What can you, as a person or even as a publisher, know about an article online? When you have a url in front of you, there is little to tell you what is actually inside. 

The data that does exist on an individual article is often focused on “derivative” metrics that don’t explore what the piece is, but how people engage with it. Some examples are time on page, click through rates, and shares. 

These engagement metrics are the driving force behind huge parts of the internet economy, from social media algorithms that surface content to users in order to maximize them, to the calculations that bring ad revenue to news outlets. 

The Overtone team has seen the detrimental effects of systems that function with no regard to the qualitative aspects of content. Philip Allin, Christopher Brennan and Reagan Nunnally have experience in journalism, tech and in advertising, and know that a focus on vanity metrics also plagues the wider media ecosystem. 

Here’s the problem: fundamentally those types of metrics are divorced from the actual experience of a reader reading an article. These problems only stand to get worse when large amounts of text online are written algorithmically.

Overtone has used AI and natural language processing to create metrics based on the text of an article itself, rather than things such as the clicks, what website it is on, who wrote it or who shared it. Our Overtone scores are based on the editorial differences between articles, differences that I knew during my time as a journalist and most editors would understand. Because they are not based on waiting for people to engage, that means they are also available immediately the moment a piece of text exists.

These scores, the first of many products from Overtone aimed at helping people communicate better, can be used for driving subscriptions, ensuring quality supply in advertising, or simply setting expectations of what someone is about to read. As the internet decentralizes away from platforms that dominate the stores of data, people will need insights to explore, discover and connect. Overtone is about connecting the newsroom and the boardroom, writers and readers.
We hope this will lead to more sustainable journalism businesses, and ultimately a better, more sustainable internet.