How do publishers increase audience engagement? More content isn’t always the answer

13 Sep 2016 | By Tobias Arns

As social media platforms become the main sources for users to access content, publishers must use personalized recommendations across devices and platforms to deliver what readers want.

The biggest news stories exert a magnetic pull on readers, drawing them to news providers which bring to life the historic events, personalities and narratives using colorful detail and clarity.

From wars and elections to major sports events and celebrity gossip, top news stories are simply unmissable. However, beyond the biggest headlines, the reader’s attention can quickly drift. Much of the content that appears on news sites seems of little immediate relevance to many people, and is a key reason as to why simply creating more content doesn’t drive more engagement.

Offering readers personalized content that is tailored to their specific interests and plays to their passions is becoming essential for publishers.

Keep readers on your site for longer with tailored content recommendations

Visitors may be drawn to a site by a dramatic news story via a link on social media. Once they have landed on a webpage, the challenge is to find ways of keeping them on the site and getting them to click through to more stories.

Only by giving them the content that drives their enthusiasm can they be kept from drifting away to rival news providers or bouncing back to a social media platform.   

Engaged readers will stay longer on your site, click through to more pages and they are likely to come back more often. Engaged readers are more receptive to the advertising on your site and to the promotions and offers your partners send them. This creates a virtuous circle.

The money a publisher makes from selling advertising, subscriptions and marketing to these readers can be re-invested in creating the content they love, thus increasing their engagement.

Understand your readers’ online identity with a DMP

Personalized content is the key to boosting engagement with readers. Having the ability to offer them a unique experience tailored to what is relevant to them in that moment will keep them engaged with your content and increase the moments they spend on your site.

The web can seem a vast and confusing place. But the ability to understand the cues, signs and the digital body language of online readers gives publishers an opportunity to become relevant, involved and engaging for each visitor.

Personalization can occur on a number of levels and many publishers are just starting out on the journey. The first stage is a process of collecting and analysing user data and insights, then segmenting visitors based on the datas and having content appropriate for different groups of users.

These segments can be broken down into ever smaller groups until ultimately there is one-to-one personalization for each user.

This requires large amounts of data about individual users, which can come from a variety of sources, but could include age, gender, interests, websites visited and types of news stories frequently read. And there must be equally precise data about the content that is being offered to those visitors so publishers can truly understand the relationship better the reader and their content.

Personalization to boost programmatic advertising

Each piece of data has its own unique “fingerprint”, the metadata that puts it into areas of interest. This can include the subject matter, the people involved, the event it describes and how it is related to other similar content. Personalization connects these two strings of data together so the user gets a story that is not only relevant to them but that they actively want to see.

The data collection techniques of the web have become so advanced that a lot can be known about a web visitor in just a few milliseconds. That is the key to programmatic advertising – in the fractions of a second it takes a website to load, an ad slot can be filled with a marketing message tailored to the individual visitor.

The same is true of personalized news content. Even one-off “fly-by” visitors can be engaged with relevant stories that are likely to be of personal interest to them.

Research analysts Gartner surveyed some 35 online vendors and found that:

  1. 92% can personalize the experience of an anonymous customer

  2. 83% can enable a 360 degree view of the customer assuming the customer data is supplied to the personalization engine.

The future belongs to publishers who provide an engaging online experience

Of course, the closer the relationship a publisher has with a reader, the more data they will be able to mine to find the most appropriate and interesting story. But the secret of great personalization is that it is unrecognizable. The reader will not be left thinking that this has been done specifically for me – they will just know the experience is better than before. When it is badly done, personalization comes across as either irrelevant or intrusive. The key is to make it seamless so the experience seems to get better the more they use the product. That will encourage them to come back for more.

The future of the web belongs to the publishing brands that know their readers and show them content that is relevant to their interests. Publishers should make sure they are in the front row when it comes to personalization so they can keep giving readers what they want, however they access their content, whenever they access it.