Could Scribd Stats Change the Way We Write?

The “YouTube for documents” releases an analytics tool that gives insight on people’s reading patterns. Thanks to Scribd, you’re about to find out what happens.

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.”

About the author

E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan.