“Subscription growth continues, but there’s a realization that readers need to see value” insights from Media Moments 2022

2022 saw publishers working to convince customers they’re worth the money. From content bundles to exclusive newsletters and podcasts, the subscription market is having to evolve.

This is an extract from the Media Moments 2022 report, downloadable in full here or via the form below.

After a frantic couple of years, when reader revenue seemed to be the only game in town, 2022 threatened a subscriptions shakeout. As markets from heated seats to tacos introduced monthly payment offers, the threat of market saturation became very real. And with the cost of living crisis kicking in, concerns have been growing that consumers are starting to consider just which subscriptions they really need.

Early in the year, Amanda Mull suggested in the Atlantic that we had reached peak subscription. And as if anticipating her analysis, the number of UK homes that had at least one paid-for streaming service fell by 215,000 in the first quarter, the end of a 10-year growth period among popular subscription services. Underlining the trend, Netflix alone lost 1 million subscribers in the second quarter of the year, although they did return to growth in the latter half of the year.

INMA’s Subscription Benchmarking Service reported a spike in subscription cancellations. The past few quarters have seen cancellations go up 34% compared to Q1 of 2021. Recent research from Toolkits and National Research Group showed that almost 30% of consumers polled plan to reduce the number of online
subscriptions they hold.

Toolkits’ Jack Marshall acknowledged the likelihood of a downturn back in May, especially in the face of the ‘belt-tightening’ economic conditions inevitably bring. But he said this wasn’t a sign of any fundamental problem with the subscription model.

“More than anything, publishers just need to be honest with themselves about whether they really have the content and products to support subscription models sustainably in the long term.”

Focus on value

Even as some publishers are seeing cancellations, others continue to enjoy growth. AOP members reported digital subscriptions growth at almost 15% between June 2021 and June 2022.

A select few have reported record performances, with quality content and trusted brands the designated driver. Having reached more than 9 million subscribers, New York Times president and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said its success was down to publishing the best content possible.

The Economist posted its most profitable year since 2016 on the back of 1.2 million subscribers and total subscription revenues accounting for more than 60% of its revenues. Referencing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation at its highest rate for a generation, editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes described The Economist’s content as delivering “timely, mind-stretching analysis to subscribers, helping them to make sense of the world.”

The Times signed up an average of 1,000 new digital subscribers every day over the first two weeks of Russia’s attack. Times head of digital Edward Roussel told Press Gazette: “The trend that we’re seeing is that in moments of crisis, whether it’s the onset of coronavirus or Brexit, you see this shift towards trusted brands.” The two-year old sports and culture website Defector earns 95% of its revenue from subscriptions. This year, it boosted its sub‐
scriber acquisitions by making its Normal Gossip podcast – one of Nick Quah’s best podcasts of the year – paid. Building on the unique positioning of the sports rumors show, Defector saw its biggest one-week subscriber increase in a year.

AOP reported a 14.9% growth in subscriptions revenue this year

Looking ahead

Anthony Ribeiro, audience conversion consultant at Membership and Subscription Suite Poool, said success is often down to the value proposition. This applies to both subscriptions and registration walls, as he noted:

“There’s a lack of unique value being offered in exchange for registration; there needs to be something they can’t get elsewhere, just like with subscriptions. It’s really a matter of the proposition and the value you can offer. How are you different from the competition?”

Anthony Ribeiro, Audience Conversion Consultant at Poool

Seeing that subscription revenues alone might not be enough, one time ‘all-ads-are-bad’ content providers, from Netflix to The Athletic, are introducing advertising to bolster their earnings. There is even a growing consensus that, post cookies, subscription publishers will be in a better position to offer advertisers premium spots using the first-party data gathered from subscribers and registered users.

And in a market under pressure, evolution is key to the continued success of the subscription model. The bundle, embraced by the New York Times, is one way that publishers can increase value to paying audiences and increase subscriber value. With growth no longer primarily in subscriptions to news alone, the NYT is pushing an all-access offer that brings together games and cooking content with audio, exclusive newsletters, product reviews on Wirecutter and sports coverage from The Athletic.

While few publishers can afford to stump up $550 million for a brand like the Athletic or even the ‘low seven figures’ paid for Wordle, they can focus on super serving their most engaged audience members. At WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress this year, Héctor Aranda, CEO of Argentina’s Clarin, said his company gets 70% of its subscription revenue from less than 2% of its total audience.

The bottom line is that publishers looking to keep growing their reader revenues must get better at targeting their messaging, pricing and content offering to convince cash-strapped audiences that their subscription is the one worth keeping.

14% of digital news users in the US think that they will have more media subscriptions in the next year. Another 14% believe they will have fewer.

Case study: Quartz drops its paywall

Just as everyone else was trying to figure out how to gate their content, Quartz tore down its paywall18. The plan shifted from a fairly strict content lockdown to the bulk of the business site’s content being available for free.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the pivot was an admission that Quartz’s beleaguered membership offering had failed.

The four-year old program attracted just 10,000 subscribers in its first year and even after a post-management buyout plea in 2021 spiked sign ups, it was still under 30,000. Low numbers are undoubtedly a factor in the shift – no one ever tries to fix a media model that isn’t broken. But there was also another, more interesting rationale at play. CEO Zach Seward explained:

“We found that 75% of Quartz members read us primarily through email, so we’ve been putting more of our best stuff directly in their inboxes.”

The new email-first membership scheme will see paying customers get four ‘premium’ emails a week. The problems for Quartz have been blamed on its ‘mushy middle’ positioning, described by Digiday as “not quite niche
enough to be essential to a small group of readers, but not quite big enough to compete at scale”. But Seward said the problem was converting drive-by site visitors into subscribers.

“The part that hasn’t worked well is when a reader coming from Google hits our paywall, wants to read the article, but has no intent to remain a member. That has not produced enough value for Quartz or our readers to justify the downsides of the paywall in terms of reaching more people with our great journalism.”

Contrast that with the success Quartz has seen in converting loyal email readers to paying members and the move might just make sense.

This is an extract from the Media Moments 2022 report, downloadable in full via the form below below.

This article was originally published by The Audiencers. The Audiencers is a B2B publication by Poool, The Membership and Subscription Suite, a simple, all-in-one platform for digital content producers to convert, manage and retain their members and subscribers. Find out more on poool.tech or book a free demo with their team.

Community-focused tools, tactics help media companies hit KPI, ROI goals

If your current digital experience platform (DXP) isn’t serving your community — or rather, is not enabling your organisation to serve, sustain, and expand your community — then it’s not worth your money.

Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to be host to a community, particularly one that enjoys engaging with and discovering the realm of their interests that you’ve created, you’re sitting on a gold mine of growth potential and first-party data.

It’s no secret that an active, non-toxic community is a powerful driver of audience growth, but to make the most of community-driven conversion opportunities, there are some preparatory measures that can be taken.

Community foundation

Before honing in on the inner-workings of your community, take stock of the tools and strategies you currently have in place and assess whether or not they are providing a worthwhile ROI. Some questions to ask as you set about this task are focused on infrastructure and discoverability, and community health.

Infrastructure and discoverability

Does your site’s architecture drive visitors intuitively to where the community is at its best, or are there a number of barriers in their way?

Consider where on their journey users are confronted with a sign-up form of some sort. Then, evaluate if there’s greater potential for conversion by giving them a bit of free reign to see the value you have to offer elsewhere. Giving unregistered users enough access to see but not join on-site discussions or special events like a live ask-me-anything community chat could be just the kind of content that is worth their time and, subsequently, their registered first-party data.

Does your current comment interface and strategy help or hinder engagement?

Providing users with the means to easily jump into the comments section and join discussions is an effective way to improve engagement. Recently, Viafoura partnered with News-Press & Gazette Co. (NPG) to help the team overhaul its prior approach to comment sections that relied on manual approval. This had resulted in endless queues of user contributions stuck in limbo. After integrating Viafoura’s automated moderation onto its platform, NPG saw a drastic improvement in overall engagement as well as the complete reactivation of previously stagnant communities across a number of its sites.

Community health

Have you and your teams taken measures to ensure that when new visitors arrive, they’re greeted by a wholesome and inviting community?

If some of the first things visitors see are comments and discussions rife with vitriol and toxicity, they won’t stay long — if at all. To keep the peace and foster a welcoming space for newcomers, it’s imperative you provide clear and concise community guidelines. These guidelines will assist in the preservation of your community’s well-being by giving its members and your moderation teams consistent parameters to follow while reinforcing your brand values and interests while doing so.

To scale down some of the more taxing and meticulous moderation tasks (such as profanity and hate speech), adopting an intelligent moderation engine is a turn-key solution for immediate deflection of toxicity.

Create a playground of engagement

Creating an engaging and discoverable user experience (UX) will invigorate your audience. As publishers, there is an obvious responsibility in providing your readers with high-quality content that stands out in the vast and highly saturated digital media landscape. More specifically, as digital publishers, the journey that users go on as they experience your site and its content is just as important.

A digital media platform that gives its users a range of capabilities to engage — through exploration, discovery, or community — is guaranteed a far higher chance of earning consistent growth in registrations, longer time spent on-site, and an increasingly concise understanding of its audience’s behaviour and interests. All of this can contribute to an improvement in ad revenue by providing you with the data necessary to prove the worth of your premium ad space to potential partners.

Topic and author follows

Topic and author following capabilities are highly engaging points of conversion and excellent data collection avenues. By tracking what content and which authors are being followed via built-in analytics, editorial and content strategies can be adjusted to meet the evident interests being shown in the declarative data that comes from these community-specific actions.

In terms of engagement, users who follow particular authors or topics also have a far higher propensity for return visits because of the notifications they’ll receive when more content tied to what they follow is published.

Conclusion

In this digital age where an extensive and engaging digital experience platform is paramount to the success and longevity of digital media organisations, taking the time to create rewarding and enjoyable experiences for your audience communities is the least we can do. With the right tools and approach to a community-focused growth strategy, publishers will make short work of achieving their ROIs and surpassing previous KPI goals.

This blog was originally published by INMA

Paywall visibility rate: the essential KPI you should be tracking in your subscription strategy

This article wrapped up:

  • Conversion rate is a valuable metric for publishers, but it doesn’t allow you to take into consideration the all-important engagement prior to the paywall (something that’s highly important for conversions)
  • Tracking and optimizing both premium content visibility and paywall visibility rate will help move users through the funnel towards subscribing in the future
  • We recommend aiming for 10-40% premium content visibility rate and 80% paywall visibility rate, but ultimately testing is the only way to find what is optimal for your strategy

The process of converting users into subscribers involves a lot more than just clicking through the paywall and paying.

The reader needs to find your site (acquisition), become increasingly more interested (engagement), see your premium content and be frustrated enough by the paywall to decide to convert.

These final two steps involve the visibility of your premium offer, and are the often-forgotten essential steps to optimize in your subscription strategy.

So, what are these visibility metrics? Why are they important? And how can you optimize them in order to increase overall conversion rates?

There are two types of visibility rate metrics:

  • Premium content visibility 

The percentage of users on your site who visit a premium content and have the potential to be exposed to the paywall

No. of readers who visit a premium content / Total no. of visitors to your site

  • Paywall visibility rate

The percentage of users who visit premium content and also see the paywall.

No. of readers who see the paywall / Total no. of visitors to premium content

Why is visibility important?

Publishers employing a premium strategy tend to focus on conversion rates as their north star metric. Of course, the number of users who fully convert into subscribers is important, but this metric doesn’t take into account the value of engagement prior to the paywall.

In fact, conversion rate is a metric designed for the ecommerce industry, where the buying process is all about impulsive decisions. Subscriptions (in the publishing industry) however are hugely dependent on a user becoming gradually more engaged before finally making the decision to convert.

For this reason, it’s important to consider and optimize the engagement funnel prior to the paywall.

In a recent white paper, we covered the 5 key metrics to track and optimize which will accumulate to increase overall user-to-subscriber conversion rates.

The first 2 of these steps refer to visibility.

Premium content visibility

In a Poool study analyzing the content strategy of 75 digital publishers, we discovered a correlation between traffic on premium content and the reader-to-subscriber conversion rate. This correlation was true up to 40% premium content visibility (which means 40% of your visitors would be exposed to premium content).

This suggests that by increasing the visibility of premium content, and thus the number of visits to paid content, you’ll increase the number of conversions.

As this correlation seems to only be true only up to 40% visibility, we’d recommend aiming for 10-40% visibility rate and testing from these to find the best percentage for your individual case.

How do you increase the visibility of paid content? 

The assumption is that you’d need to increase the amount of premium content published. However, you can instead work on optimizing the visibility of the content already on your site:

  • Place premium content at the top of your homepage
  • Promote premium content inside other articles
  • Recommend these articles to your users (at the end of content, in email campaigns etc)
  • Place more premium content in your newsletter, on social media, etc.

For instance, on the homepage of Digiday, ELLE France and El Pais’ sites, you can clearly see that they employ a subscription strategy as premium content is given a unique tag. For many publishers, this involves a single color that’s associated with subscription. In most cases in France, this is yellow.

Paywall visibility rate

There is actually a significant loss of readers moving from visiting the premium article to actually seeing the paywall (the next step in the funnel). Of course, this step is valuable as the visibility of your paywall will correlate with the number of users who convert through this paywall (you can’t click through a paywall if you never see it!)

However, like everything in the world of conversion strategies, it’s about finding a perfect balance between frustration and engagement.

Whilst a paywall visibility rate of 100% might frustrate your reader too much and turn them away from subscribing as they never got the chance to engage, a low visibility rate won’t create enough frustration and will result in only your most engaged users subscribing.

Having said this, the ‘perfect balance’ is different for every publisher and we can see successful examples at both ends of the scale.

Le Monde, one of France’s most popular publications, has an extremely low visibility rate where it takes a good few scrolls down the article before being presented with the paywall.

On the other hand, Financial Times, Washington Post and the New York Times have 100% visibility rate with their paywall.

Financial Times presents a full-page paywall.

The Washington Post employs a pop-up hard paywall.

The New York Times blocks the full article with an anti-scroll paywall.

Whilst El Pais finds a middle ground and shows readers only  afew lines of content before blocking.

How do you increase paywall visibility rate?

It’s not necessarily about increasing here, but about finding the optimal rate for your situation. To achieve this, we’d recommend aiming for 80% visibility rate and testing from here, as well as considering segmenting audiences and employing adapted strategies for each type of audience.

You can also consider employing a metered strategy, one that offers users access to a quota of articles for free before being blocked by the paywall. This will also help reduce the risks of launching a paywall on your advertising revenue, traffic or SEO.

You can also try:

  • Employing a different wall on mobiles (where the wall is seemingly further down the page than on desktop)
  • Increase wall visibility with a full screen paywall, pop-up wall or anti-scroll wall.
  • Segment audiences based on level of engagement, employing a higher visibility rate for your most engaged users and a lower visibility rate for volatile traffic who need more engagement before being convinced to convert (p.s. You can do this on the Poool Dashboard!)
  • Segment your content and employ a different visibility rate based on the content type. For instance, more popular content could have a higher visibility rate than less popular premium content
  • Optimize the order in which scripts are called to the page to configure a wall to appear sooner in the case of bad connection

Note: depending on your paywall set-up, it’s also important to take SEO into consideration here. For instance, if you’re employing a hard paywall with a server-side blocking method, you should ensure you follow Google’s lead-in recommendations where essential text is left above the paywall to optimize search engine performance.

This article was originally published by The Audiencers. The Audiencers is a B2B publication by Poool, The Membership and Subscription Suite, a simple, all-in-one platform for digital content producers to convert, manage and retain their members and subscribers. Find out more on poool.tech or book a free demo with their team.

Putting the audience, data first can help media overcome news avoidance

If nothing else, one positive element that emerged from the pandemic is a renewed focus on mental health and wellness.

From one week to the next, people worldwide became recluses, whether they wanted to or not. They were forced to sit at home and, after burning through all that Netflix had to offer, think — think, reflect, and become aware of their mental health in ways that had perhaps been easier to avoid in the “before times.”

With this time for reflection, it’s no wonder people began to notice the correlation between their moods and mental health and the non-stop emotional rollercoaster of the news cycle throughout the pandemic.

In one sitting, viewers would be subjected to an inspiring video of Italians singing from their balconies in quarantine followed by horrifying stories of people trapped in their homes with deceased loved ones — all while a ticker at the bottom of the screen provided an ever-updating death counter.

While the news cycle is not known for being a constant source of uplifting content, the pandemic brought to light the impact that bad news has on our mental well-being. It’s no wonder new audience behaviours emerged. Ones that, to the detriment of publishers everywhere, would have us sooner look away and avoid the news than tune in to have our days ruined by yet another article about the latest existential threat.

Mental health effect on news avoidance trends

News avoidance is the active or intentional resistance or rejection of news.

Though we are still in the early days of this new behaviour, studies have indicated that people the world over have become more selective of the content they consume. It is a means of mitigating the negative feelings that go hand-in-hand with a news cycle that seems to skew ever more negative, concerning, and depressing.

According to data compiled by Nielsen, in the early days of the pandemic, publishers tracked a 60% global increase in news content consumption. What were the headlines during that period? Stories related to the pandemic, as well as political crises occurring around the world, with more than a few notable mentions belonging to the United States.

As time went on and the headlines became ever more tragic, an overwhelming sense of burnout amongst audiences was being fueled by the news.

In an annual Reuters survey of more than 90,000 participants in 46 different markets, 43% of people said the non-stop barrage of COVID-19 or political news triggered their decisions to embrace selective news avoidance. Additionally, 36% of those same respondents said their moods were negatively affected by the predominantly depressing nature of the news cycle.

Publishers have since then have found themselves in an impossible position: Report honestly on the grim nature of our world’s current events and suffer decreased views, report sensationally and lose credibility, or report on benign topics like celebrity divorces and scandals to keep people entertained but uninformed.

Negativity crushes trust, increasing news avoidance

This is not only a tricky situation for editorial and content teams. News avoidance has also made it difficult to build communities of passionate and engaged followers. It’s even more difficult when the news itself is deemed untrustworthy by misguided or misinformed consumers. The United States, in particular, has to deal with this growing trend. Only one-quarter of US respondents say they trust their nation’s news media.

Audiences will always have thoughts and opinions, particularly when it comes to larger-than-life concepts like the spread of a pandemic or an insurrection to overthrow democracy. It’s natural to want to share those thoughts and open up a discussion about those ideas — this is something that the comment section of an article is quite literally made for.

However, nearly one out of five respondents to the Reuters study said they skew toward news avoidance because sharing their opinions leads to arguments they’d rather avoid.

This goes right to the heart of the challenge that publishers face as they attempt to come up with solutions for their waning engagement and subscription rates. If people don’t feel comfortable expressing their viewpoints, not only will they avoid engaging in open discourse around enticing subject matter, it’s likely they will avoid the content altogether.

How to overcome news avoidance and win over audiences

So, what can publishers do to overcome news avoidance and build thriving communities of passionate readers? The answer is an audience-first, data-informed growth strategy.

By putting the interests of your audience first and creating content aligning with your orgnisation’s values and the goals of your editorial and publishing teams, you’re in good shape to start diminishing the risk of news avoidance.

If you’re able to position yourself as a publisher who delivers high-quality content and makes space for community-based and healthy discourse, you’re on track to winning back your audience and gaining access to valuable first-party data that will further inform your efforts.

Behavioural insights are essential in the current digital publishing landscape. That data can be difficult to acquire without an analytics team, but turn-key solutions do exist:

• Shadow banning against community violators

Platforms built by moderators to help other moderators maintain a positive community are available to you and your teams.

One valuable tool for community moderation is time-based shadow banning. These “timeouts” can be handed out to people who frequently disobey community guidelines and spread toxicity.

Labelling comments can help reinforce those guidelines further: highlight ones aligned with guidelines, note ones that veer off topic with more random postings, and flag those that are outright attacks on authors or other community members.

Through careful and considerate moderation, you’ll be better able to promote cooperative and respectful dialogue among readers. By making the space for discussion safer, you create an inviting opportunity to potential users who may have been avoiding your content as a means of dodging unwanted conflict and toxicity.

• IP lookups to restrict or block suspected trolls

Obviously, publishers need to grow their audiences to stay afloat. A healthy, sizeable viewership is essential for revenue and data-informed learning opportunities — not to mention it is extremely appealing to advertisers and affiliates eager to spend money to connect with those readers.

Unfortunately, if trolls or extremists harass other community members to the point of pushing them toward news avoidance, the quality of the viewership is greatly diminished. Quantity is not better than quality, even when views and shares are important metrics to help boost subscriptions.

Instead, you can use platforms with built-in IP address lookup capabilities to find these bad actors and moderate their posts so they can no longer disrupt the rest of the community. This will also help you avoid inadvertently violating your affiliates’ publishing guidelines and risk losing vital business, which was a hard lesson learned by the people of Parler following January 6.

• Moderate conversations, live events, community chats, and reviews

Finally, use your moderation console to encourage healthy dialogue across all digital streams affiliated with your publication. This can include conversations in the comments section of an article to interactions in live events and community chats. You can even influence the tone of ratings and reviews about your publication to stop misleading negativity from spreading.

The console plugs directly into each of these forums, allowing your entire editorial team to work out of the same space and enforce consistent guidelines across each outlet. Not only does this increase your team’s efficiency and productivity, but you’ll set a standard for your audience about what kind of community they can expect from your publication. This is how you set the stage to build trust and authenticity — two absolutely necessary traits to grow your audience.

While the world is ever-changing and readers adjust the way they consume content, publishers need to be mindful of how to create spaces that can be informative, safe, and encouraging for their readers.

This blog was originally published by INMA

The New Daily drives engagement, first-party data, and revenue diversification with Viafoura.


The New Daily
is an online, non-paywalled, Australian digital news site that was founded in 2013. It features content such as breaking news, politics, finance, entertainment, lifestyle, sports, and weather from Australia and around the World.

Like many publishers, The New Daily is keen to provide its readers with the opportunity to contribute their unique viewpoints to a vibrant and safe community. Ingrid von Bibra, Publisher, at The New Daily says they are “excited to increase user engagement whilst also providing their editorial team with valuable feedback and user insights”.

By implementing Viafoura’s Conversations, Live Blogs, Community Chat, Trending Articles, Topic Follows, and Moderation solutions, The New Daily is driving their first-party data strategy forward at an accelerated rate. With data generation now in hyperdrive, the team has access not only to traditional information such as PVs, Dwell Time, and RFV values, but extensive insight on user sentiment, interests, propensity, and community participation as well.

Viafoura is excited to be working with The New Daily. “The energy that The New Daily has brought to this initiative is palpable! We’re delighted to be their chosen partner for reimagining the audience experience and unlocking a new first-party data strategy” says Dalia Vainer,Director, Customer Experience.

As The New Daily continues to reap the rewards of Viafoura’s turn-keysolutions, nothing but positive outlooks remain for continued audiencegrowth, engagement wins, and revenue diversification.

La Voz del Interior is driving enhanced engagement experiences and improved subscription volumes with Viafoura’s solutions

La Voz del Interior is a daily Spanish language newspaper edited and published in Córdoba, Argentina. La Voz is the leading daily in Córdoba, and one of the most significant in Argentina outside of Buenos Aires.

La Voz is focused on providing its readers with an exceptional, personalized experience while also increasing their subscription volumes.  With Viafoura’s Conversations, Live Blogs, Community Chat, and Moderation solutions, La Voz will be able to drive engagement across its audience while collecting significant volumes of first party data – enabling personalization and deep reader insight.

“The goal is to use the data to deliver content in line with each reader’s preferences” said Alan Porcel, Digital Platforms.  But, it’s not just about personalization for La Voz, says Lisandro Guzman, General Editor and Multiplatform Chief: “We want to create a robust community of readers who contribute their point of view, engage in lively but civil conversations, and interact with our editorial team. We are excited to move forward and we know that with a growing, engaged community, and the data insights we’ll have, we will be driving readers through the funnel into subscriptions more easily.”

“We’re excited to welcome another LATAM publication into the Viafoura customer community,” said Dalia Vainer, Director, Customer Experience. “We know that access to first-party data is a top priority for the folks at La Voz del Interior, and can’t wait to see how the team leverages the data supplied by Viafoura to drive business strategy.”

Data Is King: Personal Experiences Boost Conversions By 30%

What’s your preferred experience with published content? Would you prefer a site that feeds you generic articles, or a publisher that knows how to personalize the content you see? The obvious answer is the second option. A personalized website is far more enjoyable as it provides the topics, opinions, and commentary that speak directly to your unique set of interests.

Some publications are better at personalization than others. These publications know how to identify if an article, or even a headline, will encourage readers to spend more time on the site. Their content is informative and capable of adding value to the reader’s experience so they feel compelled to consume the story. They also know how to use highly targeted links within the articles to drive up clickthrough rates.

By adopting personalization as part of an overarching content strategy, publishers remain connected to readers who are very protective of what they consume. There’s a rising trend of “selective news avoidance” all over the world. According to CNN, only 23% of people get their news from news websites. Young people, in particular, are more likely to use social media for news updates.

Can Personalized Content Trump News Avoidance?

Reuters Institute commissioned their annual Digital News Report. The study analyzed a YouGov survey of 93,000 participants from 46 different countries. Among the key findings was a growing lack of trust in newsworthy content, a problem with its strongest foothold in the United States. Only 26% of US respondents say they trust the news, a three point decline from 2021, and the lowest positive sentiment among all surveyed nations.

Common reasons cited for selective news avoidance have to do with growing polarization, perceived media bias, and a sense of too much politics in the news. But a senior Reuters executive, who helped commission the Digital News Report, says the issue goes much deeper.

“A large number of those who selectively avoid the news say the news has a negative effect on their mood,” says Rasmus K. Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Click-Bait Headlines Or Insightful Titles: Which Is The Best Approach?

What are the primary causes for news avoidance? According to the International Institute of Information Technology – Hyderabad (IIIT-H), one of the reasons could be that some publishers rely too frequently on “click-bait headlines.”

In a research study entitled “Clickbait’s Impact On Visual Attention-An Eye Tracker Study,” IIIT-H studied gaze-fixation from 60 participants to measure the amount of visual attention paid by readers to different articles. One group of articles had click-bait headlines, while the other group used educational titles. The results found that click-bait headlines received far less visual attention from readers than articles with non-click-bait headlines.

Click-bait headlines promote a misleading title separate from the crux and context of the article content. According to IIIT-H, people feel duped by misleading headlines, feeling a disconnection between the promoted title and the body of the article. They abandon the page rather than continue the experience, reducing total engagement rates.

Instead of creating false headlines to trigger quick clickthrough rates, successful publishers create thought provoking titles, encouraging readers to consume the entire article. The best way to create headlines that generate engagement is to develop a deeper understanding of what resonates with the intended reading audience. To gain those audience insights, you can use the power of first-party data to align engagement strategies with audience preferences.

First-Party Data Is The Intersection For Creators And Readers

Two of the best examples of first-party data are pageviews and time on-site. You can rest assured that people are intrigued by your content if both of these numbers are trending in the upward direction.

Aim to develop a deeper understanding of what best resonates with your readers. You can identify commonalities in things like the tone of the articles, the positioning of the headlines, common topical themes, and certain keywords that appear in articles with the highest amount of reader engagement.

Your creative team can access these findings in your audience insights platform dashboard to view the results for themselves. They can view the data and clearly identify which articles earn the most engagement from readers. This will help them pivot the content strategy to focus on future stories that support greater audience engagement.

Profile, Personalize, Perform: The Power Of First-Party Data

There’s a lot of power to be wielded with first-party data, which gives your publication a leg up on competitors. Your audience insights platform stores demographic details about your readers, including variables like age, location, backgrounds, and past consumption behaviors on your website. Pool these insights together into rich audience profiles that tell your creators how different types of readers are likely to engage with the content.

You can also segment your audience into different buckets: new readers, known readers, and subscribed readers. The difference in each audience category is measured by their degree of engagement with your website. New readers are fresh to the site, which means there’s very little behavioral data to profile. Known readers are people who have provided at least one example of first-party demographic data that you can use to start building your profiles. Subscribed readers are those who have fully converted and actively paid for premium access to your best content.

As you build your audience profiles, focus intently on the subscribed audience. Look back at the patterns that led people on the journey to fill out the subscription form. What were the articles they read? What common topics or themes were prevalent in those stories? Where did they spend the most time on your site?

Using these enriched profiles, coupled with the data you have on your top performing content, you have all of the necessary information to personalize what readers experience the next time they visit your site. You can deploy highly segmented examples of content that appeal to different readers at each stage in the consumption journey with your website.

Focus on creating personalized content that enables those deep journeys, which should help boost subscription conversion rates by 30%. Watch those pageview and time on-site metrics shoot through the roof by deploying this strategic approach!

The difference between a vendor and a partner, and how this translates into sustainable audience growth

Many organizations that try to build their own user community run into the same problem; they pick a vendor rather than a trusted partner. It’s a mistake that means they don’t feel valued as a customer, while the vendor doesn’t care about their business outcomes. 

If you want to achieve sustainable audience growth, you need a community engagement partner that can help you to optimize engagement and value exchange moments you have with your community. 

That means your partner should work alongside you to provide strategic recommendations that directly enhance your business and offer regular workshops, quarterly business reviews (QBRs), technical walkthroughs, and moderation sessions to collaborate with you to fine-tune your product roadmap. 

This article will examine the difference between a vendor and a partner, and the strategic advantages the latter can bring. 

The key difference between a vendor and partner

When it comes to building your audience, the key difference is that a vendor isn’t directly invested in your business success and merely plays a passive role serving you as a customer, whereas a partner takes an active role in helping to enhance your organization so that your audience can grow.

Unfortunately, most software vendors in this space employ a revenue share model, where they will put ad placements across a digital property and then offer a payout. 

The problem with this approach is that it pigeonholes you in terms of how you’re viewed as a partner. Many vendors will treat you as a commercial deal and focus more on commercial ROI, relying on how many ad placements you’re running and your overall viewability.

Revenue share can help you increase revenue over the short-term, but does so at the cost of tying your business into a commercial model and hampering your decision-making so that you don’t have access to the collaboration you need to build an effective long-term audience growth strategy. 

A true partner addresses the limitations of the revenue share model by also offering a SaaS payment model you can use to develop an ongoing partnership with a trusted party, whose core business strategy is about helping you drive registrations and acquire unique data you’ve never seen before.

How can a partner impact sustainable audience growth?

A growth-oriented partner can significantly increase your sustainable audience growth by clearly defining organizational Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). 

These OKRs enable you to set realistic and attainable performance targets to meet, such as doubling conversation rates, subscription rates, or unique visitors across digital properties. 

It’s a methodology that isn’t focused on product delivery but instead on how the deployed solutions impact the customer’s business outcomes. The goal isn’t just to sell a product but also to implement it and to help the organization leverage that technology to grow long-term. 

One of the benefits of working with a partner is that you can gain access to valuable growth insights you might miss. For instance, they might recommend that you use push notifications on your site to increase click-through rates by up to 27.6%. 

It’s worth noting that a partner also helps to support you through the post-implementation process, providing continuous care and support even after the initial deployment of the solution to ensure that you’re in a position to generate consistent returns.

Partners shaking hands

How to know if your vendor isn’t a partner

One of the main signs that your vendor isn’t a partner is if you don’t have a single point of contact for your account. If there’s a waterfall between you and the vendor, then you can’t have an effective two-way dialogue on how to improve your value exchange. 

A true partner would review progress periodically with key stakeholders in your organization, every three to six months, depending on your needs to ensure you’re on target to meet your enterprise’s goals. 

They would also be willing to answer any questions that you have promptly and provide you with ample opportunities to share your feedback on the overall effectiveness of the service. 

You should also watch out to see if your vendor is focusing on celebrating wins rather than recommending potential improvements you could make to enhance your business continuously. 

Avoid vendors, seek out partners

A true software partner doesn’t just help with implementation and onboarding; they customize the solution to fit your long-term needs and are there for you every step of the way. 

If you and your partner aren’t strategically aligned with your mission and vision, then it’s going to be an uphill battle to achieve your business goals. So if you want the best opportunity for success in 2022, avoid working with vendors and seek out a trusted partner instead. 

When you know more about your audience, you pave the way for growth

The more you understand your users, the more opportunity you have to grow your community of followers. And the more you grow your community, the more your business can ultimately generate revenue and brand awareness. But without first-party data about your audience, you’re working from an incomplete picture. 

To grow, media brands need to know the profile of their users, their preferences and their behaviours. It won’t just help you improve and personalize your content lineup; obtaining rich first-party data also empowers you to supply advertisers with the crucial targeted audience segments they want.

Building engagement to gain data

Our research has found that engagement leads to loyalty because it creates experiences users will stick around for. The longer they stick around, the more likely they are to register, which will give you access to their real-time data. 

So what types of engaging experiences can you provide your users? We’ve identified six Viafoura solutions that can help your content convert users from unknown to known, including: moderated conversations, or safe spaces for registered users to discuss content; follow buttons; live chats around a topic, event or video; social share bars; trending conversations; and live blogs, or real-time interactive content posts.

For example, Viafoura’s personalized newsfeeds are onsite feeds similar to a Facebook feed, aggregating all the interactions that are relevant to a user, including what and who they follow. Our data has found that they generate 3.15 more page views per month among both anonymous and registered users.

How data helps your content strategy

With 64% of consumers willing to give up their data for relevant services, personalization is your key to giving readers what they want. When your newsroom has access to your audience’s data insights, they become empowered to create a personalized experience for the user, which is increases audience retention. 

They can do this by extracting audience insights from Viafoura’s engagement solutions. One example is Viafoura’s Community Chat, which allows media companies to host real-time chats around popular content.

“With (Viafoura’s) Community Chat, we’re delivering more value to the fans, while also increasing engagement by 150%,” says Kristian Walsh, head of sports audience engagement strategy at Reach PLC.

So what kind of behaviour and preferences can you track from users, and what can that tell you about them? For starters, look at what types of content are driving people to engage. What are the topics and themes that are capturing interest? Who are the writers of this content? You can then rank an article’s performance based on clicks and audience segments to help determine the topics your readers are most interested in. 

By understanding who their readers are, what they’re interested in and how they express that interest, newsrooms can align on a high-conversion content strategy based on a strong relationship with their audience. 

Stock market information data

How data incentivizes your advertisers

That rich audience data allows you to understand your audience more intimately, but it also better equips you to provide targeted audience segments for advertisers. Advertisers today are looking beyond clicks, and are seeking metrics like time-spent, return visits and number of page views: all signs of an engaged audience. So the more you know about your own audience, the more appealing you can make your site to advertisers.

“Viafoura gives us access to valuable engagement data that helps drive business decisions,” says Philippa Jenkins, the head of registered audience at The Independent. “We know what content topics and formats are resonating most with our users, so we can deliver more of what they want.” 

User registrations, direct newsletter sign-ups and a view into audience interactions allow you to understand your users at the engagement level, to inform your sales team, and paint a better picture for advertisers. 

In fact, the New York Times is capitalizing on its first-party data, having found that digital ads that used its first-party data accounted for 20% of its core ad revenue, up from 7% the year before. Ad Exchanger reported that subscriptions also soared during the same period, hitting 5.1 million digital news subscribers and 1.6 million subscribers for other products. 

Brands that glean actionable insights on their data will be much better positioned to deliver the goods that advertisers want, in an age where advertisers have become much more savvy in the data they demand.

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