From community to reader revenue: lessons to learn from The Independent and Reach PLC

In its most simplest form, there are 2 steps to convert audiences into revenue:

  1. Engagement – unlocking the revenue potential of your audience
  2. Conversion – activating this potential to gradually increase revenue

The question then turns to exactly how this can be achieved.

For Mark Zohar, President and CEO at Viafoura, one of the most effective strategies involves building a community of increasingly more engaged and loyal users, whilst continuously moving them through a funnel of value exchanges and direct interactions to increase revenue.

Why should publishers build a community?

When audiences aren’t on your site, they’re spending a great deal of time on social media, growing accustomed to certain experiences and features that keep them coming back for more. In particular, these users feel part of a community. They can…

  • Interact with content
  • Comment
  • See other user’s opinions and contributions
  • Join events
  • Like and share content
  • Follow topics and authors that match their interests

These experiences have become user expectations, making traditional digital publisher sites seem passive with very little direct interaction.

As Mark puts it, we’re social beings who want to react and have human experiences – and it’s this that makes community so powerful.

“Publishers need to build a bridge between user expectations and experiences on publisher’s sites.” 

Another important reason why publishers should build a community is because content is a commodity – it’s easy to find any content at any time, especially for big news stories.

Community, on the other hand, is not a commodity. It’s an asset. Something that feeds into your brand value, that a user will come back for and that will make you different from other publishers producing similar content.

How engaging your community will drive value

All publishers with a reader revenue strategy aim to register or subscribe their audience. The problem, however, is when they try to go from 0 to 100 – from unengaged to a loyal subscriber.

Mark compares it to dating – you wouldn’t immediately ask someone to marry you (unless maybe if you’re on ‘Married at first sight’!), you’d ask them to dinner first.

Community helps to provide these intermediary steps, building engagement before trying to get value from your audience.

I.e. Community-led conversion.

For Reach PLC, this involves a 4-step model: Discover, Engage, Connect & Commit.

The key here, according to Mark, is to ungate the community but lock the content, reserving it for registered members or subscribers only. Readers will see the comments and feedback, building enough intrigue and interest to make them want to unlock the article.

Their ‘In Your Area’ postcode services & community, for instance, have led to 3 million registered users and a 35% increase in page-views per visitor since 2019.

On Reach’s “Devon Live” brand, commenting is reserved for registered users only, with messaging framing the action as a conversation that a reader can either be excluded or included in (“join”).

I’d add here that it’s also essential to highlight that registration is free. Although it benefits both you and the reader, it won’t cost them a penny and can be a brilliant way to monetize the large portion of your audience who may never pay to subscribe.

The Independent is another publisher who has made the most of community to register users, increasing engagement and collecting first-party data. To achieve this, they’ve put the focus on their audience, understanding and engaging with them in various forms across the site:

  • Q&A sessions with online experts covering a range of topics
  • Connecting journalists with their readers
  • Personalization features, such as the ability to follow topics, comment on articles and automated personalization based on data

Many of these community experiences are reserved for registered members who have proven to be 11x more engaged than anonymous users. 

And the funnel doesn’t stop there. Even after creating an account, registered users may still be blocked when trying to access premium features, such as bookmarking content, which are reserved for paying subscribers.

These conversion steps gradually move users through a funnel, collecting first-party data, increasing engagement and, importantly, revenue.

Subscribers have proven to be 62x more engaged than anonymous visitors

Best practices for building & gaining value from community

1) Reward your best contributors for their loyalty and participation

“Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one, whilst increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits from 25-95%”.

Retention should therefore be a priority, and rewarding highly engaged community members can play a valuable role in ensuring these users keep coming back.

  • Exclusive access for highly engaged users
  • Social proof – provide them with a subscriber badge or ‘super engaged user’ tag by their name (think of Twitter’s blue tick system)
  • Referral bonus/reward for inviting a new user to join the community
  • Feature their comments somewhere publicly, giving them a sense of fame
  • Reply to these users, establishing a more direct relationship with your publication

2) Highlight the best of your community

The benefits of this are two fold:

Firstly, you forefront the best comments to entice non-members to unlock content and comment so as to not miss out on this conversation. Any comments that add insight but also open up the discussion are particularly valuable here.

Secondly, you give the writers of these featured comments a sense of fame and inclusion as they’re placed directly below the article, encouraging them to comment more frequently.

3) Think bigger than just comments

As Mark put it, you can’t just slap on a comment section and hope for the best. You have to develop a whole community experience from the moment a user lands on your site and do so through a variety of formats.

Some of the most successful community-building techniques involve direct interaction between the newsroom and your audience. This could be as simple as journalists leaving an open ended question to users once a week, but it’s a small investment that your newsroom has to make to develop a strong, loyal community that brings business value.

4) Once you’ve collected data, put it to use

Identifying interests, propensities, etc is great, but this needs to circle back to improve the experience offered to users. Even personalizing a user’s home screen or content recommendations can have a big impact on engagement and revenue.

5) Moderation is crucial

Investing in a solution, whether AI or human, is the only way to ensure that your community is moderated enough to keep control whilst also allowing for free reign.

Mark recommends creating community guidelines and finding a solution that allows you to ban someone entirely, ghost ban someone (the user doesn’t know they’re banned – they can still comment, but no one else will see it) or even give some community members moderation status, gaining value from these users and increasing their loyalty as they feel more involved in the community.

Thank you to Mark Zohar, President and CEO at Viafoura, for speaking to me about this topic!

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 or book a free demo with their team.

How To Build An Online Community

Businesses face an ever-expanding digital consumer market, and it’s important to adapt to this shift in user preferences and respond with the provision of a well-designed, web-based platform that offers a unique and customized customer experience. The key to success lies in establishing a reliable web presence that inspires trust, loyalty, and a sense of community around your brand, which makes it extremely important to know how to build an online community for yourself. 

There are a lot of benefits that come with building an online community; an increased ROI, a base of loyal customers, and a surge in brand awareness. Regardless of the industry, brand, or market sector, well-built virtual platforms that can sustain a growing, engaged community are a tremendous asset to your business and should be highly prioritized within your marketing strategy.

In this article, we’ll go over what an online community is and examples of the various types, how to build an online community, and some of the best practices for when you’ve put together your own.

What is An Online Community

An online community revolves around bringing people together around a specific concept, subject, or purpose. Depending on your organizational goals and the digital platform you choose, your users could share their opinions about a topic, go over educational resources, and even collaborate on projects.

So when you decide to build an online community, the first thing you have to consider is its purpose. To help you sort this out, here are some examples of online communities modeled around specific goals.

Interest-based community

As you might have guessed, these communities form around shared interests, hobbies, or pursuits. These are usually formed around recreational activities, and people in these communities are passionate about its basis. For instance, book clubs, wine tasters, coffee blend aficionados and sports fans are all great examples of this type of community.

online community

Geographic location-based community

It is common to see these communities formed in small neighborhoods or towns. They’re usually built around a sense of neighbourhood, and often involve posting updates on the happenings around the neighbourhood, ranging from information regarding community projects, the best places to eat, and public service announcements.

Profession-based community

Some online communities are dedicated to connecting people that work in the same industries to share tips, solve problems, and find work. These groups share similar experiences in their work life, and their members can understand the unique challenges or circumstances that come with the profession, which can make them particularly well-knit at times. 

online community

Learning-based community

These types of communities are very common, and its members are brought together after they subscribe to a course or purchase a membership for an instructional or educational program. Some examples of this include communities built around continuing education courses, language study, and vocational training. These communities benefit from exchanging information, knowledge, and study materials with their peers.

Brand-based community

These types of communities are the most relevant to business, retailers, and media brands looking to engage with their customer audience. They’re specifically built around the user’s shared experiences with a particular brand, and are usually fostered by feelings of satisfaction, loyalty, and pride that are a result of a great customer experience.

How To Create An Online Community?

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of creating an online community and how it can benefit both your brand and your audience, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to build an online community for your brand.

1. Choose the platform and outline your goals

As we mentioned before, the first thing you need to do is determine your brand goals and the purpose of the online community. This will probably align closely with your business goals, and will ultimately shape the way you engage with your audience and increase the appeal of your community. 

2. Create guidelines

If you are going to build an online community, then you need to determine a set of rules to regulate the behavior of your members. Remember that you want to avoid any harassment, spam content, and illegal posts, and generally want to create a positive, brand-focused environment that makes your users excited about your content. Make these guidelines clear and readily available, and have systems and tools in place to enforce them when necessary.

3. Set up the community

Review some of the key features needed when figuring out how to create an online community. Ensure all the basics of user personalization are in-place, and make sure the tools your audience has access to for community engagement are functioning as intended. Ensure your content is separated by categories and tags so users can easily find the information they are looking for. Finally, also make sure your sign-in process is clear and bug-free so users can build their identities without issue.

4. Strategic engagement and community growth

A big part of engagement is input from your side as the brand. Engaging with your community by asking questions or proposing topics to discuss offers new sources of discussion, and your presence within the community will show your users that you’re taking an active, forward-facing role in its growth. Use the tools your audience does to promote discourse; like favorable posts, post comments and responses to questions, address complaints promptly and transparently. These are all great ways to develop community trust and growth.

Best Practices When Looking To Build An Online Community:

When it comes to building an online community, there are no shortcuts. Having an audience engagement strategy is the first step towards establishing a meaningful connection with your customers. Below are some of the best practices to keep in mind when creating your strategy for an online community.

Be Personable

The key to building a thriving digital community is by focusing on audience engagement. By nature, human beings want to connect and talk about things that matter to them, such as current events, their interests, or hobbies. Expressing what your organization stands for and infusing your brand’s unique perspective into your content can help connect with audience members who share the same views. This is the first step to building a lasting relationship with the members of your online community. Take the time you need to actively communicate with your audience and participate in the discourse, and you’ll see fantastic results in return.

Get to Know Your Audience

Providing an engaging digital space for your audience to engage and interact in requires both a keen understanding of community essentials as well as web elements and software. If you don’t have either of these, that’s okay! 

At Viafoura, we offer an end-to-end platform that can help you engage with your web audience and convert them into members of a community. Our customizable and scalable solutions can help you convert first time visitors and unknown audiences into loyal subscribers. Check out our unique suite of solutions here to learn more about the ways in which online community management and engagement software can help you provide a unique experience for your audience.

online community

Take Advantage of Tools

Building a community online comes with a number of responsibilities that can get daunting if you don’t utilize specialized tools. Connecting your social media tools to your online community platform can also be a challenge.

At Viafoura, we offer an end-to-end platform that can help you engage with your community and convert them into leads. Our customizable and scalable solution can help you uncover loyal subscribers and turn them into your brand’s ambassadors. Check out our unique platform here.

Grupo Clarín Upgrades Its Audience Engagement Solution With Viafoura

In pursuit of a new community-building partner, Grupo Clarín enlists the help of Viafoura to develop a highly active and lucrative digital audience.

TORONTO, ON, Jul. 21, 2021  — Grupo Clarín, the largest media producer in Argentina and one of the top Spanish news brands worldwide, and Viafoura, a leader in audience engagement and content moderation, today announced an ongoing partnership to forge stronger, long-lasting audience relationships. Replacing its previous audience engagement tool, Grupo Clarín is embracing Viafoura to improve user experiences on its website and ultimately drive registrations and subscriptions.


Before turning to Viafoura, Grupo Clarín did not have an effective way to moderate Spanish conversations on its digital properties. Viafoura’s advanced moderation capabilities allow Grupo Clarin’s main sites (News) and (Sports) to automatically block up to 90% of offensive comments, facilitating positive and  productive conversations. 


By combining Viafoura’s AI-driven, multilingual moderation services with its social engagement tools, Grupo Clarín is starting to see the quality of on-site discussions improve. 


“We were looking for more than a basic commenting platform; we needed a solution that could consistently drive civil engagement and loyalty on-site,” explained Marcelo Rizzi, Chief Technology Officer and Big Data at Grupo Clarín. “We liked how Viafoura could bring an intuitive social experience right to our websites, with real-time engagement features such as likes, shares, personalization and notifications.” 

“At the end of the day, we chose Viafoura because of its superior functionality, business model and price,” Rizzi added. 

“Viafoura’s Audience Engagement Suite is designed to add value across digital communities, boosting user engagement and brand loyalty,” stated Jesse Moeinifar, Viafoura’s founder and CEO. “With Viafoura, Grupo Clarín can continue to inject new growth opportunities into its business.” 

About Viafoura

Viafoura partners with over 600 media brands to engage, convert and monetize their digital audiences. With best-in-class engagement and content moderation solutions — including real-time conversations, live blogs, community chat, personalization tools and AI-powered moderation — Viafoura helps companies create active, civil and loyal online communities. Advanced data analytics also offer customers access to unique and valuable insights into their audience’s behaviors and preferences. As a result, the Viafoura solution drives higher registrations and subscriptions as well as better-targeted content and advertising.

About Grupo Clarín

Grupo Clarín is the largest media company in Argentina and a leading company in printing, publishing, broadcasting and programming markets. Its flagship newspaper Diario Clarín is one of the highest circulation newspapers in Latin America. Grupo Clarín is the largest producer of media content in Argentina, including news, sports and entertainment and reaches substantially all segments of the Argentine population in terms of wealth, geography and age.

Clarín actualiza su solución de comentarios con Viafoura para mejorar la experiencia e interacción de sus usuarios

En la búsqueda de un nuevo socio de ‘community-building’, Grupo Clarín contrató los servicios de Viafoura para desarrollar una audiencia digital altamente activa y valiosa.

TORONTO, ON, 21 de julio, 2021  — Grupo Clarín, la empresa de medios más grande de la Argentina y una de las marcas líder de noticias en español a nivel mundial, y Viafoura, compañía líder en interacción de audiencias y moderación de contenido, anunciaron hoy una alianza para crear lazos más fuertes y duraderos con sus usuarios. Reemplazando su herramienta previa de interacción de audiencias, Grupo Clarín se une a Viafoura con el objeto de mejorar la experiencia de los usuarios en sus sitios web, y como consecuencia continuar creciendo en registros y suscripciones.

Antes de contactar a Viafoura, Grupo Clarín no contaba con una manera eficaz de moderar las conversaciones en sus propiedades digitales. Las tecnología de moderación utilizada por Viafoura le permiten ahora a los sitios principales del Grupo Clarin – (Noticias) y (Deportes)- bloquear automáticamente hasta el 90% de los comentarios ofensivos, facilitando de este modo las conversaciones positivas e interesantes. 

Al combinar los servicios multilingües impulsados por la inteligencia artificial de Viafoura, con sus herramientas de interacción social, Grupo Clarín confirma cómo la calidad de las conversaciones de sus sitios mejora. 

“Estábamos en la búsqueda de algo más que una plataforma básica de comentarios; necesitábamos una solución que pudiese manejar en forma consistente la interacción amable y la fidelidad en el sitio”, explicó Marcelo Rizzi, Chief Technology Officer and Big Data en el Grupo Clarín. “Nos pareció atractivo cómo Viafoura podía aportar una experiencia social intuitiva directamente a nuestros sitios web, con características de interacción en tiempo real, tales como ‘me gusta’, ‘compartir’, ‘personalización’ y ‘notificaciones’.” 

“Al final del día, elegimos Viafoura debido a su funcionalidad superior, modelo de negocios y su valor”, agregó Rizzi

“El paquete de interacción de audiencia de Viafoura está diseñado para agregar valor a las comunidades digitales, promoviendo la interacción de los usuarios y la fidelización del cliente a la marca”, anunció Jesse Moeinifar, fundador y CEO de Viafoura. “Con Viafoura, Grupo Clarín puede continuar inyectando nuevas oportunidades de crecimiento en sus negocios.”

Acerca de Viafoura

Viafoura se encuentra aliada a más de 600 Medios con el fin de interactuar, convertir y monetizar sus audiencias digitales. Contando con las mejores soluciones de interacción y moderación de contenido del mercado, incluyendo conversaciones en tiempo real, blogs en vivo, community chat, herramientas de personalización y moderación impulsadas mediante IA, Viafoura ayuda a las empresas a crear comunidades online leales, amigables y activas. Un análisis de datos avanzado, también ofrece a los clientes acceso a información única y valiosa acerca de los comportamientos y las preferencias de sus audiencias. Como resultado, la solución de Viafoura impulsa un mayor número de registros y suscripciones, así como también ayuda a que la publicidad y el contenido estén mejor dirigidos.

Acerca de Grupo Clarín

Grupo Clarín es la compañía de medios más grande de la Argentina y una empresa líder en los mercados de impresión, publicación, transmisión y programación. Su diario emblemático, el Diario Clarín, es uno de los diarios de mayor alcance en América Latina y llega sustancialmente a todos los segmentos de la población en términos de nivel socio-económico, geografía y edad.

The Independent Selects Viafoura To Foster Civil Discussion Across its Global Brands

The Independent is the latest publisher to replace its legacy commenting solution with Viafoura’s industry-leading suite of engagement tools to gain reader insights, build trust and create a more civil and interactive community

TORONTOApril 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — To support the continued emphasis on civil discourse and journalistic integrity, the leading UK publisher, The Independent, has selected the Viafoura audience engagement solution to build and nurture the reader communities of its premier global news sites, including The IndependentEvening StandardIndy100 and Independent Español.

Viafoura’s digital experience platform enables publishers to go beyond commenting, and gain insight through actionable first-party data allowing companies to better understand their audiences. The Independent can deliver more personalized content experiences and marketing initiatives through Viafoura’s real-time conversations, live chat, content recommendations and personalized notifications.

The Independent selected Viafoura’s solution because of its ability to integrate the entire content creation and consumption cycle while also fostering civil discourse. The Independent has already seen an increase in civility, fewer articles getting flagged and reduced customer service complaints thanks to Viafoura’s AI-powered moderation service, advanced engagement and first-party data analytics. For example, Viafoura’s AI platform can detect if the term “snowflake” is being used in a benign way — in the context of a discussion of weather — or as an insult in a political discussion.

“We didn’t want to simply replace our old platform with a similar one; we were looking for game-changing technology that could improve reader engagement and provide us with a suite of features to help us build our communities and Viafoura gave us that,” said Jo Holdaway, Chief Data & Marketing Officer at The Independent. “By integrating the key moderation features with human interactions from launch, we are able to provide our journalists and community members a safe space where they can share their insight and opinions. The next phases of the roll-out will be based on the solid foundation of positive conversations.”

The Independent identified a need to own its visitor experience and other solutions were not able to integrate that experience across its platform like Viafoura. Publishers are quickly realizing that it is imperative to own their platforms and data so that they can provide a better and more personalized user experience.

“Viafoura lets publishers put reader engagement at the forefront of the relationship,” Viafoura CEO Jesse Moeinifar said. “For a news organization like The Independent, which has built its reputation on decades of quality and thorough journalism, having a platform that streamlines the cycle of discourse is crucial. Whether it is AI-powered moderation or delivering a truly customized experience through first-party data integration, publishers are able to utilize Viafoura to further the relationship between information source and the communities they serve.”

The Independent joins other major publishers such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Graham Media and Reach PLC who can engage their communities and deliver better content through actionable insights. To improve your community’s experience, please visit

About Viafoura

Viafoura partners with over 600 media brands to engage, convert and monetize their digital audiences. With best-in-class engagement and content moderation solutions — including real-time conversations, live blogs, community chat, personalization tools and AI-powered moderation — Viafoura helps companies create active, civil and loyal online communities. Advanced data analytics also offer customers access to unique and valuable insights into their audience’s behaviors and preferences. As a result, the Viafoura solution drives higher registrations and subscriptions as well as better-targeted content and advertising.

About The Independent

The Independent has been at the frontline of journalism since its launch in 1986, with its mission to challenge and debate always ahead of its time. It is Britain’s biggest quality digital news brand and top 10 in the US. Publishing from 12 countries and in six languages The Independent is a truly global news organisation. Since The Independent became the UK’s first digital-only national newspaper in 2016, the brand continues to invest in and deliver high quality and trusted journalism while building out its data-driven products, services, audiences, and international presence.

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