Viafoura Lets Users Comment with Videos

Video commenting. That’s right – we offer it.

With all of the recent buzz about Facebook’s video commenting, we just wanted to remind you who did it first! It was Viafoura.

We’re always talking about how comments are the highest form of online engagement. And with Viafoura’s commenting tool, users have the option to engage in the comment sections using text, images, and video.

Why is this noteworthy? Here are a few reasons:

Video Commenting

  • Creates dynamic conversations and personal connections
  • Shortens the distance between commenters and editors/journalists
  • Solves the problem of anonymity by putting a face on people
  • Allows readers to engage in whichever form of communication they want

In a world where the growth of online video creation and consumption is booming and we are becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing videos thanks to platforms like Snapchat, users are more open to sharing videos than ever before.

Studies confirm that this trend in online engagement is here to stay. By 2020, Cisco Visual Networking Index predicts that internet video traffic will represent 82% of all consumer internet traffic (a majority of this coming from mobile). So it’s only natural for videos to move into the commenting realm.

When a publisher enables video commenting, users can easily reply with:

Two Easy Steps

  • Heading to the post they want to comment on and clicking “Upload Video”
  • Hitting “Submit,” keeping their likes up, and continuing to engage in the conversation

Video commenting offers a new way for readers to participate in the conversation using whichever device they use to read your articles (mobile included!). And with more ways for engagement, comes more opportunities to turn passive users to loyal users and subscribers.


Want to see Viafoura’s engagement tools in action?

Connect with an Audience Development Strategist today and see how 600+ media brands are engaging, discovering, and growing their audiences.

Interview: Penny Riordan & Katie Steiner


Penny Riordan


Katie Steiner

Penny Riordan, Director of Digital Content Partnerships at GateHouse Media and Katie Steiner, Communication Associate at Engaging News Project share their best practices for commenting, engagement, and beyond.

Q: How do you create an engaging online community?

Penny: If you haven’t already, start looking at your comments. Look for the people who are asking the questions. Ask a follow up question or state a fact – that’s how you get people to come back into the conversation.

Katie: Engagement is a two-way street between news organizations and their audiences. It’s when audiences are involved in the story process. And on the flip side, it’s when readers can connect with each other and with the news organization. It’s this connection between all the different players that makes up an engaging online community.

Tweet this: #Engagement keeps readers coming back and is good for the bottom line

Q: What are the benefits of commenting and what would you say to someone who’s turned off commenting as a feature?

Penny: Comments are a great way for readers to engage with each other and with you and your organization. And if you are going to shut down comments, you’re going to have to find another way to engage with your audience. So why eliminate an important and easy way for readers to interact on your site?

Katie: Removing comments is a rash decision. It’s what newsrooms do when they think there is no other way to fix their commenting sections.

Often, the problem is that newsrooms aren’t willing to experiment and feel they are limited in terms of resources. The Engaging News Project is here to tell you that there are strategies you can use that don’t require a whole lot of resources. There’s things like Quizzes and the Respect Button that can make all the different when it comes to engagement.

Tweet this: #Comments are an important and easy way for readers to interact on your site

Q: What is the the role journalists and editors play in creating an engaging and civil online community?

Katie: Journalists and editors involvement is really important.

If you have an Audience Engagement Specialist, it’s not just their responsibility to create an engaging and civil online community. It’s the newsroom’s job too and this means journalists and editors. When the newsroom works together, they can create a better experience for everyone.

Engagement is good for the bottom line. It keeps readers coming back and ultimately increases revenues.

Tweet this: When newsrooms engage with their readers and vice versa, they create a better experience for everyone

Q: Was there a lot of educating you had to do internally around engagement and commenting and if so what approaches did you take?

Penny: We delivered several presentations to our newsroom. Added to that, there was one training with the Engaging News Project on comment moderation and best practices, which really helped us turn a corner.

We took the time to train digital editors who were focused on the front line to give them the tools that they needed to jump into the comment sections. We found that often journalists just don’t know where to start and digital editors can be afraid to share their opinions. So we had to overcome this problem. We helped by talking them through those canned responses. Phases like “Thanks for reaching out” and “Good question” can help newsrooms engage with the right users.

I can’t tell you how important it is to us at GateHouse Media to continue emphasizing to our newsrooms the benefits of engaging with our audiences.

Katie: And to help make that case, I would encourage everyone to connect with us and check out our research. Share with us your experience and best practices! The Engaging News Project is always looking for new ideas and feedback from journalists, editors, and people who are interested in engagement.

To learn more about research-supported methods of engagement, civility, and moderation, watch our on demand webinar: A New Approach to Engagement.

Webinar On Demand: A New Approach to Engagement

Watch the webinar on demand now — featuring Penny Riordan, Director of Digital Content Partnerships from GateHouse Media, Katie Steiner, Communication Associate from the Engaging News Project, and Dan Seaman, Product Director from Viafoura.

A New Approach to Engagement explores the following topics:

Key Takeaways

  • How to leverage the supporting research to build your Business Case for Engagement
  • Tactics and tools to increase engagement and grow your community
  • The motivations behind civil commenters online and how to model their behaviours
  • Strategies to move engagement beyond commenting
  • The future of online engagement and the four Cs of Smart Moderation

Don’t miss out on this webinar, watch it here:

Operation Audience Engagement

Ready to unleash your inner Engagement Superhero?

To help with your next mission (and story!) we’ve created a checklist to help with Operation Audience Engagement.

Follow these steps to reach the next level:

  1. Build your Business Case for Engagement
  2. Join the discussion
  3. Win the battle against the trolls
  4. Recruit and reward members on Team Civility
  5. Size up your audience
Unleash your inner Engagement Superhero with @viafoura’s Audience Engagement Checklist
We’re here to help! Let Viafoura guide you on your journey to engagement.

The Challenge

Today’s readers have boundless digital options available. If you want to stand out from the rest, it’s more important than ever for media organizations to build loyalty and deepen trust with their audiences. One of the main ways you can remain relevant, grow your audience, and stay afloat is through engagement.

What’s in it for you? When you engage, there is the opportunity to learn from your audience, increase brand loyalty, and civility online.

In a world where news organizations can come crashing down at any moment, arming yourself with this knowledge can not only differentiate yourself from the rest but can secure your future from an unwelcome fate.

All set? Let’s get started.

1. Build Your Business Case for Engagement

Engage your audience. Sound simple enough? But how? You need to adopt two-way communication with your audiences. Because audiences don’t want to be talked at, they want to be part of the conversation. And when readers are engaged, they are more likely to return, register, and subscribe.

One of the main ways they engage is in the comments they leave on your site. In fact, 68% spend more than 15% of their time there. Commenters are loyal readers who stay on-site longer, return more often, and access more pages. By taking an active role to engagement and interacting with your users, you can prompt their gradual increase up the “Ladder of Engagement” and convert passive readers to loyal users and subscribers.

This is your main mission and there are several steps you can take to achieve this.

Tweet This: Take an active role to engage and interact with your users to prompt their gradual increase up the “Ladder of Engagement”

2. Join the Discussion

Engage in the comments. Commenters generally aren’t expecting journalists or editors to respond, acknowledge, or validate their comments. So when they do, it shows that they are passionate about the topic and care about their readers’ opinions. And when journalists and editors engage in their readers’ comments, not only does this bring the highest conversion of passive readers to subscribers, but civility also increases.

Ultimately, this helps you build loyalty and credibility as a trusted source with your audience. Engagement is in your best interest in order to grow your audience and create a civil community.

Tweet This: Readers are more likely to participate in meaningful discussions when the journalist is present, values, and engages with them

3. Win the Battle Against Trolls

Here’s your secret weapon: Viafoura’s Smart automated algorithmic Moderation (SaaM). SaaM provides a safe place for engaging and civil discourse so you don’t have to focus on the dreaded “garbage removal.” It also allows editors or journalists to easily moderate and ban users directly from the comment thread.

Since human moderation can often be time-consuming, open to biases, and can’t possibly run 24/7, Smart Moderation is more effective in keeping the trolls far, far away, at all times of the day. It’s the trolls’ worst nightmare.

Tweet This: SaaM provides a safe place for engaging, civil discourse so you don’t have to focus on the “garbage removal” #CivilityMatters

4. Recruit & Reward Members on Team Civility

Model civility. Identify the top comments from your stories that are valuable to the discussion, highlight them, and reply to the contributors. Modelling the behaviour you want others to follow will encourage commenters to try out for Team Civility, build off each other to express their views, and will show your dedication to the conversation.

Reward Team Civility members. With Viafoura’s “Trusted” and “Mod” user badges, editors and journalists can actively participate in the community or promote users who consistently contribute positive, valuable comments. Additionally, when editors are reading their own comment threads, they can promote a comment as an “Editor’s Pick” from the live story on the website rather logging in to Viafoura Admin Center and finding the comment.

Tweet This: Model the behaviour you want others to follow #EngagedJ #CivilityMatters

5. Size Up Your Audience

Learn more about your audience. Measuring audience engagement can help you understand more about your audience, how they’re engaging with your content, and shape what topics you choose to focus on in the future.

Viafoura Audience Insights shows you which stories are generating the most comments per minute velocity—a leading indicator of stories that will generate the most traffic overall. Other analytics tools can’t compete because they can only represent the total number of people viewing content and don’t provide a rich understanding of how they’re engaging with content and the community.

Tweet This: Learn more about your audience and how they’re engaging with your content #audienceinsights

Checklist Complete?

How did you do? Share with us how you did in the comments. And tweet the takeaways for extra bonus points 😉

Once you’ve successfully completed the checklist, Operation Audience Engagement is complete.

You’re ready to move on to the next level! Here’s the challenging part—your next mission is to maintain and build on the progress you’ve made. Time to earn those Engagement Superhero stripes!

Tweet This: Why yes, in fact, I am an engaged journalist #EngagedJ
-> (Feel free to adjust the title accordingly based on your role)

Contact us to discuss your Audience Development strategy and how we can help you engage, discover, and grow your audience.

Bring Your A(nalytics)-Game with Viafoura Audience Insights

“Moment-based” metrics like unique users and pageviews fall short in measuring audience engagement.

Now, the rules of engagement and monetization are moving beyond moment-based metrics towards attention-based metrics.

This shift has brought analytics platforms to the forefront to navigate these deep waters.

What’s Trending in Analytics?

Editors and journalists are forced to use a smattering of tools to measure audience engagement, social engagement, and traffic metrics. The current analytics tools (like Google Analytics and Chartbeat) are good analytics tools to understand how your content is performing. But they aren’t enough when it comes to driving out actionable insights.

Why Don’t The Current Tools Cut It?

Here’s the problem: Current tools don’t integrate or have insights into each other’s data.
And in a busy, content-driven world where readers have more options available at their fingertips than ever before, these distinctions could be what’s holding you back from bringing your a-game.

Bring Your A(nalytics)-Game

But what if we told you, we’ve got you covered.

Viafoura Audience Insights, part of our Audience Development Platform, fills the gap where other analytical tools fall short. In fact, it’s the only real-time analytics product that uncovers the impact of on-site engagement on attention time and other important KPIs.

It’s our dedication to tell the complete story that sets us apart. Our integrated platform helps publishers measure the impact and optimize the performance of engagement tools.

How Audience Insights Works

Discover the Impact of Engagement on Attention Time

Attention time is a great indicator of the relevance of your content, as it rewards not just the volume of pageviews on your site today, but also the amount of time users spend engaged with your content.

We factor out the time they spend away from the keyboard, or tabbed away from the page, for the most accurate measurements of engagement.

Looking at attention time allows you to surface not just the story’s number of pageviews, but empowers you to action the stories that are most effective at capturing your audience.

It also provides insights on what traffic (sources) brings in new visitors who wouldn’t typically have come to the site. Leverage this data to build opportunities to convert users into loyal and returning visitors.

Tap into Your Demographics

Find out who’s spending the most time on your site. Understanding your audience demographics allows you to create engaging content for your readers and find relevant advertising that doesn’t feel forced and fits best.

Watch Your Stories Gain Traction in Real-Time

Audience Insights makes it easy to see in real-time what stories are gaining traction, what social networks are successful in driving readers to your site, and how this traffic directly impacts attention time and engagement.

Finally, you can close the loop and see the complete impact of social sharing!

Promote High-Potential Stories with Ease
Predict high-potential stories before they happen and long before they show up in your other dashboards.

Using unique indicators like commenting per minute and the handy historical performance on your content collected so far, you can make strategic decisions in real-time on what stories with potentially high engagement value to promote.

Generate & Download Reports in Seconds

Audience Insights helps compile and provide performance reports on specific sections and articles for a selected time period.

Reports can help you better understand your audience, confirm content and ads that will resonate the most with them, and drive the results you’re looking for.

Take Your Audience Engagement to The Next Level

These analytical tools are all wrapped up neatly in a single user-friendly dashboard, offering an at-a-glance view for publishers.

Capture the full story of engagement by leveraging Audience Insights to gain a top-level view as well as a more granular view of data for single pieces of content. Whether you want to segment your data by time, section, device, geography, or author, you can refine and reflect on these metrics that matter.

Are you ready to take your audience engagement to the next level?

Connect to discuss your Audience Development strategy and how Viafoura Audience Insights can help you bring on your A(nalytics)-game to engage, discover, and grow your audience.

Why Attention Time Matters for Digital Publishers

Up until recently, digital publishers relied heavily on metrics like pageviews and monthly uniques to measure reach, but the industry is shifting its focus beyond these moment-based metrics and zeroing in on time spent. Now buyers, sellers, and marketers are using “time spent” as a way to overcome viewability concerns.

Attention metrics are helping to shift the industry away from from clickbait, bots, and all the behaviours degrading the value of the web and in a move towards refocusing the development, measurement and monetization of quality content.

To turn things around, the industry is pushing the notion that the best indicator of content quality isn’t how many people see it, but how much time they spend with it. Enter “engaged time,” which publishers like The Financial Times and Say Media are now putting at the center of their value propositions to advertisers and users.

“Viewability doesn’t provide attention. The next step in the evolution of media buying is trading attention”
—Ashwin Sridhar

Other major digital publishers are also making the move to attention time metrics. The Economist recently announced their shift to attention-based ad sales — which closely followed in the footsteps of The Financial Times, which made the same move earlier in 2015. Other major publishers are using attention time-focused analytics to get a better grasp on the their content and audience engagement.

Not sure where to start when it comes to measuring engagement and attention? Here’s how attention time can be captured to arm publishers with actionable data to better inform decisions:

Avoiding the Pageview Trap

Publishers have traditionally leaned on analytics like pageviews, clicks, and unique visitors to measure the success of a piece of content. These “moment-based” metrics offer a brief snapshot of a user’s behaviour during a session on a publisher’s site. And because publishers are what they measure, the focus on these fleeting “moments” has driven down content quality in the unyielding quest for more traffic.

Harnessing a more impactful version of engagement and attention is top of mind as leading publishers look to move beyond moment-based, vanity metrics like clicks and pageviews. Just boosting traffic isn’t enough, because as we know, not all traffic converts. Which brings us to the Business Case for Engagement and attention time: Encouraging user interaction has a higher impact than traffic, and better converts passive content consumers into loyal users and paying subscribers, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review.

What is Attention Time?

“Viewability doesn’t provide attention. The next step in the evolution of media buying is trading attention,” Ashwin Sridhar, global head of digital products revenue at The Economist, told Digiday. This quote from Sridhar demonstrates the next step in the evolution of digital publishing metrics — and an industry shift to attention metrics. Attention time is a measure of the time an audience spends on-site, engaging with content (reading, sharing, liking, etc.) and interacting with the community built around the content.

With the average attention span now amounting to less than nine seconds (yes, even less than a goldfish), keeping the reader on the page is a major focus for all digital publishers. And many leading publishers are keeping their audience’s eyeballs on their content via strategic tactics to boost engagement, which increases a user’s time on-site and positively impacts a publisher’s CPM.

Attention time is a far more effective, in-depth method of measuring audience engagement. These metrics highlight broader trends and examine user sessions as a whole rather than focusing on a solitary moment (like when a user clicks a link or briefly visits a page before bouncing off the site altogether). Attention metrics help publishers dig deeper into what drives users to read an entire article and then move on to another. And with these insights, publishers can pour their time and efforts into creating high-quality content that draws users to a page and keeps them engaged.

But when we look at attention time from a practical perspective, how does it translate into something measurable?

Measuring Attention Time

Based on the definition digital publisher Upworthy offered in a recent blog post, attention time is an approach that truly measures audience satisfaction. Dubbed “attention minutes,” two of the primary metrics they use to track this include:

Tracking Attention Time

  1. Total attention time on-site: How long users spend engaging with content across their site.
  2. Total attention per piece: How long a user spent engaging with a singular piece of content.

Attention time encompasses all content experiences that keep your users engaged and on the page. This includes the time your audience spends engaging in the comments section of an article. Based on Viafoura’s own research, harnessing the value of commenting can go a long way when it comes to capturing audience attention time. Recent data shows that 68 per cent of audiences spend more than 15 per cent of their time reading the comments on a story — and such a statistic demonstrates the power of getting and keeping an audience’s attention.

Cutting-edge digital publishers are keeping users engaged and on their pages longer with compelling content, active online communities, and a variety of social tools. And Viafoura Audience Insights dashboard helps publishers track the conversations that matter, filtered by user, article or section — which helps stretched-thin publishers uncover actionable insights and inform content decision that can drive engagement.

Publishers can get a deeper understanding of the quality of traffic coming from their social networks, what content is generating high engagement, as well as a breakdown of attention time by network, article, or viewing device. Get a peek at the proportion of your audience that spends its time on a particular article across the article’s lifespan, comment velocity, the quality of the conversations and the number of shares per article in a single view.

A robust set of tools help publishers facilitate engagement and provide them with real-time analytics — the dashboard provides an at-a-glance view to help them engage, discover, and grow their audience. Some of the engagement tools used to measure such attention time and engagement metrics include:

Attention Time Tools

  • Real-time Commenting: Promote positive interactions amongst online community members to encourage more conversations and engagement in the comments section of a story. And Viafoura’s Smart automated algorithmic Moderation (SaaM) helps increase civility during the course of those conversations, and lowers moderation costs with 24/7 automated algorithms.
  • Article Sharing: Boost engagement with content through increased social sharing activity to capture deep insights on every interaction. Then editors can use that data to better inform content decisions.
  • Content Discovery: Encourage recirculation, i.e. helping users discover content that’s engaging and relevant to their interests. This contributes to an increase in overall attention time on-site as users read multiple pieces of content in a session.

These are a few examples of tools that can empower editors to discover the impact of audience engagement on the metrics that matter, such as attention time.

How You Implement Attention Time KPIs

Now that you have a better grasp of attention time, how can you integrate it? Here’s how you can evolve your current KPIs:

Evolving your KPIs

  1. Reset or identify your goals: Define engagement goals with your teams and track attention time as a KPI.
  2. Assess your analytics toolbox: Review your current measurements tools. Do they track real-time attention metrics and KPIs?
  3. Filter efforts through an ROE lens: Review your content, your tools, and channels with an eye toward how it contributes to return on engagement (ROE).
  4. Spread the word: Become an evangelist for attention metrics within your organization and in the industry as a whole. We’re building a new analytics ecosystem, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

Are you ready to shift your focus to engagement versus traffic?

Connect with an Audience Development Strategist today and see how over 600 media brands are engaging, discovering, and growing their audience.

Infographic: How to Win at Engaging Your Audience

Keep this infographic handy for tips on how to engage your audience like never before!

Learn why focusing on attention time and making the business case for engagement are key to engaging, discovering, and growing your audience.

Viafoura Attention Time infographic

Webinar On Demand: The Future of Engaged Journalism with Jake Batsell


Watch the webinar on demand now — featuring Engaged Journalism author Jake Batsell and Dan Seaman, Product Director at Viafoura.

The Future of Engaged Journalism webinar will explore the following topics:

Key Takeaways

  • Discover five key areas to self-assess your efforts in journalistic engagement
  • Leverage audience loyalty to fuel financial survival in the digital age
  • Gain techniques to bring audience feedback into the front end of the reporting process
  • Convert visitors into loyal customers by increasing their participation through the “Ladder of Engagement”
  • Learn best practices in formulating strategies for audience engagement and measurement of KPIs such as attention time

Jake has worked for more than a decade as a print journalist before moving into the multimedia sphere as The Dallas Morning News Metro Desk’s hybrid reporter.

Dan is a digital media veteran who prior to joining Viafoura, held key strategy and leadership roles managing consumer products for major Canadian media groups including St. Joseph Media, Quebecor, TC Media, and The Globe and Mail.

Don’t miss out on this webinar, watch it here:

Interview: Jake Batsell


Jake Batsell

Author of Engaged Journalism, Digital Journalism Professor, SMU, shares his thoughts on the media business today and what the future of engaged journalism will look like.

Q: How have you seen journalism evolve in the digital age? Are there any challenges and opportunities that this evolution presents for anyone thinking of joining the profession?

The biggest shift concerns the importance of engagement.

My generation and those before largely focused on the product of journalism.

Journalism focused on reporting accurately and fairly, covering all sides of the story and ensuring credibility. These concepts were the hallmarks of great journalism and still ring true today.

What’s changed now is that the job is not over when you hit the send button to the editor. Today, you begin having an ongoing conversation with the audience at the front-end of the reporting process.

After the story appears, you continue to earn the attention of readers through the story’s circulation and real-time reactions from your audience. You’ll likely choose to pursue stories that keep your audience in mind to continue this conversation.

Your gut instinct probably tells you to listen to your audience and write on topics that are important to them. And it’s right.

Analytics have shown us time and time again that there has been a shift in journalism from a lecture model to a two-way conversation.

This shift is not just about the product of journalism. It’s about the ongoing conversation with your audience and understanding what they want and incorporating the audience into this process.

There is a quote from a News Corp news executive, Raju Narisetti, that comes to mind that summarizes the importance of engaging your audience: “The definition for any journalist in the 21st century is to get more readers to consume more of their journalism.”

So it makes sense why we would need to be genuinely committed to listening to our audience.

There are three main ways to achieve this: by leveraging social media, interacting face-to-face and using analytics.

Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is not only useful for crowdsourcing and finding tips, but it can also provide insight on what people are saying about a particular topic and what conversations are coming out of it.

Social media is a valuable resource that shouldn’t be underestimated, and, this reminds me of the old truism from Dan Gillmor that the audience is smarter than you, no matter what subject you’re covering.

One indicator to understand whether this two-way dialogue is present to look at a reporter’s Twitter feed. Are they using their account for self-promotion or are they having conversations with their audience? Even if the reporter is not connecting Twitter back to his writing, it is still important to see he/she is open to having a discussion.

For example, a baseball writer could reply about players’ injuries or could ignore the tweets completely.

Secondly, you should consider getting out to meet your audience.

There are many opportunities for journalists to participate in face-to-face events to support goodwill, community and help pay for revenue. While many shy away from get involved in more public facing roles (i.e. moderating panels, holding office hours at a local Starbucks), these can be great opportunities to better understand and connect with a community.

Who’s doing face-to-face well? Off the top of my head there are two examples:

The first one is beat reporter, David Levinthal from the Center for Public Integrity. Previously, he wrote for Washington’s POLITICO and we also worked together at DMN covering politics. His work is well-sourced and he is incredibly productive and open in media interviews. David also has a strong social media presence where he openly has conversations with his audience.

He’s known to reply to text messages, g-chats, and being available when readers contact him. This is especially important in DC to be plugged in with his audience.

Another excellent example is Amanda Zamora, Senior Engagement Editor at ProPublica. She teaches a free class to 100 journalists and assembles Facebook groups (e.g. on patient harm investigation) instead of waiting for her story to be finished and then publishing it and waiting for a reaction. Amanda leads an effort to build community at the front-end of that reporting process. She basically asks her Facebook audience: is this happening to you? Then join us and learn from each other and inform our ongoing reporting.

Finally, it is important to look at analytics to understand audience engagement.

For example, Viafoura has real-time tools at your disposal to understand what your audience is reacting to. You can incorporate this data, not to seed editorial judgment to the numbers, but rather, it allows you to keep the numbers in mind when deciding how to cover the news, better understand your audience and leverage resources in your community to engage with your audience.

Q: What inspired you to write the book Engaged Journalism?

My inspiration first started with the two articles I published in the Columbia Journalism Review.

The first article was about the birth of the Texas Tribune. During the time I was working on it, I was a fly on the wall as it was launching.

I was particularly interested in understanding how they incorporated data driven reporting, face-to-face events and took full advantage of digital tools – all while not being encumbered by a legacy news habit!

The second article focused on the digital coverage of high school football.

I wanted to be along for the ride when the Dallas morning news developed the first play-by-play app that allows sports fans to keep up with high school football games in real-time. On any given Friday, you can choose from 50-70 games to watch, all at the touch of your fingertips.

Right before my eyes, I was seeing how a virtual experience changed the way we watched and interacted with sports.

Researching and writing both articles opened my eyes to the direction that journalism was heading.

The importance of the audience was increasing and this was changing the way journalists did their jobs.

I wanted to go beyond Texas to visit newsrooms to learn more. So I applied and received funding to go on a research sabbatical.

I visited startups, radio broadcasters and TV newsrooms all around the US (DC, Mid-West, Michigan, Phoenix, Las Vegas) to understand first-hand how they were adapting in their relationship and engagement strategies to their audience.

More than 25 newsrooms and 100 interviews later – I came up the best practices and common themes that make up the book Engaged Journalism.

Q: What are the most common mistakes that media organizations are making? And who is leading the pack when it comes to building a highly engaged online audience?

The most common mistake is a lack of strategy. This happens when organizations approach something half-heartedly instead of committing to a set of engagement strategies.

I’ve noticed that news organizations tend to slap their comment box at the end of the story and then don’t make any attempts to guide the conversation.

Comments that don’t support the story become a self-fulfilling prophecy when you create a forum and make no effort to monitor or guide it in a productive way. It’s no wonder why comments can get so uncivil.

Don’t begrudge news organizations that have decided to turn off commenting. At least they are making a strategic decision.

If news organizations do want to incorporate commenting to give readers a voice, they need to commit to a strategy. They can start by training reporters/editors to guide discussions, creating incentives, and having less expectation to churn out stories and more commitment to allowing time to meaningfully engage in the comments.

In terms of social media strategy, it isn’t enough to go on Twitter and simply push out stories. This shows a lack of strategy, vision, training and best practices for social media. There needs to be more of an effort to create good experiences for users.

Having said this, technology has evolved a lot since I first completed my book’s manuscript at the end of 2013.

In the past two and a half years, we’ve seen the evolution of Snapchat, Virtual Reality, and live video with Periscope – just some of the many new tools that are changing the way we interact.

We’re also seeing more news organizations hire Community Managers and Audience Engagement Specialists to manage, engage and grow their audience.

The 5 core themes (main chapters) of my book still provide a broad framework for defining Engaged Journalism.

Engaged Journalism – 5 core themes

  1. Face-to-face (in-real-life communication)
  2. News as conversation (using digital tools)
  3. Mining niche audiences
  4. Providing interactive news experiences
  5. Measuring and monetizing it all

Q: There doesn’t seem to be an industry standard for what media organizations would define as loyal. Do you agree with this? How would you define a loyal audience?

I would have to agree. The definition depends on the organization and their mission. Viral traffic is always a happy accident when it occurs.

To better understand audience loyalty, it is important that we shift the focus towards quality of the audience over quantity.

It is less about pageviews and unique visitors in the eyes of the news organizations and more about returning visitors and engaged users. This includes users who return to the site, bookmark pages, sign up for emails, push notifications and who are constantly contributing to the conversation.

You should also be looking at who is coming to your events and using this as an opportunity to collect emails to build relationships with potential subscribers, members and supporters.

Defining a loyal audience also depends on the size and type of your organization.

For example, newspapers tend to focus on tracking topline numbers, unique visitors and pageviews that advertisers would want to know, while moving towards trying to attract loyal users who spent more time on the site and are active when they visit/return.

On the other hand, local/regional news focus more on local users’ unique visitors and pageviews and place higher emphasis on deep engagement than on volume.

Ultimately, we need better tools to track and predict audience loyalty. It’s becoming harder to assess if users are spinning tires or leading towards a relationship that would convert to avid support or subscription.

Q: There’s this quote from Mike Wilson, the news editor of DMN that comes to mind, “We’re all salespeople now.” How would you respond to that?

It’s true. We are all selling to some extent, marketing the value of our work. Journalists have to work hard to capture the audience’s attention and remember not to take this relationship for granted.

Comparing journalists today to salespeople, or marketers might seem like a stretch to traditional journalists who feel at odds with trying to sell a product or promote a campaign that is not specifically relevant to their news story.

But marketing has no doubt become a part of the story of how journalism works.

Q: How can media organizations connect the dots between audience engagement and revenue?

Collaboration is key. Start by creating a shared sense of mission between the business and editorial sides.

Establishing a collaborative atmosphere will help both sides come together and avoid crossing each other’s paths.

Work together to come up with shared goals. Figure out how you will measure and evaluate them. Try new products. And finally, track and adjust your goals accordingly.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most important goal for media organizations to achieve by 2017?

It’s really critical that you earn the audience’s attention.

More broadly speaking, it is also important to diversify revenue streams.

Advertising is and will always be part of the equation. But you should never put all your eggs in one basket.

New forms of native advertising are especially interesting when they are executed well and bring more value than just advertising.

Webinar: The Future of Engaged Journalism

We’re discussing the intersection of journalism and audience engagement.

Listen to Engaged Journalism author Jake Batsell explore the changing relationship between news producers and audiences. You’ll also gain fresh insights into the future of audience development for media organizations.

Harnessing the Value of Online Commenting

You’ve heard it before: “Don’t Read The Comments.”

It’s a common online mantra that is gaining traction. In fact, over the past year, several major Canadian publications such as the Toronto Star, Sun Media and The National Post have taken this phrase to heart, and made it so you can’t read comments.

Where does this leave community engagement and contributors of quality user generated content?

Taken out with the trash it seems. Looking to Michael Cooke, Editor of the Toronto Star, who says their decision to close commenting was partially financial, but also because they’ve “lost patience” dealing with the “cowardly, anonymous, racist, sexist, homophobic and hateful comments that really pollute online commenting,” a move that redirects their on-site community of engaged readers off-site to comment on social media.

There’s no denying that online comments can get pretty bad — especially for minorities in the media. Often, as Jessica Valenti of The Guardian says, “It’s [a] never-ending stream of derision that women, people of colour, and other marginalized communities endure.” So it’s not hard to see why these publications have decided to shut down on-site commenting, at least in the interim.

But this can’t be the final word on the matter…

Is shutting down commenting really the answer when it comes at the cost of shutting out your community or redirecting your audience off-site; a decision that seems to divert from the operational goal of increasing engagement and  attention time.

Analyzing the behaviour of registered and anonymous users across our network of 600+ media brands, we know 68% of audiences spend more than 15% of their time on-site reading comments; a significant decrease in time spent on-site, if you remove commenting.


So how do you ensure the best possible user experience, eliminating the never-ending stream of derision, while increasing the civility of your community to earn the return on engagement your content deserves?

Here’s How

  • Authenticate individuals with Social Login to minimize anonymity and false identities
  • Create a safe and civil community with Smart automated algorithmic Moderation (SaaM) for on-site and social commenting
  • Measure user engagement with Audience Insights and go beyond moment based metrics with a focus on attention time

Viafoura Social Login attaches an avatar to a social profile and a human to a comment, which helps to identify and regulate a user within the community.  The anonymity and lack of accountability that comes with on-site user profiles is the very reason why publishers like the Toronto Star are silencing their on-site communities and handing their user engagement to Facebook.

SaaM empowers publishers, journalists and users to engage on-site and on social, 24/7, free from harassment and trolls. SaaM also significantly reduces the costs, resources and headaches required to power manual moderation, while increasing the civility of the online discourse on-site and across your social media channels.

Viafoura Audience Insights measures audience engagement and quantifies the impact of those engagement metrics on key performance indicators such as pageviews, attention time, reach, loyalty and revenue.

Are you ready to shift your focus to engagement versus traffic?

Connect with an Audience Development Strategist today and see how 600+ media brands are engaging, discovering, and growing their audiences.