his jab at Taylor Swift at the VMAs, Kanye knows how to get attention. He was in top form today, using the daytime television show, Ellen, to launch into an epic rant about media, popular culture, and what it takes to change the status quo.

Social Media and the Spratly Islands

The tension around the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea continues to ratchet up and forces nations in the region to take sides. One of my favorite books about an earlier crisis, the Cuban Missile crisis, is Thirteen Days, which chronicled how JFK navigated his way to a peaceful resolution of the situation. My impression from the book was that we were able to walk Cuba and Russia back away from the ledge because President Kennedy was able to give Russia and Cuba room and allowed them to save face.

This will be difficult today where there isn’t such room to maneuver, where the geopolitical standoff is taking place in full view of the world and our tightly bound 24/7, interconnected networks.

But this new age brings danger as well. Such immediate transparency increases pressure on governments to respond to developments that may have been handled deliberately and privately in the past. For example, both Beijing and Washington made public statements within a day of the exposure of China’s missile deployment to Woody Island. In contrast, during the much more dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy had six days to plan a response before his first public statement.

Transparency may undermine stability in a brewing confrontation, as each move and countermove is broadcast worldwide. Thus, transparency may undermine stability in a brewing confrontation, as each move and countermove is broadcast worldwide. Transforming global standoffs into spectator sports will increase public pressure on leaders, reduce the time they have to react, and may foreclose politically sensitive options for de-escalation. Such compressed timelines can only increase the odds of misperception and mistakes, as transparency cannot banish uncertainty or decision makers’ biases.

Transparency’s Double-Edged Sword

One can only hope that into this hot house cooler temperaments prevail and we have leaders that are not driven to mouth off half-baked threats.

Rich Jaroslovsky on the Future of News

There’s an on-going series of video interviews with journalists on the futureof.news site. Two recent interviews were with Rich Jaroslovsky, my boss at SmartNews. Rich and I crossed paths years ago. He not only has a good instinct for what works for media online but also a history in both the print and online journalistic worlds and the deep memory for how things are put together and came to be the way they are today.

It is a huge vote of confidence that he’s working for SmartNews and, as you can see from the clips below, he’s here for all the right reasons. Some key quotes to call out:

excessive personalization is a rabbit hole. It at some point becomes an active negative, because what ends up happening is that you never discover anything new, you never discover anything that didn’t know ahead of time you would be interested in, and instead your worldview gets narrower and narrower.

. . .

When we launched WSJ.com, one of my conclusions was, serendipity is very hard to do in a digital environment. One of the great charms of SmartNews is that it has reintroduced that concept of serendipity, of finding things that you didn’t know you’d be interested in, and they turn out to be very interesting.

. . .

I’ve had many epiphanies over the years about digital journalism and how it’s different than print journalism, and one of them is that there is a craving in the audience for authenticity, for hearing things as close to the original source as possible. There are people who want to be able to access content that is from international sources, even when they are reading about stories that are being heavily covered by US media because it provides a different viewpoint.

. . .

In some ways news has been disintermediated the same way that music was. When I was in my record buying heyday and CD buying heyday, if there was a song I really liked, I had to buy the record. I had to buy the CD. And the fundamental unit was that CD, that package. I had to buy the whole package to get that one song. Now if there’s a song I like, I can buy that one song. That’s a very different model, as the music industry has learned somewhat to its despair but is adapting to. In news the same thing has happened.

The brand is no longer a destination, a place that people go to to get news. The brand is a mark of quality on that story. This is a USA Today story, I know what USA Today standards are, therefore the fact that it says USA Today, which is one of our valued partners, on top of that story—that’s a brand of quality. I know what I’m getting here. Or an NBC story, or a Huffington Post story, or a Fox News story. So it’s a very different environment, and the brand is still extremely important, but the meaning has changed quite fundamentally.

finally

My greatest hope is the the flip side of that coin—that as journalism evolves, as new forms of journalism evolve, as new delivery mechanisms evolve, that the end product is a more informed person and a more informed populace. Because I think that an informed populace is the critical element to a successful, thriving democracy. So my great hope is that as journalism works through this period of turmoil and uncertainty, that we come out the other end with models that keep citizens informed, where people can always get the information they need to make informed decisions.

You can see the entire text of the interview on the futureof.news site. I’ve also embedded both video clips below.

Part One

Part Two

Never Give Up

In the final lap of a 4×400 relay Phil Healy, the anchor runner for University College Cork women’s team, was a quarter lap down and in 5th place. She had to make up a massive gap and ahead of her and runners to chase down included a future representative for Ireland in this Summer’s 2016 Olympics.

Not only will you see an amazing comeback in the video above, as a bonus, you’ll hear two Irish announcers falling over themselves as they witness history.

UCC from the depths of hell are powering through! one announcer says.

The Washington Post has the full story behind this incredible comeback.

It’s unbelievable! What a run!