UGC Contributors Are Now Integral to Successful Content Strategies

You’ve put in the hard yards, integrated an effective Digital Experience Platform (DXP) with engagement and moderation solutions, and finally established a safe space for your audience community. With a community framework in place and a moderation solution in action – use this new found spare time to give due praise to the golden geese of your flock: the User Generated Content (UGC) Contributors. 

First things first: who are the high energy User Generated Content Contributors eager to publicly make their mark? Can their contributions be used as aspirational behaviour for other more passive users? If so, what are some ways to go about this that don’t feel disingenuous?

Positive reinforcement is a sure way to encourage users further down your audience funnel and strengthen retention. By putting the contributions of your community up on a pedestal, you are not only rewarding those ultra-valuable UGC Contributors with recognition, but you also broadcast to your community and beyond the kind of behaviour your brand values and celebrates. 

The returns on your efforts once you’ve integrated a solid UGC Contributor element to your existing audience-first content strategy will be ample revenue gains (in both ad and subscriptions) and a consistently expanding community of users steadily flowing through your audience funnel.

In order to determine how best to integrate UGC Creators into your strategy, you’ll need to first consider what tools and techniques are available to you, how to optimize the efficacy of UGC Content, and most importantly – how to do it in a way that uplifts your brand and drives its success.


Highlight Users Comments

On a smaller day-to-day basis, implementing a pinned comment strategy is a great way to highlight members of your community as well as set the tone for budding conversations. 

In some cases, having your editorial/content team kick off the discussion in the comments section with a pinned comment as a conversation starter can lead to immediate engagement and user contributions. Once those user comments roll in, swap out your comment with a user contribution that endorses your brand values, sets the tone, and encourages others to join in.


Editor’s Pick

Think about where you can reach different audiences at different stages of the audience funnel. 

If your editorial team sends out a newsletter, including a piece of UGC in an ‘Editor’s Pick’ segment is a great way to show you value the contributions of your community members and it gives registered members a reason to bring their own opinions and perspectives to the table in the hopes of being featured as well. 

To reach audiences that may not be signed up for newsletters, building these Editor’s Picks into readily available on-site content can inspire registered users and connect with as of yet unregistered visitors. Sharing these contributions with a broader audience has the potential to, once again, establish an aspirational behaviour for other users to strive for and improve engagement.



Not unlike highlighting what your UGC Contributors have shared, badges are a way for you to distinguish between different types of users engaging with your content and help foster a unique community specific to your site. Rewards beget rewards in this case, as users who have put in the time and energy to earn a badge of their own are far more likely to keep up their efforts and stay active and engaged.



At the end of the day, the audiences that seek out content and invest their time, energy, and money into your publication are the bread and butter of the publishing world. When we take their interests to heart and celebrate their loyalty and time spent on our platforms, we learn more and more about them through their data offerings and can in turn continue to provide them with the high-value interest focused content that they deserve.

5 ways engagement solutions can improve the quality of the conversations your audience is having

Online toxicity is something that nobody should have to put up with, whether they’re a visitor on your site or a member of your team who feels personally attacked and harassed by the comments on their articles. Yet it’s something that happens all too often. 

According to a survey conducted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement, 33.9% of news commenters and 40.9% of news comment readers name argumentative comments as the reason that they avoid commenting or reading comments. That means to build a safe and active user community, you need to support your people, and that includes both your audience and your team. 

Making your comments section safer will make your editorial team comfortable with building their following on-site free of harassment, which will then allow you to collect declarative data from your audience. 

Below, we’re going to look at five ways rich engagement solutions can improve the quality of your community’s conversations to build not just a civil space for your audience to communicate, but also a brand-safe environment to grow your revenue. 

1. Letting your editorial team build their following on-site

A community engagement solution with a comments section is perhaps the most valuable resource you have at your disposal. 

Placing a gated comments section on your site lets you draw user conversations away from social media and onto your brand’s website, where your editorial team can start to build their following and form a deeper relationship with their readers. 

An engagement tool with a comments section also allows you to gather declarative data from your audience to see what types of content they engage with the most, down to the topics and authors they prefer. With this information, you can provide curated content recommendations to try and increase their time on your website.

2. Impact of civil community on engagement

No matter how good your content is, users aren’t going to stay on your site if trolls are openly harassing them with personal attacks and hate speech. While many brands have chosen to turn off comments due to toxicity, this isn’t good for long-term growth as it reduces the average time a user spends on the site. 

The most effective solution for dealing with toxicity and creating a civil community is to use AI moderation, which is essential to keep your comments free of harassment, abuse, racism, sexism, and spam. 

Argentina’s leading conservative newspaper La Nación recently took this approach by deploying a community engagement solution that preemptively moderates comments before they go live to make sure that no one has their experience adversely affected by abusive comments.

Hands on laptop keyboard.

3. Using the community for sourcing and investigative follow-ups

When you use a community engagement tool to provide a space for your audience to communicate, you give them the opportunity to actively play a greater role in your content creation process by helping journalists source stories and conduct investigative follow-ups. 

As loyal users of your site, your audience is often the best judge of what stories are relevant to other users and can recommend what stories you should cover. Having authors leave comments welcoming other users to provide tips (or even putting up a tips web page) is a great way to make them feel heard. 

Allowing your audience to participate in sourcing stories lets them know you value their support, while helping them form a deeper relationship with your brand and your journalists, which will make them more likely to stay on the site long-term.

4. Creating more relevant newsletters

When backed with the right data, newsletters are one of the most potent engagement tools that you have at your disposal, as they enable you to engage users via their inboxes and encourage them to click through to your site. 

However, the success or failure of a newsletter depends on how personalized it is. If you don’t have access to the right data, you’re not going to provide your readers with relevant content. 

Using your community engagement solution to gather first-party data can help you identify which trending articles and topics to send users. They’ll be more likely to interact with the content and click through to your site.

5. Creating a brand-safe environment

Advertisers are the backbone of many modern media organizations and are vital for monetizing the content that journalists produce. Yet many publishers struggle to create brand-safe community spaces that advertisers are comfortable placing ads on. 

This is particularly true if a user community has problems with toxicity and abuse, since it’s unlikely that advertisers are going to want to feature their products alongside such negative sentiments. 

As a result, using a community engagement tool with AI-driven moderation is essential for making sure that your site is brand safe for your, and for your advertisers.

Use engagement to deepen your relationship with your audience

If you want to deepen your relationship with your audience, you need to offer them a space that engages them. That not only means building a user community, but also proactively moderating the conversations they’re having to make sure they’re free to communicate without being harassed.

The top 5 reasons people don’t participate in a news brand’s comments section, and how to change their minds

Building an active user community goes far beyond adding a comments section to your site. If you want your audience to participate in the conversation, you need a strategy to attract and nurture unregistered users.

Part of that strategy involves enticing users to engage with interactive, personalized content and recommendations, and the other involves lowering the barriers to entry and making your community more accessible to your audience. 

Below we’re going to look at the top 5 reasons people don’t participate in communities around news brands, and what tools you can use to create a civil and thriving community.

1. They don’t want to be the first to comment

If you’re trying to establish a new user community, your comments section won’t have many, if any, commenters. At the same time, your users might be hesitant to be the first to comment on a post. 

You can address this challenge quite easily by encouraging authors to pin comments inviting users to participate in the conversation in the comments section. 

For instance, an author can post the first comment on an article requesting open and honest feedback and pin it to the top. This approach sets the tone and welcomes users to leave their opinions.

2. They’re put off by toxic comments

Toxicity is one of the main reasons why some people don’t take part in online communities. No one enjoys being abused or harassed, and without proactive moderation, even a civil conversation can devolve into chaos. 

The prevalence of online toxicity, particularly on social media, was highlighted just a few months ago when CBC announced that it was closing Facebook comments on news posts due to “an inordinate amount of hate, abuse, misogyny and threats.” 

Using a community engagement tool with AI-driven moderation capabilities is critical for automatically taking down negative comments and creating a safe space for users to post and engage in civil discussions free of harassment and abuse.

Four adults looking at something on a tablet.

3. Your content isn’t relevant or engaging

In many cases, users don’t interact with content because they find it dull or uninteresting. If your audience doesn’t find an article compelling or relevant to their interests, they’re unlikely to engage with it and comment. 

The only way to address this is to provide more relevant content and personalized recommendations. You can do this by prompting users to subscribe and gathering first-party data to segment your audience into cohorts with similar interests. You can then use this data to recommend content that’s more likely to engage them.

For instance, if a user is interested in cryptocurrency news on Bitcoin and Ethereum, a community engagement platform can understand these interests and notify them whenever a writer releases a new article on a relevant topic or if a commenter they follow comments on the article.

4. They don’t have a reason to comment

Sometimes even if a piece of content is interesting, users won’t participate in the comments section or the community surrounding it because there’s no incentive or reason to leave a comment. 

Using interactive content like live blogs, Q&As, and Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions can help you provide the audience with a reason to comment by granting them an opportunity to engage with gated individuals like journalists, subject matter experts, and other well-known figures to increase not just registrations, but also time-on-page. 

The Independent used live content to great success during the pandemic by doing a live Q&A with a travel expert on the UK’s COVID-related restrictions. Likewise, MPR used a live blog to offer real-time coverage of the Kimberly Potter trial, with a comments section for users.

5. They don’t know you have a user community

Users won’t join a community if they don’t know it exists. While adding a comments section is a crucial step in creating a user community, your audience isn’t going to use it if they don’t know it’s there.

Announcing the launch of your user community on your site with a blog is essential for making your audience aware that they have a chance to communicate with other individuals. 

Many media organizations have used this strategy to kick-start their user community growth. For example, Xtra Magazine announced the launch of the Xtra Community through a blog post, as did, which released an announcement to promote the launch of a new commenting platform.

Make your comments section safe and relevant

To encourage users to participate in your community, the most important thing is to make sure that you’re offering your audience the opportunity to consume and engage with relevant content in a safe environment.

Using a community engagement tool with moderation capabilities gives you the best of both worlds. You can gather first-party data on users’ preferences to inform future content creation, while also using AI moderation to automatically remove abusive comments and create a safe space.

Lessons from The Independent on the relationship between commenting tools and user registrations

While every media company’s journey toward growth and profitability is unique, a single success story has the power to inspire and educate organizations across the industry. Those kinds of stories are partly why media professionals worldwide gathered at WAN-IFRA’s 2021 Virtual World News Media Congress from November 29 to December 2.

One particular case study stood out at the conference, detailing how an engagement strategy overhaul increased The Independent’s registrations by 100% in 12 months.

The speakers were Philippa Jenkins, head of registered audience at The Independent, and Mark Zohar, Viafoura’s president and COO. Here are a couple of takeaways from their session.

The Independent drove 2,000+ website registrations with comments

For any media company, the user registration process is very much transactional. After all, audience members need a good reason to take the time to register and give up their personal information. This give-and-take process is known as a “value exchange.”

However, a paywall, registration wall or newsletter sign-up form isn’t interesting or valuable enough on its own. Jenkins explains that The Independent eventually adopted Viafoura’s digital experience platform as a way to build up its value exchange by offering users a safe space to have quality conversations.

Viafoura’s moderated commenting platform delivered immediate value to The Independent’s users, prompting them to register in return for a positive and interactive online experience. According to Zohar, users respond to moderated commenting tools like Viafoura’s because audiences are social by nature.

“We live in a dialogue society, where we expect to have conversations with each other, and increasingly, people want to have a dialogue with publishers they’re loyal to,” Zohar explains. “They’re really looking for an easy way to leave their opinions on editorial content.”

Generating over 2,000 registrations with Viafoura Conversations, The Independent has proven that publishers can incentivize users to hand over their data.

The Independent's community feed.

Comment-led registrations create a chain reaction of engagement

Commenting spaces, along with other conversation-based experiences, play a critical role in converting anonymous online audiences into known, active consumers who read and interact with comments.

Plus, a small portion of registered users produce user-generated content (UGC), which is essentially free content that publishers can use to propel more audience participation, more UGC and, in turn, more registrations.

“Asking why we should have commenting if only a small part of our audience comment is a lot like saying why have YouTube if only 1% of the population will upload a video,” outlines Zohar. “Commenting creates a cascading effect of engagement to an audience segment that wouldn’t spend as much time on your company’s sites without it.”

By reserving its moderated commenting tools for registered users, Jenkins says that The Independent experienced this explosion of engagement and registrations from users who were interested in becoming part of its community. 

These registered users are also much more likely to become subscribers than anonymous users, since they’re already engaged community members. 

So by embracing moderated comments, The Independent was able to create a healthier value exchange and develop a more profitable business strategy. 

Dig deeper into this success story and find out how The Independent kept its registered users engaged and active here.

What You Can Learn From Your Audience’s Comments

Now that reader revenue is a priority for media organizations, online conversation tools have become critical for growing relationships between digital visitors and brands. 

Discussion-based website tools can thoroughly engage readers, building up reader loyalty and amplifying their willingness to pay for a subscription. Yet, the importance of commenting tools goes beyond visitor engagement — they also offer insight into the state of an online community.

“We [as a media industry realized] we needed to understand the niche of our community to serve them in the way they wanted to be served,” states Anita Zielina, the director of strategic initiatives at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. 

And what better way to learn about your community than from your members’ words and interactions? 

To help you make the most of your commenting tools, we’ve broken down different types of information you can unravel from your community’s conversations:

Important Questions That Need to Be Answered

Your comment section is a precious space for community members to socialize with others and discuss your content. As a result, you can expect to find questions that visitors have posted right on your digital properties in hopes of finding an answer from your staff or a fellow community member.

Questions found within comment sections are highly useful and actionable. Not only can they directly inform media companies when content needs to be clarified, but they can also highlight precisely what answers your community members want you to create content around. 

One publisher, Santa Cruz Local, has even earned support from the public by answering questions its community puts forward about local issues.

Dig deep into your readers’ feedback, comments and interactions to determine what’s on their minds,” reads an article on What’s New In Publishing. “This will help you publish the stories that answer to your audience’s needs.”

By taking a few moments to sift through your community’s comments, you may find that your audience is itching to help you identify gaps in your content coverage.

Topics That Audience Members Are Interested In

Media organizations can also detect what topics visitors are fascinated by through their commenting tools. 

More specifically, the ebb and flow of interest in different topics is often mirrored by the number of recent comments posted. Companies can pay attention to which content pieces have trending conversations centered around them to find the topics that resonate most with their active communities.

In other cases, users will explicitly post about what topics and events they’re curious about. 

Some companies may even wish to use their comment section to ask community members about their interests. 

In fact, an analysis of 20 sustainable news media companies found a significant commonality between the successful organizations. 

James Breiner, an expert on digital journalism and newsroom leadership, explains that “[all 20 of the companies] use two-way communication or interactivity with the public to get story suggestions and news tips, and to do collective investigations.”

Ultimately, each of the sustainable media organizations communicated with their communities to fuel their editorial strategies.

Know Whether or Not Your Trolls Are Under Control

According to a study conducted by the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas, offensive comments, no matter how many civil posts precede them, can distort how a visitor views a news website. 

Commenting tools are essential for media companies to engage and nurture their audiences, though. This means that media companies must turn to an effective comment moderation solution to handle trolls as quickly as possible to keep their social spaces safe. 

Not sure if your moderation system is doing a good enough job of keeping trolling behavior in check? 

If you look at your comments and notice that good comments are being attacked or overwhelmed by negative comments, your community’s health is being threatened by trolls. After all, a single troll can drown out the majority of positive comments on a page. 

Keep your digital properties protected by ensuring that your moderation system is able to understand and block all forms of incivility specific to your community guidelines, region and language. 

Engaging your audience through social tools will help you form a connected, loyal community. However, there are several other advantages that come with hosting comments on your website or app as well. 

Tap into your community’s words and interactions within their comments to determine how you can improve the online experience around your organization.

Why People Hate Live Commenting, but Will Learn to Love It

A common misconception about online, live commenting tools has taken root within the internet. Want to take a guess as to what that might be? Let us give you a bit of hint:

Thanks to spammers, bots, trolls and toxic behavior, people now believe that commenting tools are destructive to a brand’s reputation. And with 63% of Americans convinced that incivility online results from social media, it’s no surprise that people think of all online social experiences in a negative way.

Here’s just a small taste of why people hate live commenting tools online:

In a Facebook post, one commenter responds to a video titled ‘What if Online Trolls Acted Like Trolls in Real Life:’ “This is why I think most websites should turn off their commenting sections. People say so much online that they never would face to face. And most of the political arguments would evaporate too, which would be great.”

People assume that comments — especially those posted in real time — threaten the health of a community as harassment, profanities and spam can be brought alive instantly, with the push of a button.

But while these concerns are all valid, they encourage the loss of profitable, on-site audience engagement. In reality, there’s actually a way to host real-time commenting tools on your owned and operated properties without damaging your brand.

The Uses and Gratification Theory introduces us to the idea that people actively seek out media to fulfill their needs for information, human connection and socialization. Commenting tools can help to satisfy this innate human need to socialize and connect with others, sparking healthy, social interaction online.

Breaking the Chain of Misinformation Around Commenting

Media organizations that have killed or rejected commenting sections have experienced and will continue to experience a massive loss of opportunity.

Yes, there are trolls running wild online, just itching to frustrate other people. So rather than letting them — along with countless other digital trouble-makers — ruin your engagement tools, all you need to do is put one simple measure in place to tame them: comment moderation.

Comment moderation can completely flip your commenting platform from destructive to profitable in a matter of moments. In fact, communities that had sophisticated moderation in place see significant on-site engagement growth: including 62% more user likes, 35% more comments per user and 34% more replies per user.

By creating a protected and social environment that users can engage with, you can begin building a loyal community that drives revenue.

Civil, live commenting platforms help to form an environment where visitors feel safe enough to participate in conversation. As they create meaningful discussions with others around content, their propensity to subscribe increases.

Comments also provide organizations with valuable audience engagement metrics.

Just as the previous post stated, these metrics can help organizations identify community behavior and content preferences, which can be used to improve editorial and subscription strategies. Take it a step further by making sure you’re getting first-party audience data from your commenting tools so you can gather actionable insights to help grow your community.

Setting Rules in Your Community

If you’re going to bring a commenting tool into your platform, you need to decide how strict your comment moderation should be.

A recent post on The Verge outlines the value of moderation in online communities. In the article, Twitch’s CEO, Emmett Shear, addresses the difference between allowing free speech and building a civil community online:

“I hope people can express themselves. I hope they can share their ideas, share their thoughts. But we’re not a platform for free speech. We are not upholding the First Amendment. That’s the government’s job. We’re a community. And communities have standards for how you have to behave inside that community. And so we think that it’s not anything goes.”

Free speech is important to society as a whole, but online, speech that disrupts a community’s overall health is toxic to a brand’s success. Which is why it’s so important to set community guidelines and enforce them throughout your engagement tools.

“[A community] with good, strong moderation, in many ways, is actually the place with freer speech,” says Shear. “Because it was actually the place where people could express themselves and not just get destroyed by trolls and abuse and harassment.”

Preventing toxicity on your platform actually forms an ideal environment for users to interact with one another in.

So here’s the bottom line: moderated commenting tools are absolute necessities to engage visitors, build communities and grow revenue.

Can’t afford to spare any resources to do the moderation in-house? You may want to look into a tool that offers automatic moderation services. You can review the different types of moderation here.

5 Ways to Decrease Trolling and Improve the Quality of Your Comments

With the prevalence of online trolls, some organizations have put up their hands and given up on the comment section. But doing so, even temporarily, has major drawbacks for organizations…

Last updated October 28th, 2019


  1. Reward users to encourage desired conversations
  2. Offer moderation tools to your users
  3. Use artificial intelligence in conjunction with your human efforts
  4. Quiz your users to weed out those who haven’t read the full story
  5. Stop anonymous comments

With the prevalence of online trolls, some organizations have put up their hands and given up on the comment section altogether. But doing so, even temporarily, has major drawbacks for organizations and their users.

As Carrie Lysenko Head of Digital for The Weather Network pointed out in an RTNDA Canada panel on engagement, turning off comments can result in a significant drop in pageviews and attention time. This echoes Viafoura’s own findings that brands with commenting can increase pageviews by 248% and attention time by 364%. This increased engagement leads to higher registrations and subscriptions since engaged users are more likely to pay for premium services.

And while managing online communities has traditionally been cumbersome and expensive, today there are many cost-effective ways to reduce or eliminate trolling. For media companies, these new tools allow you to not only keep your comment section open, but also to capitalize on your user-generated content.

Reward Users to Promote Civil Comments

Trusted-user badge

Encourage users to submit thoughtful comments by rewarding your best commenters with a trusted-user badge. With this status, an icon will appear beside the user’s name for others to see. These trusted users are also able to publish their comments in real time without being moderated.

Editor’s pick

Another way to reward users is by giving their comment the editor’s pick status. These comments can be featured in prominent positions on your website to model the types of comments you want to receive.

This is also beneficial for SEO, because comments that are placed higher on your webpage will get indexed by Google, and the keywords in those comments may be a closer match to users’ own search terms than those used by a journalist.

Create articles from users’ comments

Many organizations today including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) are creating stories entirely from their users’ comments. These stories not only reward commenters for their insightful posts, but are cost-effective, quick to publish and receive a surprisingly high amount of attention time and comments. Some even attract more comments than the original piece from which they were taken.

To see the impact of these articles, we tracked the number of comments for eight user-generated blog posts in CBC’s Revenge of the Comment Section, comparing those to the number of comments for their original articles.

The results are depicted in the chart below:

It’s significant to note that while almost all of the original stories received more comments, the user-generated articles often weren’t far behind. And in one instance, for Story 2, there were more comments for the user-generated article (601,000) than for its original article (343,000). Readers also spent approximately 2.3x more time on the former page.

That’s pretty fascinating since these articles can be created at a fraction of the time and cost it takes a journalist to create a new article from scratch.

Offer Content Moderation Tools to Your Users and Managers


Allow users to easily flag comments that they find offensive, using a noticeable red flag icon. When a comment receives a predetermined amount of flags, it will enter a queue for review with a moderator who will decide the appropriate action.

Timed user banning

Give short “timeouts” as little as a few hours, days or months and notify users as to why they are being banned to help them improve the quality of their comments. Alternatively, users can be permanently banned for repeated offenses.

Dislike button

The dislike button allows users to express their dislike for a comment, without having to flag it (which requires a moderator’s time and resources). We found that this button can reduce flagging by 50% in as little as two weeks upon implementation.


Both The New York Times and The Guardian have created games that allow readers to try moderating content. Users are tasked with approving or rejecting comments and providing reasoning for their decisions. This is not only enjoyable for users, but eases some of the burden on moderators.

Use AI Moderation to Eliminate Online Harassment

Whether your organization employs dedicated moderators or tasks other employees with removing the “trash,” you could be saving countless hours and dollars with automated moderation.

Automated moderation uses natural-language processing and artificial intelligence to automatically categorize and eliminate trolling, spam and online harassment.

Viafoura’s Automated Moderation is programmed with over six million variations of problematic words or phrases. This means that it’s able to determine both the subject matter and the sentiment behind users’ comments, detecting and eliminating spam, foul language, abuse, personal attacks and other uncivil comments before other users can even see them.

If the system encounters a new word or sentence that it’s unsure of, it flags the instance for a moderator to review. As a moderator approves or rejects new words, through the power of machine learning, the algorithm will learn the new rules and get smarter over time.

On average, our studies have found that automated moderation has a higher accuracy rate (92%) than human moderation (81%), and reduces 90% of the time and cost it takes to moderate a community manually.

Quiz Your Users

The Norwegian tech news website, NRKbeta, encourages thoughtful comments by asking their readers to prove they read the whole story by taking a quiz. Their organization believes that this quiz can weed out users who haven’t read the story, while also giving users time to reflect on how they will comment instead of just typing a response to a shocking headline.

Their reporter, Stale Grut, comments, “When a lot of journalists hit ‘publish’ I think that they see themselves finished with a story. But we see that you’re only halfway through with the article when you’ve published it.” Their goal is to improve articles through collaboration.

Many commenters agreed that this tactic would promote insightful comments. Here’s what they had to say:

“It WILL raise the discourse, and it will improve the journalism too. And why should some poor intern have to sit and delete all the trash? Let a computer do it.”

“I would not object to that if it reduced the uninformed and off-topic as well as useless comments”

End Anonymous Commenting

By allowing users to register for your website through one of their social media accounts, with the use of social login, they are less likely to post harassing comments because they can easily be identified.

The social login button also generally increases conversion rates by 20% to 40%, while giving you access to user information that can be used to create targeted messaging.

Increased Engagement = Higher Revenue

If you’re committed to improving the quality of interactions on your website, you may find that using moderators alone can be expensive and time-consuming. Luckily, today we can count on technology to encourage quality comments and eliminate the number of personal attacks. And by improving the quality of interactions on your site, you can look forward to increased engagement, improved brand loyalty and enhanced lifetime value from your users.

Need more help?

If you’re looking to drive engagement and leverage user-generated content, let’s connect.

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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.

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