Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Top Stories
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A study of 600 top media brands identifies 4 key strategies publishers can use to boost audience engagement

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Audience engagement is singularly important for publishers today. Consumers have instant access to a variety of media and would not hesitate to click or tap away if they are not engaged.

It directly affects revenues from readers (subscriptions, memberships and so on) as well as that from advertisers, who now want some guarantee beyond subscription numbers that users will stay long enough to see their ads.

Engagement hasn’t only changed the way media companies attract and interact with their audience – it’s changed the model of content monetization as a whole. Engagement breeds audience loyalty, which leads to more user interactions, registrations and subscriptions.

Viafoura report on audience engagement

Viafoura, an engagement solutions provider, has released a whitepaper titled Unlock the Four Fundamentals of Audience Engagement based on data from 600 top media brands. It provides actionable frameworks to help publishers improve their audience engagement.

The engagement ladder

The process of engaging users begins with a better understanding of their needs. The paper references a study, Turning Content Viewers Into Subscribers, published in MIT Sloan Management Review. According to the study, readers typically move through a specific set of stages in their engagement journey. 

Source: Unlock the Four Fundamental of Audience Engagement

They usually start interacting with a site as passive content consumers, and move on to make small contributions to the community by organizing (tagging or liking) content. As they get more engaged, readers start making substantial contributions, like posting comments to discussion forums.

At the top rung of the ladder are subscribers who take on leadership roles in the community by initiating or moderating discussions. 

Readers are more likely to travel from site to site, searching out the content that best connects with them – and when it does, they want a way to contribute to the discussion underway. They want a conversation, and smart media companies know the importance of providing them with exactly that. But it’s how they go about doing so that will truly set them apart.

Viafoura report on audience engagement

Understanding this user journey would help publishers formulate their engagement strategies. By addressing readers’ requirements at different stages they can move them up the rungs of the ladder towards becoming loyal and paying subscribers.

The paper recommends the following strategies:

1. Building a community for readers

Readers are looking for a community centered around issues that matter to them. But they will join and engage with a community only when they trust its validity and value. They also need to feel safe and be able to join the conversation without any concern about harassment and incivility. 

By ensuring moderation of conversations, publishers can ensure that it flows freely. Since moderation can be resource-intensive, they can use a combination of human and machine intelligence to get the job done.  

Engaged readers also look forward to debating and discussing the content they consume with its creators, according to the whitepaper. They want journalists to play a more active role in discussions and appreciate an environment that facilitates such engagement. It also gives journalists a direct conduit to readers who care about the content they produce.

These direct relationships (between journalists and readers) not only make engaged users feel valued, but increase site loyalty and keep users coming back to see what will happen next – all while offering journalists feedback on their efforts. 

Viafoura report on audience engagement

2. Providing engagement options

Individual reader habits differ. Some may be prolific commentators while others are more at home liking and sharing content, and following contributors. It also depends upon where they are on the engagement ladder.

The report advises publishers to ensure that they offer their readers different ways to interact. Each of these will serve as important access points into the community and encourage deeper engagement. 

Data cultivated from over 600 top media brands shows that over 80% of user registration happens on pages that feature some kind of onscreen engagement option.

Viafoura report on audience engagement

3. Keeping users onsite

While social media helps bring traffic, according to the paper, 65% of these users bounce within ten seconds. 

The report recommends publishers to keep users onsite through measures like highlighting meaningful comments, allowing readers to follow preferred contributors and providing personalized recommendations.

Implementing these options will help ensure that they are keeping their readers “attention at the site level and giving them more reasons to invest in your brand,” suggests the report. 

Social media, on the other hand, can be used for promotion and to aid content discovery. 

Source: Unlock the Four Fundamental of Audience Engagement

4. An engaged audience = better ad revenues

Loyalty, retention and trust can increase readership, as well as improve advertising revenue. “Modern advertisers want to create a direct relationship with your readers, and ensure that the relationship you have with your audience reflects positively on their brand,” the report states. 

The rise of bots, and proliferation of clickbait content has made advertisers look beyond clicks and into metrics like time-spent, return visits and pageviews—all signs of an engaged readership.

An engaged audience provides more information about themselves through their onsite behavior. This data can be used to create a personalized advertising experience, that will be beneficial to both consumers as well as advertisers in the long run.

Individually, publishers have unique challenges and audience requirements. Viafoura recommends developing an engagement strategy that fits with their unique objectives.

It could be focused on increasing user registrations, building audience loyalty, driving subscriptions, recognizing niche audiences to target onsite campaigns or something else. Each will affect how they approach engagement. 

The paper concludes, “having a targeted strategy will ensure you’re approaching engagement in a way that best utilizes what you have, and that you’re choosing the right tools to best build out your goals.”

The report provides further insights into how modern audiences engage, why it matters for publishers and what they can do to facilitate engagement in the long run with a focused strategy. 

The full whitepaper can be downloaded from Viafoura:
Unlock the Four Fundamentals of Audience Engagement