Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Top Stories
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Where 73% of newsrooms are going wrong: Insights from The Atlantic

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Atlantic 57, The Atlantic magazine’s consulting service has released a new report, The Four Visitors to Your Site (And How to Hook Them). The report is based on the study of The Atlantic’s readers’ behavior in a bid to identify the best strategies for converting them into paid consumers. 

The Atlantic is among the early legacy publishers that executed a successful shift to digital. Soon print publishers and companies started looking at it to guide their own digital transformations. This led to the formation of its consultancy division, Atlantic Media Strategies (the present Atlantic 57) in 2012.

Atlantic 57 has since grown into the fastest-growing business segment of the publisher. This makes it well-positioned to identify strategies that other publishers looking to grow their digital revenues would find valuable. 

“Having an impact” or “just a passing concern?”

According to the report, 73% of newsrooms focus their attention on page views alone rather than how readers are actually engaging with content. But pageviews offer little understanding of audiences’ needs and motivations. 

That’s why The Atlantic now also includes metrics that indicate loyalty and engagement. These are, the frequency of site visits per month and the number of articles read per session. The goal is to build reader habits, which according to the report, is a “big predictor of digital conversions of any kind.”

It’s a shift away from relying on page views and traffic of individual content pieces, to looking at the individual people visiting your website and what they do there. It’s a way to see if you are having an impact on your audiences, or if you are just a passing concern.

The Four Visitors to Your Site (And How to Hook Them)

The four audience segments 

The publisher has identified four audience segments. In the report, it presents strategies that can be used to inspire the audience in each segment to take meaningful action. The findings can be applied by other publishers aiming to build their revenues through subscriptions, memberships or other products. 

The Passersby: These are the one-and-done visitors that account for up to 80% of a publisher’s traffic.

The Occasionals: Readers who visit around once a month.

The Regulars: Visitors who come multiple times per month, month after month.

The Superfans: The small but devoted group of readers that care the most about the publisher’s work.

Source: Atlantic 57 | Medium

Engaging and motivating readers in each segment

Passerby: These visitors usually come following a viral story on search or social. They may not know much about the publisher, and are usually looking for more information about a specific story or a topic. Showing them additional content related to the topic can be an effective way of engaging them.

The Atlantic found that embedding a related link between paragraphs, rather than recommending several stories at the side of the article, led to a 5% increase in the number of pages visited per user session.

Occasionals: They are similar to the passerby except that they visit more frequently. According to the report, occasionals are 3% more likely to encounter new content than the site average. Also, they are likely to have developed a certain level of trust in the brand and maybe ready for a deeper relationship.

The report recommends leading such readers to habit-forming products like newsletters, podcasts, and recurring features. The Atlantic has boosted sign-ups to its newsletters by as much as 66% by promoting these loyalty drivers on its article pages. The editors at Wired found that readers who come in from newsletters are more likely to subscribe than visitors coming from search and social. 

Regulars: These are active followers who have not yet signed up for a paid offering. They likely follow the publication on social media and receive its newsletters. Regulars make for a small percentage of visitors but account for a high portion of the engagement.

They (regulars) are on the cusp of becoming habitual readers, they just need a little push from you to make it official.

The Four Visitors to Your Site (And How to Hook Them)

The report recommends presenting such readers with targeted calls to action. Obstacles that can cause them to disengage need to be addressed. Features like social sign-ups, mobile-friendly web pages, and alternate payment options, like Amazon Pay can provide the “little push” that converts them.

In fact, the changes need not be dramatic. Atlantic 57 redesigned World Food Program USA’s website to inspire audiences to join the movement against global hunger. They found that just making the donation button more prominent and consistently recognizable across the site, led to a 344% increase in revenue from the site’s donation form.

Source: The Four Visitors to Your Site (And How to Hook Them)

Superfans: These are not only the most avid consumers and supporters, they also give publishers insights that can drive growth and retention for the rest of the audience. Studying the behavior of superfans helped The Atlantic develop what it calls its “North Star” metric for measuring reader loyalty based on the frequency of visits.

The report recommends rewarding superfans with extra value to keep them excited about the brand. The Atlantic has a members-only platform called The Masthead. It provides subscribers with exclusive analysis, behind-the-scenes content, and access to senior members of the newsroom. 

Publishers can also consider giving Superfans special benefits, like discounts or access to exclusive events.

Segmenting audiences by behaviors, rather than traffic has allowed The Atlantic to focus its strategy and strengthen opportunities for growth. By defining their audiences, publishers can observe how each group interacts with their content. This would help them develop strategies that connect various initiatives to business goals, as well as, deepen reader relationships.

The full Atlantic 57 report is available here:
The Four Visitors to Your Site (And How to Hook Them)

Download WNIP’s comprehensive report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.