Last updated June 14th, 2018
It’s no longer just about eyeballs.
In the early days, as print publications moved to the web, one of the key metrics companies and advertisers cared about was pageviews – how many sets of eyes scanned a page, even if only for a second or two. In doing so, they effectively took the same measurement tool used for print – reach, which was measured in part by circulation – and applied it to the digital landscape.
In the print model, media companies earn revenue from the reach they have in their distribution channels. Their reach allows them to sell advertisements that exist alongside readable content such as news stories. In digital, reach was translated into the number of pageviews – or clicks – that a piece of content achieves, a metric that helped drive advertising sales in digital media’s inception stage.
Except reach quickly became outdated in the digital world, as advertisers came to realize that the number of clicks an article receives doesn’t take into account how many people actually read or interacted with the content or advertisement. The rise of bots and clickbait has also artificially inflated the number of clicks some sites receive, leaving behind numbers that are basically meaningless.
With that in mind, a growing number of advertisers have turned their backs on pageviews as a way of determining where to spend their advertising dollars, instead prioritizing audience engagement over the breadth of audience reach. The best indicator of content quality isn’t how many people see it, they believe, but how much time those people actually spend with it.
The rise of bots and clickbait has also artificially inflated the number of clicks some sites receive, leaving behind numbers that are basically meaningless.
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Today, engagement is what pays
This shift from media distribution to media consumption dramatically lowers revenue capacity and puts significant pressure on companies to deliver a compelling value proposition to advertisers.
Consider media organizations like The Financial Times and Say Media, both of which clearly understand the relevance of engaged time and have placed it at the center of their value proposition to advertisers and users. Like a growing number of websites, they are showing they understand that just boosting traffic isn’t enough. Not all traffic converts.
As a user becomes increasingly engaged, they become more willing to pay for a digital media organization’s content or services. The MIT Sloan Management Review report, Turning Content Viewers Into Subscribers, asserts that engagement is the key to turning casual readers into paying subscribers, using a ladder model to frame how companies can boost engagement over time. Using what the research dubs the “Ladder of Participation,” you can prompt site users to progressively accelerate their onsite engagement to become paying subscribers.
Implementing an engagement model promotes readers to return, register and subscribe – all of which is good for your bottom line. But engagement is driven by a commitment to identifying who your audience is and giving them what they want, when they want it – not just by spraying and praying on social media, which is the path chosen by many media companies today.
In fact, social media is being used by many media organizations as a way to solve their digital publishing dilemma of increasing engagement with their community, website, brand and content creators. But this means media organizations are handing over a huge opportunity to platforms that have their own business goals.
Social media sites are looking to solve their own audience development challenges, by creating interactions with their brand, community and content – interactions that often overlap very little with media organizations’ engagement goals. Facebook’s recent change to its algorithm is just one example of this, placing greater priority on posts from family and friends than on news feeds and content from companies. The social media giant acknowledged this when it announced the change, saying that “this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some pages.”
Get the most out of your audience engagement
The solution comes down to owning your engagement platform, in order to take full advantage of your audience and drive engagement to meet your business goals. When media organizations commit to engagement and take ownership of their channels, instead of relying heavily on social media sites that have their own agendas, they can focus their efforts on increasing and owning their audience’s interactions, connections and relationships.
With Viafoura, you can grow your audience and increase revenue using your own customized solution. This is the first step in moving past counting clicks, to a process and platform that is specifically built to work in today’s engagement-driven digital world.