A 2014 quiz that let people see how much time they waste on Facebook got 4.7 million hits and gave Time its biggest traffic day ever, with 3.8 million uniques.
Now Time is hoping to exploit the formats’ popularity further by launching a standalone site today, Time Labs, for its interactive stories. Time brought on Chris Wilson in 2013 to lead its interactive data team, and the stories his team has produced have been Time.com’s most popular for three years running. In 2013, for example, 5.6 million people read America’s Mood Map: An Interactive Guide to the United States of Attitude.
Traditional journalists can wring their hands, but the appeal of these stories is irrefutable. “We joke that narcissism works really well,” said Sam Jacobs, Time assistant managing editor, who hired Wilson.
People don’t just click and share these stories; they spend time with them. Chartbeat found that 55 percent of readers spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. Time said with many of its interactive stories, people are spending 70 seconds. “It’s the length of two commercials, but it’s an eternity on the Internet,” Jacobs said.
Creating a standalone home for Time’s interactive features makes sense for a few reasons. They’re visual in nature, so the new home will be a better canvas for them than the busily designed and fast-paced Time.com. (The interactive features will still appear on Time.com, though, for maximum exposure.) There won’t be any advertising on Time Labs to start, but most likely it will be limited to native-style ads that resemble the look and editorial style of the content.
Advertisers are gaining interest in how much time readers are spending on a site versus just clicks, and Time Labs also is a way for the publisher to capitalise on that interest. Buyers said more time spent can lead to a greater advertiser benefit, which in turn could help a site command higher ad rates, or at least more advertising.
“We’re certainly seeing an evolving sales narrative that contextualises attention, engagement and time spent beyond monthly unique figures,” said Maikel O’Hanlon, vp of social media strategy at Horizon Media. “It shouldn’t be too hard for publishers to produce studies that identify a stronger advertiser benefit around content that keeps consumers’ attention longer. And with those studies in play, a more premium rate card would understandably follow.” There are no industry standards for buying this way, though, so putting value on the longer time spent is the hard part, said Jon Anselmo, director of digital innovation at MediaVest.
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