Drive ARPU with an engaged, registered user

2023 is a year where success will all come down to the bottom line. Ad revenues and subscription rates are under pressure as the economy teeters on the brink of a recession. Publishers are impacted by revenue decisions forcing corporate reorganizations and the scaling back of available resources. So, where should a publisher focus its efforts this year?


Mather Economics has worked with its clients to address an interesting question: “What amount of resources should be invested to move readers from anonymous users to known users”? Arvid Tchivzhel, Managing Director, and Matt Lindsay, President of Mather Economics, believe the answer to this question “depends on the lifetime value of a subscriber, the amount of digital advertising revenue at risk, and the incremental lift in subscriptions from knowing the reader relative to an unknown user.”

Ken Harding and Justin Eisenband of FTI Consulting provided INMA with fascinating financial insight. Their research determined that “most publishers with at least average retention and monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) of US$10+ can generate a long term value (LTV) of between US$175 and US$225”. These ARPU numbers aren’t far off those provided by The Wall Street Journal, which recently released its ARPU at US $8.90.

While ARPU has several sources, a large portion of that revenue comes from subscriptions. Piano has analyzed subscription numbers to determine their origin. They discovered that “while the conversion rate for anonymous visitors is just 0.22%, conversion rises to 9.88%” for registered users – dramatically increasing by forty-five times! Publishers’ focus must be converting that anonymous reader into a registered user.

Viafoura recently analyzed its last two years of anonymized data to determine what type of reader would best drive revenue for publishers. We found that readers who engaged with a Viafoura solution have a fifty-one times higher propensity to register with that publisher. However, the story doesn’t end with the registration. We also determined that an engaged, registered user is much more valuable than a passive one. An engaged, registered reader spends almost 30% more time on site during each visit and consumes nearly 20% more page views – thereby increasing ad and subscription revenue.

Conversion tactics

So how does one drive that fly-by reader into an engaged, registered reader? By making them aware of your vibrant, civil community and ensuring their experience is so personalized that they remain loyal to your site with the ultimate engagement trifecta..

Optimizations: “Un-gate” comments

We’ve seen publishers un-gate or display comments and community engagement on their paywall pages and have a significant impact on their revenue and conversions:

Ad impact
One of our customers experienced the following up-lift to their ads:

Subscription impact
Another customer that recently un-gated the comments from their paywall, meaning that readers could see the comments but not the article without subscribing, and saw community led subscriptions climb 500%.

Editorial engagement with mid-article units

We’ve also seen publishers insert a mid-article unit designed to drive awareness of their community. Some use polls, while others use a featured or editor’s pick comment to pique the reader’s curiosity and have them engage with the community. This accelerated the publisher’s monthly funnel and saw a 0.7% increase in active engaged users, a 0.4% lift in registered users, and a dramatic 4.3% lift in user generated content contributors.

Increasing discoverability

Other publishers have increased discoverability with the use of a Notification Bell. This easy implementation has grown community engagement driving one customer to see the volume of comments increase by 58%, comments per article increase by 17%, likes and dislikes on comments increase by 58 %, replies to comments increase by 77% and clicks on the more active conversations increase by 30%.

2023 revenue drive

This year, publishers should focus on solutions that drive readers to register and engage with their brand. Over the past three years, those users are four times more loyal to a publisher than the overall reader population and view significantly more pages.

Maximizing engagement and registrations will ultimately drive revenue from both subscriptions and ads. 

Want to read more? Download our whitepaper, which provides more detail on data points, benchmarking, and driving revenue.

Best practices for using ChatGPT to create polls and comments to engage users

The emergence of artificial intelligence, in particular the recent advances in large language models (LLMs), has the potential to revolutionize the way media organizations produce content and engage with their communities.

ChatGPT uses machine learning techniques to generate human-like responses to inputs, allowing it to have simulated “conversations” on various topics; you type in a question or instructions, and it replies.

While we have yet to determine what the full impact of LLMs like ChatGPT will have on media organization and journalism, there are several ways that newsrooms have been experimenting with this tool to help with their daily operational activities, in ways that allow their staff to focus where their skills are best utilized.

By leveraging LLMs, journalists can generate high-level research summaries with bulleted lists of key information about the topics they are covering. This can help them get up to speed with known information quickly and help to identify sources for follow up interviews, and avenues for further research.

Newsrooms can also leverage LLMs to generate story ideas, by asking questions related to current events, to quickly identify story angles they may not have otherwise considered.

In addition, there are a number of ways that LLMs can be used to help newsrooms drive community engagement, something that is key to driving conversions, subscriptions, and retention:

Simple ways to use ChatGPT to create polls

In this case, you ask ChatGPT to create a poll and a defined number of responses on your chosen topic. The more detail you provide around your subject, the better and more relevant the output provided by ChatGPT responses will be:

Simple instructions can provide some exciting options, but there may be character count issues if you have limited space.

To address character count issues, an option is to ask essentially the same question but to define the subject, character counts, and type of response that is required:

Use ChatGPT to create a poll for an article

You can also provide context from an actual article. While some LLMs allow you to include a link to an article, ChatGPT currently does not follow URLs or read content on the web (other than its original training data). And depending on your account level and version, ChatGPT will limit prompt length to about 500 words. But using a title or a lede from an article will often be enough to produce high quality results:

Break the ice and use ChatGPT to create a Comment

First comments and conversation framing questions, especially when posted by staff, are a powerful way to engage your community within the comments, and using ChatGPT to start the conversation can be quick and easy.

By giving ChatGPT direction for tone and context for how you want the framing question or first comment to be written will help to generate high quality results. For example, by requesting a comment in a thoughtful tone, and within a reasonable character limit can provide surprisingly good results


By utilizing our comprehensive guidelines on ChatGPT, and Viafoura’s Engagement Starter , you can seamlessly initiate a conversation with your readers.  Our customers have seen a surge in the number of registrations and an increase in the amount of time readers spend on site. This ultimately leads to a significant rise in comments, resulting in greater engagement with content and additional ad views.

If you’d like to learn more about how User Generated Content (UGC) contributors are critical to driving subscriptions, revenue, and retention we suggest you read this article published by WAN-IFRA. To learn more about how polls and comments can become a critical part of your engagement solution, visit our Engagement Starter webpage or contact Viafoura.

Data Trailblazing: An Interview with Viafoura’s Director of Data and Analytics

With over a decade of experience in the realm of publishing at The Globe and Mail, Shengqing Wu, Director of Data and Analytics at Viafoura, is uniquely positioned to provide remarkable insights into the way data serves and supports the many moving parts of a news organization. Having witnessed first hand the evolution of a once print dominant industry as it shifted more and more into a digital landscape, Shengqing – a brilliant data analyst – is also equipped with the nuanced insights that only experience in the newsroom amongst editors and analysts alike can bring.

We sat down with Shenqing to chat about how publishers approach data vs how they should approach it, why simplifying data rears the most sophisticated insights, and what on earth is a generational audience funnel? 

Changes in data, publishing, and analytics at large

Shen, as we know, the world of data is in a perpetual state of growth. In some parts thanks to evolving technologies and learning capabilities, and also because of cultural shifts and the way consumers behave based on their lived experiences. So, in your experience over the years, what are some of the changes you’ve observed in the way data is acquired and utilized in publishing?

Obviously throughout the past many years, publishers have become much more sophisticated in terms of data, manipulational data strategies in general, and understanding their audiences. Really trying to study behavioural data from the business is the key. Now, this also ties into [the publisher’s] business model as well, right?


Ten years ago maybe 99% of media publishers relied on – if we’re talking about digital revenue, they’re relying on advertising – many publishers started to transform into subscription model. This model is where publishers gain access to audience behaviour. This kind of data, behavioural data, has become more important than ever because all publishers want their audiences to generate the habit of, for example, reading three times a week or more.

Which makes sense for any publication, but specifically for digital publishers, right? The more a reader visits the site, the more time they spend on its pages, which in turn means more data points. 

Those data signals are very valuable. That’s one of the things we help with at Viafoura, taking those data points and signals from things like comments, likes, Q&As, and applying machine learnings and natural language processes to get the advanced contextual information. 

And then that data becomes what, exactly?

Declarative data, which is something Viafoura provides. Basically, what people say, how they feel, what is their opinion… Through their data they’re directly telling us what they’re interested in by reading an article.

Analytics: Keeping it simple rears sophisticated results

As things continue to shift and change, the demise (though perpetually postponed) of cookies, new consumer behaviours, new technology that changes the way in which we consume our content and, and, and… The list goes on.

With that in mind, if I were a publisher staring at my digital experience platform’s (DXP) data analytics dashboard – are there key indicators you think I could keep tabs on to get a solid understanding of the health of my business? 

The basics. The very basics. Article consumption behaviour, total comments, things like that. We recommend going through these, but –

I had a feeling there was more to it..!

We believe in a user-focused or ‘segment focused’ approach. User segmentation will play a vital role and it’s a way to visualize the user segments that are helping the business, how they’re performing, and also being able to compare one segment to another.

What’s so helpful about being able to compare different audience segments? 

Let’s say you have one segment that’s excited about politics, and then another that’s more excited about celebrity news. So? Then what?  By being able to go into a dashboard and compare those two different segments in various ways, we can find behavioural patterns. 

How long does one segment typically spend reading, what are their shared interests, what are interests exclusive to the individual segments and so on. So, while the celebrity focused segment is more interested in shopping and the political leaning audience segment tends to enjoy reading about personal finance – there may be similarities that we find through comparison that become valuable behavioural insights. 

Okay, so by being able to compare the similarities and differences between two audience segments that land on the same site, a publisher could actually learn a great deal about what kind of content they could stand to use more or less of and perhaps retain multiple segments by customizing their experiences.


Got it. Earlier you had mentioned that there are the ‘basics’ of what to look for on an analytics dashboard; time on page, number of comments, time spent in the comments section, etc… Are there things that you’ve noticed get overlooked because perhaps they seem too obvious, but are in fact really valuable data signals that lead to richer insights?

Typically what we suggest is that

look at their different conversion metrics. We really aim to help our clients drive conversions of unknown users through their funnels down into other more valuable and helpful segments. Converting more users who don’t know the company into authenticated, registered users who have provided their e-mail. You can do so much more with those authenticated users. 

Sometimes we will use examples of these conversion metrics with new clients to show them just how valuable a more engaged user is to their data findings.

I see, so it’s by looking at conversion metrics as a KPI that you’re saying we’re able to discern exactly where and when content is achieving things that contribute to hitting audience growth OKRs or adding value to digital ad space. 

As an aside, for those following along with this conversation, these value exchange moments are the instances where users decide to offer their information in exchange for the experience being offered. They’re incredible sources of insights for not only informing content strategy, but also building community, making design changes, improving discoverability of the site itself, and so much more.

It’s about knowing users, right? Another thing to look for within these conversion metrics are to keep an eye on where these conversions occur in proximity to design choices, products and their features. For example, at Viafoura, we are able to work with our clients and definitively say ‘the engagement starter that we implemented has a conversion of XX%’.

Which means that with that data they can strengthen weaker points of conversion or learn from winning points of conversion! When the data makes sense, everything makes sense.

Are ‘generational funnels’ the new normal?

Before we wrap things up, there was one more thing we had hoped to pick your brain about; there seems to be a budding conversation in the industry around crafting multiple audience funnels for one publication or brand, which isn’t unheard of at this point, but more specifically the idea of crafting generational funnels. Meaning, funnels that aim to address the vastly different behaviours that we now see existing all at once in the same market. 

Gen Z doesn’t behave anywhere remotely like Boomers when it comes to news media content consumption – or consumption in general, it would seem – which makes the concept of multiple funnels make a lot of sense to me. For example, some publishers have opted to offer ‘piece by piece’ payment options for people who don’t want a subscription, just the content behind the paywall. This strategy is more Gen-Z focused as they tend to skew more subscription resistant and news avoidant, while Gen-X and Boomers still have a more traditional, habitual behavioural approach to content consumption – picture them reading the newspaper with a coffee as opposed to Gen-Z intentionally searching for content built around their interests. 

My question for you is: are you seeing a big change in consumer behaviours and, to that, an increase in interest from publishers in taking this funnel-diverse approach?

At the moment, not a lot, to be honest.

As I mentioned before, we prefer to take a segment focused approach – so this kind of thinking would fall under that. Using data to observe patterns, make connections, create segmented audience profiles in order to help clients. When we compare across different segments we’re able to discern these patterns and layer the data to reveal these kinds of indicators. So, what you were talking about –

Generational Funnels?

Yea, that is generally enough for us to make specific segments that consider age demographics and other data signals, but it’s not like ‘This Is Our Gen-Z Subscription Model’.

I see. I guess then it’s more relevant to look at the big-picture of the audience segment, with a bit of consideration given to age but more primarily to what all of the data tells us holistically.

Yes, but also – there are age specific patterns that are super important, they just might not define or merit a whole funnel all on their own.

Alright, so that’s a ‘stay tuned for more details’ when it comes to Generational Funnels! Thank You Shen. This has been an incredibly informative conversation and thank you for your time!

Of course. Any time!

Observe, analyze, learn, reiterate.

As time goes on, the world of data continues to shift and evolve. What’s important to remember is that data is, whether it’s the cookies that will soon be gone in 2024 or changes to site-to-site tracking, data is the language our audiences use to guide us to their loyalty and to help create meaningful content experiences for them. As long as we don’t lose sight of the humanity in the data, there is always going to be something to learn.

New Study Finds Publisher-Posted First Comment Steers Engaging Conversation

Audience engagement managers know that a healthy comment section is a core component to building a healthy online community. With contentious political debates happening with greater frequency and more people turning to the internet to vent frustration, maintaining a civil yet lively  comment section has become more important than ever.

Thankfully, one simple technique can help publishers and moderators guide conversations with increased peace of mind. According to a new study from Viafoura, media outlets see a significant increase in traffic, civility and engagement when publishers post the first comment.

Posting the first comment has long been a technique used by social media managers and influencers in order to control the tone of the conversation and create engagement. The first comment operates as an ‘ice-breaker’ and helps set the standard for the conversation. It also invites responses from readers, which can increase time spent on site and enhance brand loyalty.

What happens when publishers post first? 

The study took place between September 28th and December 15th 2021 in 15 newsrooms across Canada covering a diverse selection of geographical regions and various ends of the political spectrum. Each newsroom posted the first comment on a number of articles across their publications, within the first hour of the articles going live. This test group was then compared to a baseline group in order to provide context to the results. 

One element of the study that differed from platform to platform was the type of comment posted beneath the article. Tactics varied from newsroom to newsroom. Some editors offered users assistance, responding to particular points in the article or answering questions. Others asked specific, directed, questions about readers’ response to the article. Writers had the freedom to bring their voice and creativity to the comment section!

Over the course of the study, Viafoura collected data on volume of comments, time spent commenting and conversion before and after engagement – three crucial metrics used  to evaluate the success of an online community space. 

Posting first means increased engagement, conversion & peace of mind

The study found that activity increased dramatically across all metrics, with a 45% increase in time in comments, 380% increase in total average comments and a 347% increase in average likes. This drastic increase indicates that controlling the first comment sets a tone and leads to more civil discourse. 

With a standard set of behavior in place, moderation needs decreased. While the baseline group was required to flag 6.8% of posts and disable 9.1% of users, the test group saw significantly reduced numbers, with 4.8% flagged and 7.4% disabled. Simply by modeling good behavior, publishers reduced the number of community guideline violations and user bans. 

Perhaps the most surprising result was the significant increase in registrations. 

Previous research has shown that almost 50% of members end up removing themselves from a platform when exposed to trolling. In contrast, when publishers posted the first comment, each article saw a 55% increase in registrations, with a 9% increase in users who attempted to interact with commenting before signing up.

The positive impact didn’t stop at conversion. Viafoura also saw a 21% increase in users who interacted with commenting after signup. This indicates that users participated in the discourse, felt positive enough to register, and then continued to feel engaged and loyal past the point of conversion. 

This data supports the notion that posting the first comment can be a significant step in reaching target conversion goals. When publishers interact directly with their community, they help maintain a sense of safety and attention that can lead to a direct increase in engagement.

What can we conclude?

Strong customer loyalty is essential for the wellness and longevity of any online brand. Simple moderation tricks can be the difference between a contentious online conversation and a  thriving online community. 

By setting the tone for conversation, publishers can direct content, invite polite discourse and even tailor their engagement to suit the needs and interests of their target audience. In each case, first comments have proven to be an essential step in the process of protecting and growing digital communities. 

Are You Getting The Best Value Out Of Your Engagement Tools?

If you’ve invested in an audience engagement solution, you’re probably well aware of how important the data you collect from the platform will be for the future performance of your business. Insights into how your existing users engage with content and the community built around it allows you to optimise your strategy. An optimised content strategy means you’ll produce more content that should drive additional users to convert into loyal subscribers.

Making those strategic decisions requires the right platform so that you can collect those insights. You need a solution that helps you collect first-party data and analyse on-site user behaviour. With that data in hand, you can effectively maximise the 3Rs:

  1. Registrations
  2. Retention
  3. Revenue

So how do you ensure you’re getting the best value out of your engagement tools? Our latest infographic offers a helpful visual guide on what you need from your platform and how it can help achieve your overarching business goals.

The right audience engagement platform should provide strategic recommendations that you can use to help grow the nature of your business. The technology should help you answer the questions of how to grow registrations, retain existing users, and increase revenue as the end benefit for all of your hard work.

Your team should find daily value from their audience engagement platform. They should not only know how to use the platform, but they should also understand why there’s so much value to be gained from these solutions. You’ll know the platform is a success if your team:

  • Feels motivated to use the platform every day
  • Increases productivity across the entire spectrum of your business
  • Understands how each of the core features helps solve the underlying business needs
  • Has the desire to collaborate with other departments and gain the deepest understanding of user intent and behavioural insights

If answers to any of these questions are anything short of yes, it might be time to ask yourself a much harder question: do you have the right audience engagement solution? Remember that audience engagement is the first step towards monetisation and greater revenue for your business. Without a platform that can help you gain the necessary insights to make effective revenue-driven decisions, you will likely struggle to achieve those aspirational growth targets.

13 questions every publisher should ask a potential tech partner

Choosing a new technological service provider is no easy feat for any employee in the media industry. From third-party tools that extend the reach of your content to tools that offer state-of-the-art analytics, there are countless forms of helpful technology that could, theoretically, help your company grow in revenue and success.

“Though direct ROI is an important consideration, there are a lot of activities that are crucial to the health of a media organization that may not be direct revenue drivers, but that generate value that indirectly yields revenue,” states a recent report by Publishing Executive, a company that provides publishers with industry insights. “Efforts related to content creation, management, and distribution, user experience, and audience engagement deliver value to publishers’ products, if not always immediate revenue.”

With so many potential tech partners to sift through — many of which offer similar tools, with the most minute differences — how can you possibly make a proper decision in the limited amount of time that you can spare?

In Publishing Executive’s new report, data suggests that one of the main challenges publishers face when selecting new technology is that they don’t have enough time or resources to actually go through the product-selection process in depth. The publication suggests that the “solution may be to build more of a structured evaluation process for new tech in order to streamline and accelerate awareness, evaluation, and decision-making.”

To help save you time and guide you down the path to success, we’ve rounded up the key questions you should be asking a potential tech partner before you go ahead and seal the deal.

1. What impact on my business’ ROI will this tool have, and is it easy to measure?

One of the first steps to purchasing software for your company should involve digging into exactly how much you can expect to get out of it. Whether that means 3x the revenue, number of members or any other metric will depend largely on what your business is trying to achieve.

Odds are, a vendor will ask you about your KPIs and reader revenue strategy to find out how they can best answer your question. So if you’re going to meet with a tech vendor, make sure to have a basic understanding of where your business stands, and where it plans to go.

A successful tech partner also needs to be able to provide you with enough data from the tool so that you can accurately measure its profitability. If you don’t have a way to measure their tools’ success, how can you know whether or not your benefiting from it?  

2. What operating systems and devices does the app work on?

It’s 2019, and that means if your platform isn’t completely responsive to suit any device, your users’ experience is going to suffer.

According to Pew Research Center, out of the Earth’s 7.53 billion residents, around 5 billion of them own a smartphone. So before you sign on with any tech partner, ensure their system can be seamlessly integrated with your website, and is friendly to all available operating systems and devices.

After all, the last thing you want to do is turn away all the visitors who choose to access your platform via mobile device.

3. Can you customize the solution to make it look and feel like our brand?

An industry expert on The Drum explains that “consistency is key in building familiarity with your customers, which leads to understanding and trust. Customers will not trust a brand that offers a fragmented brand experience.”

Something as simple as changing the font type and color on any integration or embedded tool so it adheres to your brand’s design guidelines can make a world of difference to your users.  

4. How does your solution increase reader revenue and build a reader’s loyalty, recency and frequency?

We get it, every single software company is just dying to improve your user’s experience, and help push them to subscribe to your publication. But do you have a good understanding of how their tools work and influence the visitor’s journey to subscribe?

Before you jump the gun, be sure to investigate the direct impact any new tech will have on your users’ journey. If your vendor can help you better understand how they can boost your users’ engagement and subscriptions, it might be worth testing out.

5. What resources do I need to bring this product to life?

Think beyond the cost of a product and have the vendor outline exactly what it will take to integrate and implement it on your owned and operated properties.

“Time – not budget —  is #1 obstacle to tech adoption: Publishers are price conscious, but price is not the top concern when making a technology investment,” explains Publishing Executive.

Ensure you have a thorough understanding of what you need to do on your end for the setup process, and how long it will take to implement the tool, from proposal to launch. 

6. How often are you updating your system and do we get the updates for free?

When you sign on with a tech partner, they will most definitely run system updates from time to time so they can improve your experience with their software.

While regular updates shouldn’t be cause for worry, you do want to make sure they have an effective process in place to support you should you run into any issues or bugs. Plus, check to see if the system updates would be applied to your company free of charge or at an additional cost.

Fun fact: Often times, companies will throw a 10% price increase at the time of your contract’s renewal to cover updates. So remember to ask about it ahead of time so there are no surprises along the way.

7. What kinds of support do you offer?

Each software provider will have its own unique support services. At Viafoura, for instance, we offer data analysis services on top of our standard tools to help our partners draw insights from first-party data.

If you require a product and a specific service or guidance, it’s better to kill two birds with one stone by picking a single service provider that can appease all of your product-related needs.

8. How does your business model work?

The best business models of a tech partner are geared towards growing as your organization grows.

These types of vendors are typically able to scale their offerings to your organization’s size.

9. What makes you unique from your competitors?

This one’s an obvious one, but still can’t be stressed enough. The best tech partners know why they’re the best, and should, therefore, be more than able to communicate what sets them apart from everyone else clearly and concisely.

10. How, and in what forms, can data be exported from the system? Who owns the data?

In a publisher’s world, audience data equals revenue. The more data you can pull from your audience, the more conversion-related insights you’ll be able to take away and use to improve your conversion strategy.

Check in with your vendor to determine whether or not they can give you valuable audience data as your community interacts with their tech on a regular basis.

11. Do you provide client references throughout the sales process?

If you’re seriously considering signing with a tech publisher, don’t be afraid to request their client references. Book a short 10 or 15-minute call with their references to discuss what the client’s experience has been like in working with the vendor, and how their business has benefited from their services.

If you feel like a client is no longer interested in the service, it may be a red flag. It’s also a great way to find out any implementation challenges that a vendor may not be completely honest about.

12. What are the different ways you handle moderation?

When it comes to technology that involves user interaction, moderation is a must-have piece of the solution. Without it, you can expect trolls and toxic posts to destroy the quality and safe environment of your platform.

Ask the vendor you’re chatting with about what kind of moderation technology they’re leveraging, if any, to give your users the best experience they can possibly have.

13. How user-friendly are your engagement tools?

There is a direct relationship between your users and your revenue. A better user experience encourages users to return to your platform, interact more with your content and, eventually, subscribe. Which is why any front-end tech tools you invest in need to provide your users with a flawless and intuitive experience.

If you’re short on time, this checklist is a quick way for you to get started in the product-evaluation process. You’re welcome.

Quit Counting Clicks

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 …

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.

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.

Interested in learning more?

Connect with us today to learn how Viafoura can help you build, manage and monetize your audience.

Connect Now

Jesse Moeinifar

Founder & CEO
Jesse Moeinifar

Founder & CEO of Viafoura, is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successes spanning a range of industries, including real estate, digital media and software. Dedicated to disruption, Jesse is passionate about game-changing ideas and credits his accomplishments to assembling teams of smart individuals committed to solving challenging problems.

When is the GDPR applicable to non-EU media companies?

The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is the EU’s most recent attempt to create a harmonised data protection framework across all Member States. It aims at giving users more control over their personal data, and making the storage, transfer and use of such data more transparent. But as the enforcement date approaches, a couple of misconceptions are circulating on the internet. The extraterritorial reach of the GDPR, especially, has confused a lot of non-EU companies about whether the GDPR actually applies to them or not. The complexity of the GDPR doesn’t make figuring it out easier.

“If the company is located in the EU or has an establishment in the EU, GDPR applies to its data processing activities.”
—Morgane Van Ermengem

First off, the territorial scope of the GDPR can be found in Article 3. In short, the GDPR applies to (i) companies located in the EU and/or their establishments in the EU, (ii) non-EU companies targeting their products and services at the EU, and (iii) non-EU companies monitoring the behaviour of users in the EU.

An EU law applies to EU companies

The GDPR applies to any company or its establishment located within the EU, regardless of where the actual processing takes place. Under the GDPR, it does not matter that servers are located in a non-EU country – if the company is located in the EU or has an establishment in the EU, GDPR applies to its data processing activities.

What about non-EU companies?

Of course, the European Commission is aware that personal data from people in the EU are not necessarily collected by European companies. Business is increasingly global and many non-EU companies attract users from all over Europe, whether they wish to or not. At the same time, it’s certainly not the European Commission’s intention to start monitoring all data processing around the world. The GDPR itself clarifies that it’s not because a website is accessible to people in the EU, that it should automatically fall within the GDPR’s scope.

That’s why Article 3 of the GDPR extends the territorial scope to include non-EU companies when they engage in certain activities. These activities include targeting and monitoring.


If a non-EU company is offering products or services to users located in the EU, its processing activities relating to those users also fall under the GDPR. It doesn’t matter if the user is required to pay or not. This wording implies that the company must have the intention of targeting people in the EU.

The question now is how authorities will determine when this intention exists. Of course, the GDPR is new and there’s no set of precedents to look at. But there is some guidance to be found in the recitals of the regulation and in previous case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Recital 23 first states that “the mere accessibility of [the company’s] website in the Union, of an email address or of other contact details, or the use of a language generally used in the third country where the controller is established” is not sufficient to establish such intention. Factors that could however point to the offering of goods or services in the EU, are for example “the use of a language or a currency generally used in one or more Member States with the possibility of ordering goods and services in that other language, or the mentioning of customers or users who are in the Union”.

“If a non-EU company is offering products or services to users located in the EU, its processing activities relating to those users also fall under the GDPR.”
—Morgane Van Ermengem

Other factors that may indicate the intention of offering goods or services in a certain country can include the following:

  • The international nature of the services, for example services from travel agencies or tour operators
  • Paying for marketing or advertisements in the EU
  • Having a top-level domain name ending in .eu or any of the Member States’ suffixes
  • Featuring a local telephone number on the website
  • Featuring languages specific to one or more Member States on the website
  • Providing the possibility to use a local currency
  • Providing the possibility to ship goods to a Member State

In any of these cases, there is a chance an EU data protection authority will consider the GDPR applicable. On the contrary, if there is no such intention to market goods or services to EU clients and there are no actions taken to facilitate the provision of goods or services to EU clients, there is no reason to worry about the GDPR (provided you do not fall under the monitoring rule below).


The GDPR will also apply to companies that monitor users’ behaviour, as far as their behaviour takes place within the EU. Again, more information can be found in Recital 24: monitoring takes place when “natural persons are tracked on the internet including potential subsequent use of personal data processing techniques which consist of profiling a natural person, particularly in order to take decisions concerning her or him or for analysing or predicting her or his personal preferences, behaviours and attitudes.”

According to the Article 29 Working Party, the EU’s advisory body on data protection, this clearly includes all forms of tracking and profiling on the internet, including for the purposes of behavioural advertising.

“The GDPR will also apply to companies that monitor users’ behaviour, as far as their behaviour takes place within the EU.”
—Morgane Van Ermengem

It’s also worth mentioning that article does not use the terms ‘EU nationals’, ‘EU citizens’ or ‘EU residents’. Their applicability is therefore not connected to a person’s nationality or residence, but rather to the location of a person in the EU. Strictly speaking, the GDPR therefore also applies to the data of an American tourist on holiday in Italy, collected while he was on Italian soil. But in practical terms, this will be extremely hard to track by any national data protection authority.

What’s next?

The implications of the GDPR will be consequential, even huge for some companies, so it’s important to have the correct information. The Article 29 Working Party admitted in a press release of February 2018 that it is “continuing its work on the development of a position on the application of Article 3 of the GDPR, relating to its territorial scope.” This means we may not have all of the pieces of the puzzle just yet. Nonetheless, non-EU companies should definitely start by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Does your company process personal data?

If not, congratulations, you’re outside of the scope of the GDPR! If the answer to this question is yes, then you should look at the following questions:

  • Is your company located in the EU or does your company have an establishment in the EU?
  • Does your company offer goods or services to users in the EU?
  • Does your company monitor the behaviour of users in the EU?

If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, your company’s processing activities will most likely fall within the scope of the GDPR and you may want to reassess your company’s data protection policy.

Looking for more information?

 Watch our full webinar EU GDPR: What Media Organizations Need to Know to understand how to navigate through these complex regulations and secure your media organization’s position as a leader in GDPR compliance.

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Guest Blogger
Morgane Van Ermengem

Morgane Van Ermengem heads the London branch of theJurists, a contemporary legal boutique office and pioneer in digital law. Her main areas of expertise include data protection and privacy law, intellectual property law and contract law.

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