Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
3 mins read

Publishers: 4 strategies to grow and retain digital audiences

Rolling Stone UK’s digital director offers four strategies on finding and keeping audiences

Strategies to discover and retain digital audiences are one of the biggest focuses for today’s digital publishers. Fierce competition online – from streaming services and social media feeds to direct competitors – is pushing audience development professionals to develop laser-focused growth and retention strategies.

Takeaways

  • Digital director Charlotte Cijffers has built her expertise in the area of audience growth working across a range of magazine brands including publications like Dazed, Attitude Magazine and more recently, the relaunch of Rolling Stone in the UK.
  • Speaking to the Media Voices Podcast, Cijffers acknowledged that every publisher needs to develop growth strategies appropriate to their audiences. But she also spotlighted a number of action areas that have brought results across the range of  publications that she has worked with.
  • Her four top tips – leveraging archives, audience research, optimising content recommendations, and developing a strong tech stack – are all focused on surfacing content that audiences will engage with. She said the ‘curatorial power’ of journalists and editors should never be underestimated.

Journalism is fundamentally the engine of all these businesses, and sometimes we can lose sight of that in a sea of homogenous, branded content.

1. Archives

  • Every publisher has some form of evergreen content suitable for refresh and repurposing. Cijffers believes publication archives are one of the most powerful, but also one of the most neglected publishers tools for growing audiences. 
  • Building out archive content – as the Atlantic has just done – can be a relatively low cost way of producing a depth of engaging content that will also support SEO efforts. Cijffers believes it helps acquire new users when they visit your site for the first time. She said:

Leveraging your archive correctly and effectively is definitely the key in terms of creating that steady, long-term groundswell of traffic to your sites.

2. Research

Choosing the right content for repurposing is crucial to the success of resurfacing archive content. Audience research is the obvious way to get this right – Cijffers explains that without knowing your audience ‘inside-out’ you can’t expect to attract, convert and retain new audience members.

Working at Dazed Media, she focused on creating collections of easy-to-discover content around certain key topics. The topics for these were determined through the use of in-person surveys and research, as well as website behavioural data.

It is really important to keep asking the question, what do people in your audience care about…

3. Recommendations

Making content as discoverable as possible for visitors once they are on your website is crucial. Content recommendations play an important part in increasing discoverability, for archive material but also for news stories, images, galleries, listicles, video and audio.

Cijffers explained that content suggestion and tagging had ‘a massive impact’ with every publisher she has worked with, influencing pages per session and session duration. She said:

Any publisher should be looking at their content suggestion algorithms and tagging algorithms.

4. Technology

Cijffers final tip ties each of the other strategies together – a robust tech stack. She doesn’t advocate simply adding ‘extra bits’ of technology, but instead recommends taking into consideration what’s time-efficient for staff and, above all, what’s best for the user. She said:

It was quite an investment for certain publishers I’ve worked with to invest in looking at their content suggestion algorithms, for example. But the results spoke for themselves.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends delivers updates and analysis on the industry news you need to stay on top of if you’re running a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email roundup here.