Scribd’s New Social Dashboard for Reading

By  |  Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 9:34 am

Reading, writing, and publishing is morphing like crazy thanks to the Web’s evolution along with social media innovations such as news feeds, “likes” and sharing.  Word that an iPad-only newspaper from Apple and News Corp. is on its way further amplifies just how much things are changing for digital content. But perhaps an even more transformative development, albeit lesser noticed, is already here. Scribd Stats, which quietly began rolling out last week, is an analytics tool– a social dashboard–built specifically for reading.

Now anyone who uploads written content to Scribd, a social reading and publishing site (think of it as “the YouTube of reading,”) can get insight on how their content is being read and distributed across the Web. The free tool is designed to helps authors, journalists, bloggers, students, teachers and publishers gain real-time intelligence on their books, magazines, comics, recipes, spreadsheets, scientific papers, court documents, and the like. For instance, the online dashboard details how many total reads each document gets, where content is being read (Web sites and geographical regions), how it’s being embedded, and how many social “shares” it’s receiving on Facebook and Twitter.

“There’s nothing even close to this available,” says Trip Adler, Scribd’s CEO. “We are actually looking at how people are reading through particular documents… instead of just looking at the number of pages being read.  We go into the actual words people are searching for… which pages are most popular.”

One standout feature is a graphical “heatmap” showing where readers are spending the most time. The “map” appears as a color-coded sidebar running vertically alongside each document.  Scrolling down the bar automatically shows which sections are the most popular: orange means it’s a “hot,” heavily visited area; blue indicates a “cool” or rarely visited section (a blank page for instance); and violet means “moderate” viewership.

Tyler McMullen, one of the engineers behind Scribd Stats, says he personally appreciates knowing exactly which areas of text readers find most interesting. After checking out the rich analytics on a speech he gave to the Scottish Ruby Conference in Edinburgh, McMullen decided he would re-work his presentation to emphasize topics that people found most appealing.  It’s precisely this opportunity to tweak, geo-target, and micro-market content to better suit fickle and unpredictable audiences that Scribd is betting will be a boon for old-school publishers and authors. “Nowadays,” Adler explains, “Publishers can upload a file, and instantly get real-time stats on how people are discovering and reading and sharing that content.”  And, if the live feedback isn’t to publisher’s liking, or matching their expectations, well, they can use that real-time intelligence to influence social traffic patterns and demographics, and thought leaders.  “It can change how people write and publish books,” he says.

With one billion pages of text in its digital coffers, Scribd claims it’s probably “the largest and fastest growing corpus of text online.”  Some 60 million visitors go to Scribd each month to share, discuss and rate what they’re reading. A big part of Scribd’s surging growth can be attributed to recently-added social features, including one called “Readcasts,” which lets readers share what they’re reading by posting to their Twitter and Facebook profiles. There have been over 40 million Readcasts since being introduced six months ago. And, Scribd reports its content – all HTML5 – is getting over 30,000 “likes” on Facebook every day.

Beyond advertising, Scribd derives revenue from premium accounts. The company is considering offering more premium stats with premium accounts.

Today, Scribd works with over 150 professional publishers including Random House, Simon & Schuster, the New York Times and Wiley.  While the professional content is growing, it’s still a relatively small fraction compared to all the user generated content. With 15% month-over-month growth, one can easily imagine the company’s homegrown fare increasingly blurring with professionally-produced works. It will be interesting to see how that mix shifts over time.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. S Bera Says:

    How to use this ?

  2. relevantmatters Says:

    When writers visit their own published docs at Scribd, their visit is added to their total visits. Thus writers who have a lot of time on their hands can click on their browser's reload button a thousand times a day — and make their documents appear to be very popular!

    I was told a month ago that Scribd would fix this.

  3. Ruby developer Says:

    The dashboard resembles the Google Analytics one, so it may be even more convenient for bloggers who have already been tracking their websites via GA. Now, they have the same functionality with Scribd. Sounds good =)