Why personalization allows publishers to maximize the value of their existing content

20 Sep 2016 | By Tobias Arns

Publishers are ideally placed to take personalization to new levels so that they can watch their digital revenue grow and build a sustainable business model for the digital-first world in which we live by maximizing the value of the archive and evergreen content with a personalization strategy.

Publishers are sitting on vast archives of material, often stretching back decades. There are news stories, features, and interviews from years past and more recent work such as practical guides from recipes to “how-to” videos. Having access to this rich archive of evergreen content is one of the great advantages that legacy publishers have over newer digital rivals. Many of the established publishers have been waiting for the moment when they could find a way of monetizing this vast treasury of content.

The good news is, that moment has arrived!

The value in surfacing evergreen content with personalization

Publishers have experimented with various ways of unlocking the opportunities buried in their archives. Some have gathered together interviews, photos, and articles about celebrities and put them into print magazines and are now repurposing them as e-books. Others are creating shareable lists of recipes online. They are offering up searchable archives of material stretching back to the 19th century. This is often used to add an extra layer of value to subscription offers.

Personalization is a strategy that will enable publishers to bring archived material to the surface and connect it to those who find it genuinely interesting, increasing audience acquisition, retention, and advocacy. It offers publishers a powerful way to make use of that archived content and make sure it is presented to the people who will appreciate it most, hence unlock huge value and monetization possibilities far beyond simply being a nice add-on to the annual subscription.

Here’s how it works: When a visitor arrives at a website via a social media link, they are ripe for engagement. Offering them a list of content that is relevant to their interests keeps them on the site and will hopefully encourage them to make that next click.

Publishers can pique their interest through gathering data to learn about that visitor – the device they are using, their gender, age, location, and interests. This will suggest which type of content they will engage with most, whether they like soccer or hockey, films or theatre. The publisher can also compare the profile of the visitor with profiles of people with similar attributes, such as age, gender, location, and interests. These are called “lookalike audiences”.

Actionable real-time data is crucial for publishers to maximize content ROI

Analyzing lookalike behavior can offer insights into the types of content a visitor would respond to and help the publisher extend their existing audience, hence turning anonymous readers into known readers and then into loyal subscribers.

This data about visitors offers a golden opportunity to bring to the surface some of that archived material and to give it new relevance. For example, if you learn from your data that a user is a first-time parent and you have some baby or parenting advice videos in the archive, here is a great chance to put that in front of the viewer.

On the other hand, content that lies unused can all of a sudden gain a new lease of life. A five-year-old interview with a sports star who has suddenly achieved great things could be fascinating for someone with a specific interest in that sport.

Build a compelling conversion offer with existing content

Any attempt to make the most of the publisher’s archive requires the painstaking task of going through decades’ worth of content and tagging it and creating metadata so that it can be matched with the most appropriate users. This can be expensive and time-consuming. Many publishers have invested heavily in content as the web and mobile have taken off. Nonetheless, they have found that a lot of that content gets only a few views or hits. If it is displayed in the usual time-ordered news feed, it may lose relevance when the topic it is linked to is overtaken by another issue. As a result, publishers may feel they are throwing money away by investing so heavily in content.

However, by tying the archive into a personalization strategy, that investment will be rewarded. Visitors are likely to stay longer on your site and engage more with your content if they see there is a deep well of material going back years which they find relevant and motivating.

Personalized recommendations of archived content allow them to make greater use of the content they have previously paid, hence maximizing the value of evergreen content. It also increases opportunities to make offers, show ads and promote subscriptions. Offering a list of parenting articles would be a great opportunity to show diaper ads or to run a sponsorship deal with a baby product brand.

Publishing is no longer just about the biggest breaking news stories

Surfacing archived material through personalization is an example of long-tail marketing – the theory that in the digital world, profits won’t only come from a small number of top-selling products, or in this case articles, but rather from finding ways to monetize a large number of niche products that get a small number of hits.

Personalization is changing the game of publishing. News is no longer simply a question of prioritizing the biggest breaking stories. Publishers are developing the ability to dive into their extensive libraries of material to serve up content that is relevant to the interests and passions of each reader, to increase their digital revenue, and to create both a sustainable business model that fits for the 21st century and new ways readers expect to be engaged by news brands.