As a struggling Chartbeat addict, I can tell you that watching the number of people flooding onto your site or story can be a rush. But like any great high, it fades too fast, especially when you can’t figure out how to keep them coming back.

I got a look at the new version of Chartbeat yesterday, the popular realtime analytics tool, and was encouraged to see a new suite of tools that focused on ways to engage and respond to readers so they return again and again.

“We know the pageview sucks,” said Chartbeat’s Alex Carusillo. “Sure everyone likes to see big numbers, but you can’t predict a pickup by Drudge Report that will send a huge wave of one time readers. We think it makes more sense to focus on the readers who are deeply engaged and driving other readers to your site.”

The big change is a new field in the dashboard that tracks the average amount of time readers are spending with each story. You can take a look at an example from investor Fred Wilson’s blog AVC below (he doesn’t mind sharing his numbers).

Watching the numbers from VentureBeat yesterday, I saw certain stories that weren’t getting the most traffic, but were keeping readers on the site for two or three times VentureBeat’s average.

“This is very different from the engagement you see in Google Analytics,” Lauryn Bennett, Chartbeat’s head of brand. “They are looking at when someone enters a page and when they exit. But is that person actually paying attention to your site, or did they just forget and leave open a tab in their browser.” Chartbeat looks every few seconds to see if the visitor is clicking around to measure engagement.

Chartbeat has already released a specialized product, Newsbeat, for publishers. Right now the team is testing out similar products for e-commerce and gaming companies. And the new version of Chartbeat is going to break out analytics for visitors arriving through mobile sites and apps as well. “You need to understand how your audience is engaging with you, no matter what platform they are using,” Carusillo said.

And, as if Chartbeat didn’t already monkey with my ego on a daily basis, the team has built-in a new tool that tracks the performance of your site against its peer group, in our case other tech blogs. You can see the average for direct traffic, search and social across similar sites and where you rank by comparison.

“We want to help companies do more than just track their performance minute to minute. We’re trying to real-time expose data in a new way so companies can make informed decisions about where it makes the most sense to invest for the long-term,” Bennett said.

Image via Flickr user rosmary

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