How UGC Contributors Boost Retention And Registrations

There’s an old marketing rule of thumb that successful companies emulate. It costs 5x more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. Companies that heavily invest in retention strategies increase the customer lifetime value (CLTV) of their customers, which translates into heavy cost savings as it requires less money to be spent on net new acquisition campaigns.

In the digital publishing industry, the model is very similar. Some studies suggest that converting unknown readers into new subscribers generates, on average, between a 5% to 20% success rate. On the other hand, converting registered or known users into subscribers is far more effective with success stories in a range of 60% to 70%.

How to build audiences: foster fast-paced communities

When you have communities of engaged readers, you’re more likely to create a lively forum. People love to express their opinions on a topic, especially if an argument has been so articulately laid out by a subject matter expert in a written article. A healthy commenting platform allows readers to share their own thoughts on the subject and open up a lively debate.

These UGC contributors demonstrate their affinity for your content by leaving their comments and engaging in lively discussions with other readers. This shows an active willingness on their part to increase their CLTV for your business.

On top of that, your UGC contributors can actively help you attract new readers at no additional cost. According to AdWeek, nearly half of millennials and over 35% of baby boomers trust UGC content over branded content. This means your commenting section can be one of your top acquisition channels. You just need to invest in a solid retention strategy to get your active UGC contributors to engage with the content.

Use first-party data to profile your most avid commenters

First-party data is fully consented data. At a time when consumer privacy is paramount and third-party cookies will be eliminated, first-party data has become the most valuable resource to help publishers gain a deeper understanding of their most avid consumers.

If a user creates an account on your site to read or comment on your content, that action is an example of first-party data. Each action that user takes from that point onward is a first-party data touchpoint that you can use to build a rich audience profile. Using a first-party data strategy, you can gain consent from audiences to:

  • Send more personalized notifications to your active readers
  • Develop segmented audience experiences based on user preferences
  • Boost community engagement by monitoring audience behavioral metrics
  • Deploy data-informed push notifications to increase engagement with premium content

Deploy content recommendation modules to boost audience engagement

Once you have data-driven audience profiles, you can start personalizing the experience on your website. Using your first-party data, you can identify common themes, topics, writers, keywords, and other commonalities that motivate your UGC contributors to leave a comment.

With those insights in hand, use your content recommendation modules to tailor the articles that appear for those users. Studies have shown that personalized content recommendations will boost paywall impression rates by at least 10% and conversion rates by 30%. You can motivate more readers to go beyond the paywall so that they can post their own thoughts and engage in healthy discussions with like-minded participants.

Encouraging UGC commenting and healthy discussions is a growth strategy that can prove to be very effective. The Independent, one of the world’s leading publications, used this exact commenting and conversion-based experience strategy. Over the course of 12 months, the Independent was able to add 2,000 new website registrations with comments.

Grow your community and encourage real-time conversation

As you profile highly engaged users, you can use your automated moderation tools to create a healthy digital community for your UGC contributors. Automated moderation tools are designed to keep communities engaged, prevent toxic or harassing comments, and reward meaningful contributors with special labels to elevate their status on the forum.

Creating a safe and healthy community for discussion is essential to boosting audience engagement. Studies have shown that 4 out of 10 news comment readers refuse to publish their own thoughts or opinions due to toxic or argumentative communities.

Remember that nearly half of all millennials and over one third of baby boomers trust UGC contributors over branded content. Audience engagement and UGC contributions are essential to create that vibrant community and encourage new readers to register their own rights to comment on your content.

If you’re not creating a healthy community to facilitate lively UGC discussions, you don’t have an effective retention and engagement strategy. And without an audience retention and engagement strategy, you can’t rely on your commenting section to help grow your business. Ultimately, you’re leaving a viable path for growth untouched on the table.

New Data: 40% of Your Subscribers Are Sleeping On Your Content

Let’s say you’ve effectively done all of the right things to acquire new subscribers. You’ve created really interesting content and pushed it out for your readers to consume. Before you know it, you’ve monetized your efforts with a new batch of converted paid subscribers.

That’s the good news, and an accomplishment that your publishing team should be proud to hold up as a gold medal. The journey doesn’t end when readers agree to subscribe, though. Once you have new subscribers, you need to monitor how actively engaged those subscribers are with the content on your website.

Who Are The Active Subscribers And Who Are The Sleeping Subscribers?

You want to organize your subscribers into different tiers based on their level of engagement with the website. Bucket users into labels of active subscribers, who are the ones that visit and engage the site on a near daily basis, and sleeping subscribers, which describes people who seldom return to the site after they become subscribers.

Your active subscribers are your highest valued customers with the greatest potential customer lifetime value (CLTV). These subscribers visit your site daily or weekly to consume fresh content, and they’ll often engage in community activities, such as commenting or participating in lively discussions with other readers. When the time comes for the subscription to renew, there’s little chance that a churn will occur instead.

On the other end of the spectrum are your “sleeping subscribers.” These subscribers have paid for a subscription, which is a good thing. According to your audience insights and analytics platforms, they haven’t visited the website since they completed the subscription form.

Studies have shown that sleeping subscribers make up approximately 40% of a publisher’s subscription base. Sleeping subscribers have the highest probability to churn before the subscription renewal, so it’s vitally important to re-engage and retain as many of those subscriptions as feasibly possible.

Remind Sleeping Subscribers Their Journey With Your Publication Has Only Begun

There’s an old saying in the publishing space that 80% of recurring revenue comes from 20% of paid subscribers. Essentially, this means that subscribers who are the most active and the most engaged with your content are responsible for providing the bulk of subscription revenue to your publication.

The driving reason for this challenge is that up to half of your existing subscriber base is not motivated to come back to the site. Once they complete the subscription, they feel their journey with your website has come to an end. As a successful publishing business, your job is to remind them that the journey has only begun.

According to the American Press Institute, only 31% of publishers target low-engagement subscribers with re-engagement campaigns before their subscription renewal dates come up. That means your business can be one of the three out of ten that forms a successful re-engagement strategy to convert the sleepers into active users.

Re-engagement is the most important step in this process. If subscribers are not engaged with your content, they’re likely to balk when the renewal charge comes up on their bank statements. A churn is likely to occur… Unless you can win them back over and remind them why they subscribed to your website in the first place.

First-Party Data Is The Alarm To Wake Sleeping Subscribers

Using an audience insights platform to collect first-party data, you have the necessary touchpoints to form rich audience profiles of your subscribers. Build those profiles so that you can gain a better understanding of how to wake up the sleepers.

You can view the articles they consumed that led them to go beyond the paywall. You can identify topics that resonated to drive the subscription in the first place. You can see what authors they followed, or community discussions they participated in that really shone a light on their passion for a subject.

All of these touchpoints are examples of first-party data that tell you what motivated your sleeping subscribers to pay for your content in the first place. Use that knowledge to build highly personalized emails and activate re-engagement campaigns to awaken those sleepers and guide them back to your publishing experience.

Send Personalized Emails To Shake The Sleepers Awake

Since you’ve collected the audience data and built out the profiles, you already know the best way to re-engage with your sleeping subscribers. Now, you just need to create the messaging to facilitate that re-engagement strategy.

Use your content recommendation module to pull out the articles that align with the topics which led your sleepers to initially subscribe for your content. Once the recommendation engine feeds you the suggestions, drop the links into highly personalized newsletter email templates. Create messaging that triggers the same passion as the articles that led the sleepers on their initial journey with your site to reinvoke those same feelings.

By reminding them of that experience, the sleepers will wake up and they’ll follow those links back to your site. This is when you can create a whole new personalized experience to convert sleeping subscribers into active subscribers with the highest CLTV potential.

Meet The Newest Way to Re-Engage Your Audience

Wouldn’t it be great if you could drive more user engagement on your digital properties without adding to your already endless workload? Viafoura’s new recirculation feature — a tool that highlights trending conversations around content — can do exactly that.  

The feature analyzes engagement velocity and content recency in order to recommend buzzing, active conversations to your digital community. As a result, audience members who actively engage with your community will easily find more content that interests them. 

For those of you who have yet to implement conversation tools on your digital properties, our data shows that that they can boost total time spent on site by 10%. 

Active comment readers spend the most time engaging with your digital properties. In fact, according to the Financial Times’ community manager, these users offer six times the engagement compared to non-comment readers. This means that they are extremely valuable members of your community. The recirculation widget exists to keep these users interacting with your content for even longer, and has proven to generate up to seven times more pageviews from comment readers. 

Surprised? We’re not. Humans naturally want to socialize with others, whether that be offline or online. Conversation tools that are backed by effective moderation offer your audience members the opportunity to be social and build meaningful connections to your brand. Our new tool lets consumers who value discussions related to your content know where active conversations are taking place. Especially around topics that resonate the most with them.

And that translates into more on-site engagement for you.

A major North American newspaper recently implemented the recirculation widget on its digital properties. After just two weeks after activating the tool, the company saw significant growth. Not only did it experience a 44% increase in comments, it also saw a 34% increase in average session length and a 38% increase in total on-site engagement

“This feature is a new way for publishers to start increasing the participation of their active community members, which in turn boosts the time spent on their sites,” Dan Seaman, product director of engagement tools at Viafoura. 

The recirculation feature can also live anywhere on your site. Consider adding it below our Conversations tool, within a notifications bar or on the side rail of your homepage. Curious about what the tool looks like? Take a peek at it in action below:

Want to learn more about the tool? Ask us your questions or book a live demo of our recirculation here

RELATED: Viafoura Launches a Rapid Moderation Console for Media Organizations

Registered Users: The First Step to Building an Audience Development Strategy

To help quantify the impact a registered user has on KPIs like pageviews, return visits, and time spent, Viafoura compared the behaviors of several million users in two groups: registered users and non-registered users…

Updated September 25th, 2019


  • Most publishers leverage metered paywalls. Those who have approximately 6% of visitors reach the paywall are able to build a thriving digital subscription strategy
  • You need to get visitors to spend more time on-site and engage with more content so they get to your paywalls
  • Leverage engagement tools to improve page views and time spent on-site to grow your registered user base
  • Registered users give you valuable insights into who is interested in your content so you can further personalize their experience

Before we get into the first step of audience development, let’s take a look at the final step a user takes: becoming a paid subscriber. 

In a recent study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Centre on Media, Politics and Public Policy, they found publishers with thriving digital subscription strategies had approximately 6% of unique visitors reach their paywall (stop rate). 

“The stop rate is calculated by the number of users stopped by a meter or paywall in a given month over the number of unique visitors during that period. Most papers were stopping only a tiny fraction of readers, while the ones with stronger digital businesses were stopping significantly more.”

Most publishers have a metered paywall, meaning, after a defined number of articles a user is stopped with a CTA. If most papers are stopping only a tiny fraction of readers, you need to start looking at ways to get users to spend more time on your site, consuming more content. They need a reason to stay. 

This is where engagement tools come in handy. When used correctly, engagement tools produce a 248% lift in weekly pageviews per user and 364% lift in time spent on site. That translates to a lot more people getting to your paywall.

In order to build a thriving digital subscription strategy, you need to have your audience stay on your site longer. In order to do that, they need to engage with your content in an intuitive and seamless manner. That all starts with getting users to register for your properties.

Viafoura recently compared the behaviors of over 100 million unique users (registered and non-registered) to see what differences exist between them when consuming news. The results are striking.

Viafoura recently compared the behaviors of over 100 million unique users (registered and non-registered) to see what differences exist between them when consuming news. The results are striking.

Per user per week Sitewide Pageviews Attention Time per visist (mins)
Registered Users* 52 98
Non-Registered Users** 4 5
Average Lift 14x 23x

Data collected Jan 2019 – May 2019
*sampled 14 unique media brands
**sampled 85M unique non-registered and 2.5M registered users

Overall, registered users spend 225% more time consuming media content per week.

More importantly, over 80% of all user registrations are triggered on pages that feature onsite engagement tools and user-generated content. We cannot stress this enough, engagement tools are table stakes for building an audience development strategy.

Engagement is the Path to Community

The evidence is clear. Registered users are more invested in the news they consume, spending more time and engaging more frequently with the content being published.  It is also clear that the more opportunities there are for users to engage on-site, the more people will be interested in registering.

The more information you’re able to gain on your audience, the more you can personalize their experience on-site.

RELATED: Why Attention Time Matters

Increasing User Registration

So how can a media outlet increase user registration? Simplify the registration process and build value.

*A recent study conducted by Blue Research, showed that 77% of respondents believe that websites should offer social logins, and 60% agreed that companies offering social logins are more up to date and innovative.

The registration experience must not only be frictionless, but it should also be designed as a value exchange. This means that they should be able to access quality content and material by registering.

Provide users with the option to log in effortlessly with their social ID or email. Prompt users throughout their journey to complete their profile and provide additional information as their activity builds.

If you haven’t already, maximize the opportunities for user engagement. In our review, 25%-50% of all user registrations were a direct result of Viafoura’s Conversations Suite.

The Bottom Line

The key takeaway from all of this is that registered users are invested users. These individuals want to be a part of a media community, interacting with others, sharing content and opting-in for real-time updates. It is these engaged audience members that will provide valuable user insights and, ultimately, much-needed revenue.

Interested in learning more?

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

Connect Now

How Audience Engagement Tools Impact Revenue

Engaged users increase your pageviews, time on site, and ultimately, revenue. But what is an engaged user exactly? Simply put, it’s a website visitor who…

Last updated June 14th, 2018

Engaged users increase your pageviews, time on site, and ultimately, revenue.

But what is an engaged user exactly?

Simply put, it’s a website visitor who is actively involved with or interested in your brand. In a study led by researchers from Google and Yahoo, they categorized user engagement in four ways:

  • Bounce: user did not engage with the article and left within 10 seconds after arriving
  • Shallow engagement: user stays and reads 50% of the article
  • Deep engagement: user reads more that 50% of the article (means he had to scroll down which indicates commitment)
  • Complete engagement: user posts a comments or a reply on the article

We would define an “engaged user” as anyone who likes, dislikes, shares content or comments, posts a comment, replies to a comment, or follows content/authors/other users. The more actions they complete, the higher their engagement.

It’s also important to note that some actions are “worth” more, or signify higher engagement. For example, a user who posts a comment is more engaged than someone who simply likes content, because they are taking more time to provide a personal opinion. A user who follows an author, story, comment or other user is more engaged than someone who shares an article because they are proactively choosing to be informed and updated in real time, showing significant interest.

So how do you engage your users or encourage them to perform these actions?

Audience engagement tools increase social interactions

Audience engagement tools give users more opportunities to engage with your brand and other community members, much like social media.

Media brands and publishers using these types of tools can expect to see significant increases in comments, replies and likes. One such brand, Graham Media Group, saw the following results after implementing engagement tools across seven of their news sites:

Increase in total comments & replies
increase in total interactions
Increase in commentper user
Increase in repliesper user

We also found that users who visited pages with engagement tools produced a 248% lift in weekly pageviews per user and a 364% lift in time-spent on site per week.

Total Weekly Pageviews
Per User
Total Weekly Attention Time
Per User
Did not view engagement tools 2.07 4.07 minutes
Viewed engagement tools 7.20 18.80 minutes

*From analyzing the data across 600+ media organizations

Additionally, across our network of 600 media brands, 80% of all user registrations occurred on pages with engagement tools. And users who register generate 5x more return visits per week compared to non-registered users.

Now we come to the final question: how do these KPIs impact revenue?

Increased ad revenue

Research from data scientists confirms that not only do pageviews per visit increase ad revenue, but so does session time per user, as depicted in the graphs below. It’s also evident that getting users beyond the first few pageviews or seconds offers exponential revenue potential.

You’ll notice that session time has a surprisingly similar positive correlation with revenue as pageviews. Increased attention time means that there is more time for the ads to load on the page, and there is also a greater chance that a user will see an ad and potentially click on it.

Increased subscription revenue

Researchers Zalmanson and Oestreicher-Singer found that a user’s willingness to pay for premium services is more strongly associated with their online social activity than their content consumption.

In other words, users who engage more with other community members and with content are likelier to subscribe. In order to raise engagement levels, Zalmanson and Oestreicher-Singer suggest content producers should invest in a platform that provides the social engagement tools necessary to encourage active participation.

Doing so can increase subscriptions significantly, as witnessed by a New England media company that saw digital subscriptions jumped by 410% over three years after implementing automated audience engagement and targeting tools. Additionally, by displaying relevant content to anonymous visitors, they were able to increase the number of registered users by 9%.

Interestingly, Zalmanson and Oestreicher-Singer also found that users are more likely to subscribe if they have connections with other subscribers. The more subscriber friends that users have, the likelier they are to pay for premium services. This is likely due to the psychological phenomenon of social proof or social influence, where people mimic the actions of others because they assume it’s the “correct” behavior. Knowing this, publishers may want to consider how they can highlight their subscribed users so that their followers or friends are aware of their purchase decision.


If you have the right audience engagement tools in place, your audience will return to your website organically and regularly. It’s also less expensive to encourage your current website visitors to engage than it is to purchase new eyeballs on an ongoing basis. Not only will you save on marketing and advertising costs, but you’ll also increase your pageviews, attention time, online interactions and – most importantly – your advertising and subscription revenues.

Interested in learning more?

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

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CBC and The Weather Network Discuss Online Commenting

The Importance of Commenting from RTDNA 2017 Conference

In the RTDNA session, Commentary, Commenting and Diversifying Your Voices, our Head of Marketing, Allison Munro, moderated a conversation with news media executives from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and The Weather Network (Pelmorex Media). The two panelists included Jack Nagler, the Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement at CBC, and Carrie Lysenko, the Head of Digital at Pelmorex Media. Their discussion explored the pros and cons of online commenting and how news media organizations can overcome the challenges.

How Important is Commenting in News Media?

For the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), commenting is not just a value add; it’s critically important for their brand strategy. One of their goals is to provide Canadians with a place to explore their diverse opinions, and commenting supports this vision. Nagler states that commenting has helped them become a better newsroom because their readers improve the stories being told.

At The Weather Network, Lysenko stated that commenting is important because nature-enthusiasts want a forum to share their opinions, photos and videos. Lysenko also noted that when they turned off comments, there was a significant drop in pageviews and attention time.

This echoes our findings that brands with commenting can increase their pageviews by 248% and attention time by 364%. Researchers for the MIT Sloan Management Review also confirm that users’ willingness to pay for subscriptions increases with their growing online social activity.

“Only an engaged user will become a long-term subscriber.”
—Tobias Henning, GM of BILD

A majority of website visitors would also agree that website commenting is valuable. In a recent survey of their audience, CBC found that 70% of respondents said that comments were important to them. Furthermore, they saw that 70% of website visitors spend at least 15% of their time onsite just reading comments.

Using Comments to Create New Stories

CBC receives story tips and article corrections within their comment section from their loyal readers and watchers. Nagler asserts that audience contributions add a lot of value to their articles as they spur further discussions and stories.

He gave an example about an article on a wedding party that fell ill during their stay at a resort. After reading the story, another reader commented that she too got sick at the same place. From there, an investigative story was born, providing valuable information to other travellers.

CBC now takes their top comments and creates stories from them in the Revenge of the Comment Section. As these stories are made from comments, they offer a quick and cost-effective way for publishers to post new content.

Similarly, users share their photos and videos with The Weather Network, which drives further engagement and new content. Lysenko described when The Weather Network connected one of their website contributors to Canada Post to create an official stamp. After viewing the photo he submitted, they made arrangements to create the stamp and tracked his story on their website.


Three SEO Benefits of Online Commenting

User-generated content, such as comments, can be indexed by Google if it’s placed higher on the webpage. For example, editors can choose their favorite comments and place those quotes within the body of an article.

Furthermore, pages with active content updates, such as new comments, can trigger additional reindexing and improve the recency and relevance of the page in search results.

Your audience may also use keywords around a topic that differ from what journalists write, and can provide closer matches to search terms.

The Truth Behind Facebook Commenting

While your Facebook page may be a hotspot for online commenting, it can’t take the place of commenting on your website. And it’s not only because your direct website visitors are more loyal than your Facebook readers, but also because Facebook doesn’t give publishers all their first-party audience data from commenters. (Similarly, Facebook’s free commenting platform for websites also keeps your invaluable data.)

Both CBC and The Weather Network recognize that publishers should focus on getting readers to comment on their websites and collecting their audience data. That doesn’t mean Facebook or its tools shouldn’t be used at all; in fact, Social Login is an extremely valuable tool for news media websites.

When users are able to register for news websites through their social media account, this greatly reduces friction when signing up. It can even increase conversion rates by 20% to 40%. Lysenko adds that if you have the capability to import data from their social account into their user profile on your website, then you’re taking advantage of Facebook login without giving away your data.

“Direct visitors are more loyal than Facebook visitors.”
—Terri Walter, CMO of Chartbeat

Moderation is the #1 Challenge for Community Management

Both panelists say that the greatest challenge to commenting is moderating online discussions in real time. With so many trolls online, moderation is vital for publishers who want to provide a safe space for their users. And according to Engaging News Project, users’ interest in returning to a website almost doubles if they know the discussion will be civil.

CBC found difficulties with both pre-moderation and post-moderation. With the former method, moderators review comments before they get published. But this time-consuming task doesn’t allow for real-time discussions, which are so important for timely news and weather events. With the latter method, users are able to post comments without review, and inappropriate comments only get removed if they are flagged by the community and reviewed by a moderator. While this avenue is much less time-consuming, brands risk having content on their website that doesn’t align with their guidelines.

Like some media companies, CBC has even opted out of commenting altogether on certain stories that may trigger heated arguments. Similarly, The Weather Network chose to disable commenting on stories about climate change, finding too many undesirable comments between advocates and deniers.

Since then, The Weather Network has decided to employ automated moderation to manage their online communities. Automated moderation uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect and delete offensive comments. This allows conversations to unfold in real time while maintaining a brand’s community guidelines.

Human Moderation


Automated Moderation


They have also decided to offer self-moderation tools that allow users to personalize their online experience. These include the ability to mute other users and to dislike and flag comments.

Save Time and Resources with Automated Moderation

Website commenting has been an important feature for both the CBC and The Weather Network, helping them increase brand loyalty.

It’s also been invaluable to their audiences, who enjoy reading the comment section and sharing their content with others. However, many users get deterred from engaging on your website if the discussions aren’t civil and respectful.

Automated moderation is the latest solution to this problem, giving media brands a cost-effective way to moderate their communities. Media organizations have also shown that automated moderation drives further engagement, by increasing comments, likes and registered users, while significantly reducing flagging and the time and effort needed by moderators.

Interested in learning more about Automated Moderation?

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

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