Getting readers through the front door is only the first step in building a sustainable media business. Publishers need to focus on engaging and retaining audiences to grow, build content consumption habits and create ‘brand lovers’. Journalism.co.uk recently shared five tips from nine publishing pros to help ambitious publishers increase reader engagement and loyalty.
Content still king
Quality content is table stakes for modern publishers and it needs to be refreshed regularly to give readers a reason to visit. However, Tim Robinson, managing editor at UK news publisher NationalWorld says utility and relevance has to be part of the mix. He said:
For news publishers, this means not just being first, but explaining and educating the world to our readers – a world that is full of less reliable sources of information.
Distribution is ‘King Kong’
Content is just content without effective distribution.
According to Dávid Tvrdoň from Denník SME of Slovakia, three touch points work best in building loyalty with their readers – newsletters, podcasts and the mobile app. With 176,000 active subscribers across 60+ editorial newsletters, Denník SME’s publisher reports the customer lifetime value of newsletter subscribers as 30% higher than average. Surveys show consistently that a large number of subscribers are also podcast fans. And on apps, Tvrdoň said:
Our mobile app has proven to be an important touchpoint for subscribers because it serves as the entry point for tens of thousands of our subscribers to the content published on SME.sk.
Direct connection with content creators can also be key. Editor-in-chief Robert Čásenský, of Czech independent magazine Reportér believes the connection to specific authors is very important for readers. He said:
This must be combined with the quality of the service, from the technical point of view and from the point of view of user comfort. If it were not… more emotional bonds would not be enough.
Charlie Beckett, director of The Journalism AI Project at The London School of Economics and Political Science believes that the best engagement strategy involves listening to users and treating engagement as a relationship. He said:
Sophisticated use of audience data and AI technologies can allow the user experience to be personalised and automated but the human should always be in the loop.
Of course, knowing who your readers are and what they want helps publishers in engaging and retaining audiences. But also understanding how they interact with specific platforms is important. Wahyu Dhyatmika of Tempo Digital, Indonesia, said:
A combination of audience data, the right content and a good strategy based on the platform’s character can really improve our readers’ engagement.
Madhav Chinnappa, director of news ecosystem development at Google recommends the tech giant’s News Consumer Insights data tools to help publishers learn more about their audiences. Among the actions recommended by NCI are:
- Grow newsletter traffic by optimising sign-up
- Implement web push notifications
- Maximise content recirculation
If quality content is important, how content is delivered to consumers matters almost as much. Dominic Young, founder at payment company Axate, said that content in itself does not create reader loyalty and maintaining ‘product thinking’ is important in growing reader revenue.
If you want to engage an audience and build a habit, you need to think about the product. The things that don’t change constantly even as the content does, the things which your reader knows you will consistently deliver, the things which they will miss if they skip them.