Could Scribd Stats Change the Way We Write?

Scribd Stats

If a writer knew which parts of her book people read, would it change how and what she wrote? If marketers knew which parts of their brochure people read, would it change how they put the brochure together? Researchers producing white papers, comic book authors—the list of people who could benefit from such knowledge is endless.

Thanks to Scribd, you’re about to find out what happens. The company known as "the YouTube for documents" will soon be releasing an analytics tool that will show users a slew of data about documents they upload to the site. You'll get to know the number of hits a document receives per day, how your documents are traveling out via the social web, which search terms are producing traffic, and where a document is actually being read—where on the web, and where in the world.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the new Scribd Stats package are the heat maps that will run down the side of each document, like the ones at left. The heat map represents the entire document. Red indicates pages that users spent the most about of time on, blue the least. Clicking on a section of the heat map takes you to that particular page in the document.

The statistics don’t require any programming and are included free with each account. Scribd plans to start rolling them out to users in the next few weeks. Ann Westpheling, Scribd’s new strategic partnership manager who recently joined the company after 11 years in publishing marketing, said they could change the game for publishers, who are still struggling to figure out how to market books through social media.

"If I create an excerpt with material from three romantic novels, I can now see which author drove the most traffic," says Westpheling. "Experimentation [with different marketing strategies] becomes more meaningful."

The current package is just the beginning. CEO Trip Adler said the company plans to continue beefing up the statistics offering over time, including offering aggregate views of the data. The stats could provide insight into how long people read different kinds of material—leading, perhaps, to new optimal lengths for different genres of books—as well as how reading speeds vary by day of the week or by age of reader—which could also lead to changes in how authors write.

The statistics, Adler said, are going to generate "new data on reading that’s never been available before."

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6 Comments

  • paulsamael

    You are right to be sceptical - my stats on Scribd used to say I had 1.4K reads for all my docs. OK, nothing spectacular, but not too bad given that I don't really do much promotion. Recently, however, that figure has been reduced to 145 "views". Why? Because, as Scribd admitted when I queried the change, 90% of the original total was from web bots, crawlers and the like i.e. not real people reading at all. Credit to Scribd for admitting this - but it's disappointing that it took them so long, as someone must have known the figures were grossly over-inflated (and in the meantime, the stats created the impressed that exposure on Scribd was much better than it really is).

  • Jerry Boggs

    Re: "You'll get to know the number of hits a document receives per day..."

    Hits on a document are registered each time the author visits. Thus, writers with lots of time on their hands could hit their browser's reload a thousand times a day, making their document appear to be a hot item.

    A month ago I was told by a Scribd tech that a fix is being worked on.

  • Ping.it

    Heat maps are good for homepages and landing pages but when we are talking about documents and novels I don't think it would change the way we prepare them just because certain pages are accessed more or read with greater attention.

    There is a story behind every document, behind every novel and every sentence is a part of the entire presentation. Statistics in this regard can certainly help us know whether the information we are trying to convey is actually being accessed or not and what is the most effective way of presenting that information (do people spend more time on tabular data on charts?). For instance if the stats show that people are more interested in visual data then in your future documents you will be using more of that. But it won't change the basic storyline or the way you organize information.

  • Brett Anderson

    This could revolutionize ad writing, making it much easier for everyone to write effective ad content. Amazing! Wish it was around ten years ago.