It’s an age-old problem for publishers. How do you get casual readers to become loyal subscribers? Let’s first consider how publications strayed from reader engagement to understand the answer to this question. Fastener interviewed Mark Zohar at Viafoura to learn more about the history of audience engagement in digital publishing.
The Outsourcing Stop-gap
Before the internet, the number of publications remained constrained by labor and paper costs, forcing subscriptions on a local level and limiting competition. Yahoo opened the web in 1995, and in 2004, Web 2.0, followed by smartphones in 2007, delivered instant gratification, community and interactivity online. Shortly thereafter, web publications began to outsource their customer service, feedback and commenting abilities, allowing third parties to determine their fate, popularity and ultimately their content through clicks, likes, reviews, tweets and TikToks.
Publishers began validating vanity interactions rather than synergy with their readers. At the time, this was logical. Bots, spam and guerilla postings by malcontents required constant monitoring. Customer Management Systems (CMS) were expensive and required teams of marketing and tech experts to administer. Social media was free (sort of — publishers paid by relinquishing control, privacy and data) and increasingly the preferred method of communication between the business world and its customers. The time and cost of managing engagement, “who needs it!” proffered conventional wisdom.
The cost of relying on third parties — the loss of business and customer intelligence, control and interaction — became apparent as time passed. Third parties, including social media, understood more about an organization’s customers than they did. After all, these outside entities communicated with their customers, collected data, directed them, entertained, and serviced them. These entities engaged and profited from the publisher’s work.
Consider the following facts:
- Engaged visitors stay longer, go deeper and generate 4x more advertising opportunities.
- They are 2x more likely to click on an ad.
- Viafoura’s engaged users are 51x more likely to register.
- And registered visitors are 45x more likely to subscribe than casual visitors to your digital properties.
Publishers that engage their readers monetize their properties. Engaging digitally means communication, and communication begins with taking power back to parlay and maintaining control of the wealth of first-party data each exchange produces.
Because publishers outsourced engagement, the vast majority of their visitors remained anonymous, with only a minute percentage registering or subscribing. Publishers continued living in the eighties but are trying to do business in the twenty-twenties, relying on third-party research to understand their readers.
How anonymous users become subscribers
Leading readers through the subscriber journey is relatively painless with the right tools. The Viafoura Digital Experience Platform (DXP) provides the interactivity and immediacy of social media while maintaining control on the publisher’s property of the data, opportunities and experience.
Viafoura’s DXP anonymous-to-subscriber strategy involves four levels: Engagement Suite, Personalization, Moderation, and Data.
Creating loyal subscribers from anonymous readers begins with on-site engagement on publishers’ owned and operated digital properties. Readers who feel listened to return more often and dive deeper into your publication. Viafoura deploys various solutions to make readers feel at home, including social sharing, chat, Q&As and conversations. And then there is the ultimate VIP ticket, the live blogging platform coupled with Viafoura’s Conversations. Together or solo, each creates an immersive experience between a publication and its reader community, resulting in an average 600 percent lift in subscriptions.
Nobody wants to be an unknown number when engaging with a publication. Therefore, personalization is the next step in making anonymous readers cherished subscribers. Personalization includes capturing and using more than a person’s name. It means having options that craft an experience unique to each reader, including alerts, notifications, follow options, recommendations, and curated feeds. Readers feel like family when content is personalized to their needs, likes and wants. It is a mesmerizing experience that keeps them coming back. Viafoura’s DPX puts personalization under the publisher’s control.
Without comment moderation, the trolls take over, and suddenly a pleasant interaction becomes a toxic mix of vitriol, hurting the publication and the user experience. On average, a publisher will lose 80 percent of its anonymous readers due to a hostile environment. However, well-moderated engagement increases registrations and subscriptions by an average of 400 percent within six months. Viafoura’s DXP uses multiple strategies to streamline moderation and reduce the number of people needed to keep it going by customizing parameters to each publication’s policies across all properties and social media. Artificial intelligence combined with human expertise and easy-to-read dashboards take on the trolls and temper the tantrums to ensure engagement on its client’s publications remains civil, pleasurable and informative.
Data is worth more than gold in the digital world. It determines content, direction, strategy, partners, advertising, marketing, corporate expenditures, budgets, pricing, new products and investments—data is behind every informed decision. Yet many publishers give away their primary data by outsourcing engagement. Controlling all aspects of the publishing ecosystem delivers unprecedented intelligence that allows a publication to improve its content, better service its readers and strategically plan for the future. Viafoura’s DXP delivers far more than the 83 average metrics. Its digital engagement platform provides over 200 data points, vital information that elevates customer experience, value, and loyalty, which translates to subscribers.
Viafoura’s unique approach boosts on-site engagement, increasing user registrations and subscriptions. Additionally, it produces internet gold, the ultra-valuable first-party data that creates unique personas and insights exclusive to the publication. Detailed information permits publishers to fine-tune their content, increasing its value to their readers while simultaneously lifting advertising revenues and engagement. Happy readers become loyal readers. Loyal readers become subscribers—leading us back to the original question. How do digital publishers turn visitors into registered users and subscribers while improving their publications? They invest in engagement tools, and Viafoura’s DXP is the leader.