News brands and publishers face an uncertain world, but one thing is clear – they need to focus their efforts on turning occasional visitors to their websites into regular users and subscribers to create a sustainable digital business model.
Encouraging existing customers to make greater use of your website is easier than attracting completely new visitors, and publishers are looking for ways to deepen their relationships with visitors so they stay on their sites for longer and click through to other stories, pages, and videos. If they have visited once or twice, chances are they can be persuaded to come again. That means working out what attracted them to your site in the first place and making sure you give them more of it.
The key is to create an experience that your readers find exciting and that taps into their passions. So publishers and news brands are experimenting with different levels of personalization to improve the experience of visitors to their sites and to encourage them to become more loyal, regular readers.
Canadian news provider Winnipeg Free Press found that after it introduced personalized content recommendations on its website, readers spent on average three times as long on the site and the number of pages they viewed per visit doubled from five to ten.
Personalization is becoming increasingly vital for publishers. The web is awash with information on every conceivable subject. Little surprise that Google’s algorithm is so successful since it makes sense of this mass of information and organizes web pages according to the reader’s wishes. Meanwhile, social platforms have become hugely important for referring users to news stories and features items. Publishers risk losing out in the battle for curating the user’s online experience.
But online publishers hold a trump card. They are in a prime position to use their deep knowledge about readers to cut through the extraneous information and offer them a personalized experience that is second to none.
Understand readers, the context, and their interests
Using valuable insight into the interests and desires of readers has always been at the heart of what newspapers and magazines offer. Their success is based on understanding the wishes and desires of their audiences and creating the content to fulfill those needs. That means, offer them the news, video, and other content tailored to their tastes and they will return to your site time and again.
The online world offers publishers a chance to extend this offer and to perfect it using the data created by audience interactions with digital technology.
In the analog world, publishers developed a second sense for what would be a hit with readers.
In the digital world, they have hard data on which to base their judgments. Publishers today can access data that tells them what readers are most likely to value.
A data management platform should be at the heart of your business model
Different levels of data allow content to be personalized to varying degrees. It can be broad – perhaps offering relevant local stories to people from different cities or regions. Then it can get more targeted, segmenting audiences according to their gender, age, and whether they have children.
More layers can be added, such as their interests and tastes in music, films, and TV shows. At an advanced stage, personalization can be a truly one-to-one relationship where content is recommended to someone based on their tastes and choices. Much will depend on the publishers’ capability to capture and extract readers’ data. The US technology giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have led the way in gathering and using data about users to create personalized experiences.
Now it is the task of publishers to find their techniques of managing data so they can compete and offer high degrees of personalization.
How to convert fly-by users into loyal subscribers
Building loyalty is always a long-term aim and it requires significant investment and an overall strategy. Because no two readers are the same, it’s important to get to know your reader, one on one. By using socio-demographic and behavioral data to identify and segment readers, publishers can predict where their readers are most likely to click next.
Once publishers can "understand" their readers, they can begin crafting personalized recommendations that can increase engagement and dwell time and build more personal relationships with them. In this way, Mediahuis has increased 25% CTR on re-targeted native ads and a 60% conversion rate on advertisers’ sites.
When publishers serve readers personalized, relevant content that keeps them engaged, they, at the same time, boost customer lifetime value and build recurring value. Readers who consume more content and spend more time on site are more likely to engage with branded content, register, and eventually, subscribe!