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. 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.
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.
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.
Offer them news, video and other content tailored to their tastes and they will return to your site time and again. When news brands introduce personalized content, they find users explore more pages and stay for longer.
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.
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 analogue world, publishers developed a second sense for what would be a hit with readers.
In the digital world, they have the hard data on which to base their judgements. 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 in, 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 individual tastes and choices.
Much will depend on the publisher’s capability to capture and mine data about readers. 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 own techniques of managing data so they can compete and offer high degrees of personalization.
There are three areas where publishers can attract more loyal readers:
Offering high quality content that is well-produced, excellently researched and brilliantly executed is vital.
Finding ways to surface the most relevant content for each individual visitor is where personalization really kicks in, with personalized content recommendations made at the end of articles or on specific pages. This is where data capabilities come into play.
The third area for boosting loyalty is creating memorable, personalized interactions with the content. This requires long-term investment and nurtures customer loyalty over time. It can include tailored offers targeted at specific groups of users. These could be money-off coupons or more engaging mechanisms such as competitions with personalized prizes and individual subscription offers.
Building loyalty is always a long-term aim and it requires significant investment and an overall strategy. Personalized content is a strong driver of loyalty which is why many publishers are sharpening up their data collection and developing personalization strategies fit for the future.