Digital Publishing
2 mins read

Should you design for addiction or for loyalty?

That depends on whether you want users or an audience.

With advertising as the primary driver of web revenue, many publishers have chased the click dragon. Seeking to meet marketers’ insatiable desire for impressions, publishers doubled down on quick clicks. Headlines became little more than a means to a clickthrough, often regardless of whether the article would pay off or even if the topic was worthy of coverage. And — since we all know there are still plenty of publications focusing on hot headlines over substance — this method pays off. In short-term revenue, that is.

However, the reader experience that shallow clicks deliver doesn’t develop brand affinity or customer loyalty. And the negative consumer experience has actually been shown to extend to any advertising placed in its context. Sure, there are still those seeking a quick buck — but these days, we all see clickbait for what it is.

Media companies that want to develop a genuine relationship with readers, listeners, and viewers know that these wham-bam, fly-by hits are just that. And, as media companies seek to diversify revenue and increasingly explore paid offerings, reputation and real relationships are paramount.

Where addiction relies on an imbalanced and unstable relationship, loyal customers will return willingly time and again. They’ll refer you to others. They’ll be interested in your new offerings, because they will already rely on you to deliver. And, as an added bonus, these feelings of goodwill will extend to any advertising you deliver too. Through the provision of quality content, delivered through excellent experiences at predictable and optimal times, content can become a trusted ally, not a fleeting infatuation or unhealthy compulsion.

So yes, you can design the crack cocaine of content. But a better business strategy might be to stop thinking of your customers as “users” and think of them as an audience instead. A user will chase a fix, sure. But when you deliver, audience members will become your biggest fans.

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