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

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

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

Changes in data, publishing, and analytics at large

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

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


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

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

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

And then that data becomes what, exactly?

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

Analytics: Keeping it simple rears sophisticated results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Typically what we suggest is that

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are ‘generational funnels’ the new normal?

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

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

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

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

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

Generational Funnels?

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

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

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

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

Of course. Any time!

Observe, analyze, learn, reiterate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remind Sleeping Subscribers Their Journey With Your Publication Has Only Begun

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

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

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

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

First-Party Data Is The Alarm To Wake Sleeping Subscribers

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

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

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

Send Personalized Emails To Shake The Sleepers Awake

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

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

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

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 Future of Advertising: What’s Your Interest?

On March 3rd, Google shocked the advertising industry by announcing in a blog post that it will not support individual identifiers, such as hashed or encrypted email addresses, as an alternative to third-party cookies on Google Chrome — the web’s dominant browser. Instead, Google announced that beginning in 2022 the future of online advertising will be based on interest-based cohorts. 

Ad tech stocks, including The Trade Desk and Criteo, who have placed their bets on the Unified ID 2.0 solution that uses individual identifiers, plummeted following the announcement. The media response to Google’s announcement was swift and widespread, though there are many questions that remain unanswered. Let’s focus on what we know and how advertisers and publishers can adapt to and profit from Google’s announcement.

Two key takeaways from the March 3, 2021 Google announcement

Google’s announcement made it clear that they believe it’s critical to build a privacy-first web that does not rely on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) graphs based on peoples’ email addresses. Google stated that, “advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers.” Google’s replacement to individual identifiers is an advertising model based on users’ interests — not their email address.

What are individual identifiers?

An example of an individual identifier is an email address. People use their email addresses to log into Chrome, which can be tagged as “identifiers” and operate similarly to third-party cookies tracking users around the internet as they click on stories, and products, revealing their interests. Google is rejecting the use of individual identifiers, like email addresses, because it says this practice has led to a general distrust of the internet and puts the future of the web at risk. Instead, Google will support interest-based cohort advertising.

What is an interest-based cohort?

An interest-based cohort is a group of individuals who interact with similar content or share common interests. An interest-based cohort could be “Tennis,” grouping together people who follow ATP news and others who read stories about Serena Williams. All individuals within this cohort could then be made available to advertisers for tennis-related advertising and offers without ever revealing any personal information.

The critical difference between individual identifiers and interest-based cohorts

Individual identifiers provide personal data to advertisers without peoples’ knowledge that their PII is being tracked. Interest-based cohorts are large clusters of people who share similar online reading habits and general interests. Significantly, cohort clusters don’t reveal or share personal information when they are created or used for advertising purposes. Going forward, advertisers will receive an identifier for a cohort rather than for the individuals within it.

What’s the bigger story here?

The biggest story here, and the most important message for publishers to hear, is that Google has confirmed that first-party data relationships will be key to delivering value in a cookieless world. In fact, Google reaffirmed its support of first-party relationships on its ad platforms for partners. Media companies that build robust interest graphs of their audience, based on their users’ declared and identified interests, will align seamlessly with Google’s privacy-first advertising modus operandi in 2022 and beyond.

The biggest threat to advertisers

The reason why Google’s announcement shocked the ad tech industry and sent stocks plummeting is because, beginning in 2022, advertisers will no longer be able to rely on user identity for ad tracking on the web’s dominant browser. Without identifiers in the bidstreams, advertisers will need to work more closely with publishers to access high resolution audience data — including and especially, interest-based cohorts derived from first-party data. The necessity for advertisers to work more closely with publishers to access high resolution data hasn’t existed for decades. It’s a big deal and a huge switch from the status quo.

The biggest opportunity for publishers

Ironically, the biggest threat to advertisers is the biggest opportunity for publishers. In our ebook, we talk about how the death of the third party cookie is giving publishers the freedom to shift their attention away from the third-party programmatic ad model towards a first-party ecosystem rooted in audience engagement for the first time in over 20 years. The media business is returning to a golden era of great content and growing audiences.

How Viafoura helps publishers build interest-based cohorts

At Viafoura, we work closely with publishers to generate interest-based audience data by leveraging our engagement tools and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to uncover audience interests, intent and affinities. We help media companies collect first-party data from their audience via commenting tools, live chats, and personalized content recommendations. We also help media companies generate robust interest-based data about their audience by understanding and inferring user intent and interests.

We support declarative interest data

Our ‘topic follow’ feature is the most accurate method for understanding user interests. If a user chooses to follow the topic “sneakers” on a sports media website, they indicate that they are interested in sneaker culture and a prime candidate for marketing and advertising from Nike and Adidas, for example. It’s a direct and declarative method for organizing individual interests into interest-based cohorts that a media company can leverage for non-personalized ad targeting — easy as that.

We use natural language processing to generate interest-based data

Viafoura can also generate interest-based data from user-generated content on our media partners’ digital properties. We use NLP to extract topic and entity-based data, as well as sentiment, from user comments and chats. For example, based on the user comment, “I love my Tesla. It’s by far the best EV on the market!”, Viafoura is able to automatically identify the topic “electric vehicle”, the entity “Tesla” and a positive sentiment score. We then associate topics, entities and sentiment with the user profile for cohort assignment.

We generate interest-based data from reader behaviour

This one is simple and effective. If a user frequently reads articles about “baking recipes,” we include them in a ‘baking and food’ cohort. Easy as pie.

We generate interest-based data from topic-based chats and AMAs

We know that a user who participates in a topic-based chat about the Toronto Raptors is interested in sports and basketball. Similarly, a user that participates in an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session on vaccine safety has an interest in healthcare and vaccinations. All of this interest-level data is collected by Viafoura and added to user profiles for assignment to a relevant cohort. Significantly, Viafoura enables media companies to run branded topic-based chats and AMAs on their owned and operated sites — not off-site on social networking sites.

Interest-based cohort creation

The bottom line

Viafoura helps media companies and publishers develop comprehensive and dynamic interest graphs based on their audiences’ behaviours and activity that is foundational to enabling interest-based cohort targeting and compliance with Google’s interest-based advertising model.

If you want to read the media responses to Google’s announcement on March 3, 2021, you can click here to read coverage from The Verve, here to read an explainer from Reuters, and here to read a column in AdExchanger. Finally, you can click here to download our free ebook titled The Publisher’s Guide to First-Party Data for the full context of the situation.

How To Optimize Your Digital Community for Success

Is your media organization struggling to identify the next steps it should take to create innovative and profitable digital experiences? 

To help you find some clarity, Viafoura President and COO Mark Zohar joined Christoph Trappe, an industry thought leader, on an episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast

Throughout the podcast, Zohar sheds light on how the future of growth and success in the media industry will ultimately come down to building better digital communities

“COVID and all the things that have impacted us negatively has opened up this positive idea that we need to connect more and we need to connect better [with] digital communities,” Zohar tells Trappe. 

If establishing a thriving digital community is uncharted territory for your business, dig into highlights from the podcast below for some critical guidance and industry best practices.

What Is a Digital Community?

When you think of a community in the physical world, you probably think of a group of people who are connected based on their interests. The same is true for a digital community — it’s a group of real people who regularly engage with one another online through a host company around a common interest.

Zohar says that many digital community builders focus on creating a one-to-many community, where the host brand connects with users to encourage product feedback or promotion. 

“That one-to-many digital community… is very transactional and doesn’t really work well,” states Zohar. “[The] best communities are the many-to-many communities, where we have this very interactive, very spontaneous, very organic affiliation engagement between community members [and] the community host.”

As brands engage and nurture their digital communities, they’re able to satisfy their audience’s need for engagement, gather actionable audience information and unleash revenue-generating power from the people within their communities.

Unlocking the Full Power of Your Community

At the moment, social media gives brands a place to engage with followers. However, brands have no control over their communities on these third-party platforms — and this lack of control prevents brands from owning the relationships with their communities and audience data. 

“Most brands who own a digital strategy want to now have a direct relationship with their community,” Zohar highlights. “They want to have that community also present on their own sites, in their own native apps [and] across their organization.”

With full control over your community, you can provide your audience with interactive and customized experiences directly on your owned and operated channels. You’ll also gain precious first-party user data, which will allow you to tailor your content and advertising strategies according to your audience’s interests and behaviors. 

As mentioned in the podcast, the end goal for building a digital community is to transform anonymous audiences into known, loyal community members. 

“Allow your community members to interact with one another, to connect with one another, to follow one another on your owned and operated channels,” says Zohar. “If you do, what that will result in is retention, re-engagement and a place that people will want to come back to.”

Encouraging On-Site Engagement

Before you can build a digital community, you’ll need to figure out how you can capture the interest of your audience members continuously.

“You can’t create a community unless there’s value for the community,” Zohar explains.  

In other words, you have to offer up exciting on-site experiences to convince people to participate in your online community. Only then will they give up their data to register or pay a subscription fee.

Allowing visitors to create social connections through conversations and live chats or access relevant and personalized content feeds can help you prove the value of your company’s community.

Content moderation is another critical part of establishing your digital properties as a healthy, worthwhile environment for engagement. 

According to Zohar, people that want to join a digital community are often pursuing meaningful conversations in a social environment that’s respectful and civil. 

Community hosts can implement a sophisticated moderation system to protect their social spaces from offensive behavior, keeping conversation meaningful and inviting.

It’s also important for community hosts to engage directly with their visitors, whether that be by highlighting good behavior in the community or prompting discussion.

At the moment, sustainability lies in your ability to monetize your audience. And, as you now know, you can unlock reader loyalty and revenue by establishing a highly engaged, interconnected community around your company. 

For more information on how to run better digital communities, you can view the entire podcast here.

Why Identity Resolution Can Help You Future-Proof Your Businesses

Is your media company converting anonymous visitors into registered users and then monitoring their behavior? To help secure your company’s future, it’s worth transforming your website’s visitors into identifiable and trackable community members. 

Real-time data collection, analysis and targeting is the glue that keeps customers engaged with relevant information,” states a report by FIPP, a global publishing association. 

Rather than guessing how to invest in your brand’s consumer experience, you can use data to piece together an accurate picture of your digital community. That way, you’ll understand how to cater to consumers as their interests change.

Read on to discover why understanding your community through identity resolution is part of the winning formula that leads to sustainable business growth.

Understanding Identity Resolution

How well can you truly know your online community if you don’t analyze each individual? That’s where identity resolution comes in.

“Identity resolution offers a 360-degree view of an individual and the ability to effectively identify a person across multiple devices by recognizing and connecting individual data points, allowing marketers and publishers to form a clear idea of who their customers are on an individual level — and more importantly, how, where and when to best reach them,” Digiday explains.

In other words, media companies can piece together consumer identities and behaviors on their properties to get a complete understanding of their communities.

The identity resolution process offers insight into what types of content and experiences are most impactful on consumers. If you can gather a detailed view of your online visitors, you can meet your community’s ever-changing needs.

The Hidden Power of Known Visitors

Between the consumers coming and going from your digital properties on different devices and those toggling between browsers, it can feel practically impossible to keep tabs on your audience.

Now consider how simple this process could be if your anonymous visitors had to register for premium features or events on your platform.

With a registration process in place, your visitors will no longer be anonymous as they travel and interact across your site’s pages. 

Transforming your anonymous visitors into known users comes with a handful of benefits for media companies. One significant advantage is that you’ll have more information on your audience members, which can be used to improve their experience with your brand. 

And using identity resolution to customize on-site experiences for consumers is key to boosting subscription revenueAccording to subscription solutions provider Piano’s research, the average conversion rate of registered users is 10x that of anonymous visitors,” writes Faisal Kalim, a business journalist from What’s New In Publishing.

Prioritizing User Registrations in a World Without Third-Party Cookies

Having a firm grasp of your community’s identity is essential to securing the future of both your subscription and ad revenues.

Until recently, third-party data has been a primary way for businesses to gather information on visitors. With the ongoing move to phase third-party cookies out across internet browsers, using first-party data to understand and track visitors is a clear, sustainable step forward. 

Converting anonymous visitors to registered users is an effective way to gather that first-party data, keep track of your users and match their movements and information to your subscriber list. After all, the last thing anyone wants is a disconnected view of user behavior as they register, subscribe and switch between devices. 

“Registration is part of the funnel to growing reader engagement and donations while improving advertising quality and targeting so the benefit will be twofold to both strands of revenue,” explains Alice Pickthall, a senior analyst at a subscription research company.

A registration process offers insight into each community member. As a result, you can provide them with personalized, consistent experiences that suit their interests and behaviors. 

You can also work with your advertisers to produce high-performing, targeted ads based on your community’s data.

The better a company understands its visitors, the better it can target ads to them and engage them, improving the experience for community members, staff and advertisers.

How Viafoura Can Help

Not all community-building and engagement solutions in the media landscape will offer you access to your community’s first-party data. 

At Viafoura, we know that your on-site audience data controls the fate of your business. That’s why our engagement solution gives you complete access to your user data while meeting your information security and compliance needs. 

Our engagement tools also offer flexible login options, allowing anyone to register to use our engagement tools on partner websites. The Viafoura solution can connect to your subscription service as well for a unified, consistent view of your community. 

Ultimately, identity resolution can help to inform your business decisions, strengthening your community and revenue streams. To start learning about your visitors’ identities and using that knowledge to build a thriving community, get in touch with Viafoura.

The State of Consumers in the Streaming Wars (and How to Win Them Over)

If you’re an organization that is knee-deep in the streaming wars, the one thing you should be laser-focused on to give yourself an edge over your competition is the very basic thing you seek: consumers.

By now, you’re probably no stranger to the streaming wars raging between old and new video-viewing services. From Netflix, DAZN and Amazon Prime Video to Disney+, Crave and everything in between, the fight for consumers blazes across the media-streaming industry. Which services are best set to win this battle? That answer is still very much unclear

If you’re an organization that is knee-deep in the streaming wars, the one thing you should be laser-focused on to give yourself an edge over your competition is the very basic thing you seek: consumers. 

It may seem obvious, and it is consumers are the foundation of every streaming service. They are the ones who will decide who becomes the top platform, and they are the engine that will allow their preferred services to become even stronger. So if you can get into the consumer’s brain, you will be able to use that to your advantage and stand a fighting chance amidst all the competition in the streaming wars. 

Want to know what consumers are really thinking when it comes to streaming services? Rest assured, because we’ve got the answers.

Streaming Subscription Fatigue is a Very Real Problem For Consumers

In October, a survey by TV Time and United Talent Agency dug into data from over 6,000 respondents in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. The results showed that people are getting overwhelmed by the abundance of subscription services that are either available or launching in the near future. 

While 85% of consumers surveyed in the study are already subscribed to one streaming service, only 42% of them expressed a willingness to pay for an additional one. Also, only 20% were willing to pay for two, and only 4% were willing to pay for three. 

With most consumers unwilling to purchase more than two or three streaming subscriptions at a time, it’s becoming a challenge for people to decide what services are worth paying for. In fact, 70% of those surveyed admitted that they felt there were too many options to choose from. 

By juggling several streaming subscriptions at a time, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most consumers feel like subscription costs are getting out of hand. 

Due to all the video-viewing platforms overwhelming consumers, your best bet to succeeding in the streaming wars is to put your audience at the forefront of your business plan. Here are a few ways to do this: 

Prioritize Audience Awareness

With so many streaming platforms available, and so many more set to launch (Disney+, HBO Max, NBCU’s Peacock and Quibi to name a few), educating your audience is crucial to your success. 

Consider this: it used to be fairly simple to find past seasons of Blossom or Dawson’s Creek when there were only a few streaming services, but now the consumer needs to be a diligent search expert to find what they’re looking for. According to Forbes, “awareness is a first-step indicator to whether or not a consumer will subscribe.”

So be sure to clearly communicate and promote why your platform’s features and content library is unique from the countless other streaming services out there. It may seem obvious to you, but consumers are still unaware of many streaming services that are launching soon. 

Optimize Your Platform for Engagement

On its own, content is valuable, but isn’t enough to retain your audience.

Go the extra mile for your subscribers by embedding an immersive and valuable community experience directly on your platform. Use moderated tools like live commenting, live chats as well as ratings and reviews to build and connect that community of like-minded individuals together. Allow your audience to be part of the viewing experience, not just people who lean back and watch. 

By providing different ways to engage with your content and fellow audience members, you can encourage consumers to build loyal habits and lasting, meaningful connections to your platform. 

Know Your Viewers

We can’t stress the importance of your first-party data enough. When it comes to content-streaming services, understanding your consumers will help you to better serve them. And the best way to do so is with data.

Netflix, for instance, is constantly assessing viewer preferences to improve what content it presents. They even have a cultural anthropologist on staff to gain a deeper understanding of their audience. The result is a highly personalized experience that offers viewers an easier time finding shows and movies that interest them. 

Inc., a magazine for small businesses and startups, also reports that 61% of customers are willing to give their information in exchange for personalized experiences. And with the loss of third-party cookies, your best bet is to look to the data available on your own platform. 

So dig into the data from your content and engagement tools to gain insights into your audience’s behavior, and refine the content discovery and viewing experiences. This highlights how important it is for streaming services to have a vibrant and engaged community where their audiences discuss and share their likes, dislikes and real feelings about the content. 

“As content discovery becomes more of a challenge in this environment, we need to better understand viewership patterns across platforms and how to best serve people the right content at the right time,” says Alex von Kroh, the VP of a video data solution company.

The more personal and effortless you can make your consumers’ streaming experience, the more likely they are to be loyal to your platform. The ultimate goal is to make your platform part of their daily life, not just another transactional stop along the way.

If you aren’t focused on your consumers, they won’t be focused on you. 


RELATED: What We Can Learn From Pirate Sites

You Got New Engagement Tools, Now What?

With the decline of trust in social media advertising, media organizations are exploring new technologies ⁠— specifically on-site engagement tools that build audiences on their own platforms.

With the decline of trust in social media advertising, media organizations are exploring new technologies ⁠— specifically on-site engagement tools that build audiences on their own platforms.

A recent survey by PEW Research Center has revealed that skepticism towards social media continues to grow. In fact, according to the survey, “six-in-ten (62%) [Americans] say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news that people see.”

Media organizations are growing frustrated as big tech companies change their algorithms, fail to moderate toxicity properly and exercise complete control over how often and where their content is appearing. It’s no surprise that media organizations are ready for a change. 

Businesses have, nevertheless, started shifting away from advertising revenue and towards subscription-driven models, where visitors are nurtured and grown into a thriving digital community. 

And what better way to grow a community than with on-site engagement tools? 

If you’ve invested in tools to help build a thriving community on your own platforms, don’t celebrate just yet — this is only the beginning of your engagement solution. You’re probably wondering what your next steps should be. Well, we’re about to give you the low-down on how to make the most of your engagement tools:

1. Define Your Community Engagement Goals

Every good audience engagement solution starts with a plan. So the first step, even before you purchased your tools, is to clearly define your community engagement goals.

Do you want to drive ad loads by maximizing pageviews? Increase depth of visit or visit frequency (a.k.a. loyalty)? Or perhaps you’re aiming to drive registration or subscription conversions and even prevent churn.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to return to the basics and set some relevant goals. After all, the way you implement and measure audience engagement will be greatly influenced by what you’re aiming to achieve. 

Our industry experts strongly advise against using on-site engagement tools without a clear strategy and goal. Otherwise, the major benefits of these tools may slip away, right between your fingers.

2. Ensure Your Community Guidelines Are in Tip-Top Shape

By opening up your platforms to engagement, you’ll learn more about your users and improve how invested they are in your brand. However, the onus to protect these engaging spaces from trolls and toxic behavior falls on you. 

In order to properly protect your brand and encourage participation, your community needs to know what rules they should be following. And you need to know how strict any moderation should be. For instance, sports news organizations may want weaker moderation to allow for friendly debates, but still prevent offensive discourse and harassment. The choice is ultimately yours and will differ between companies. 

By investing some effort into carefully crafting community guidelines and enforcing comment moderation, you can expect to see more revenue funneling into your company’s pockets as users become hooked. 

Not sure where to begin? You can find community guideline-setting best practices here

3. Perfect Your Conversion Strategy

After you’ve set goals for your on-site engagement tools and have your community guidelines in place, it’s time to establish the ultimate conversion strategy for your platform. 

Work with your paywall and engagement tool providers to come up with and implement a conversion strategy that best suits your business model. 

Whether you’re looking to convert visitors to registrants, members or subscribers, you need to decide what type of conversion message should pop up and how strict your paywall (if any) should be. You may also want to consider having your engagement tools feed highly engaged visitors as well as churn-ready subscribers to your paywall. 

Creating a conversion strategy can be complex and may require some trial and error on your part; however, if done correctly, it will absolutely pay off in the long run.

Bloomberg Media, for instance, has seen tremendous success with its conversion strategy in the past two years, which has tightened a paywall using 22 criteria. The media organization now credits two-thirds of their subscribers to website visits alone.

4. Watch the Metrics to Keep Visitors Engaged

You’re no stranger to your platform’s analytics, we get it. That said, there are some key metrics you can get from your engagement tools worth keeping an eye on. Media organizations that don’t pay attention to factors like active user engagement and civility trends are missing out on a big opportunity to keep their communities engaged in a valuable way. 

Rather than turning to social media for audience data, dig deeper into the information from your own platforms so that you can give people exactly what they want, when they’re ready for it. 

Your engagement data will help you to identify how well or poorly your content is being perceived by your audience. You can also re-engage inactive subscribers with personalized, special offers based on insights from your first-party data.

Keep in mind that it can cost up to five times the amount of resources to attract new consumers than keep old ones.

As stated by the VP of audience development and analytics at Condé Nast, “it is always much easier to retain somebody than to bring in someone new, because they already value and trust you, and they want to engage with your content and your product, versus trying to convince somebody why they should subscribe or join.” 

5. Highlight Examples of Top Engagement/Community Members

Strengthen relationships directly within your online community by highlighting good behavior on your platform. 

You can try rewarding users with special badges that identify them as trusted community members. Or, showcase top comments on threads to help your users feel valued. This will help you to build trust and interest within your community. 

Once you have your engagement tools, your platform will transform into a place for people to interact with trustworthy content, establish relationships with others and become important community members. 

Yet, the most effective on-site engagement tools can’t be left to run on their own. They need to be backed by strategy, community guidelines and actionable insights. Planning, testing and refining your business’ audience engagement process must be a constant effort. That way, your business can evolve as the industry evolves.


RELATED: Your Guide to Building and Engaging an Online Community

What We Can Learn From Pirate Sites

Currently, the internet is littered with pirate sites that offer viewers free, often illegal access to TV shows, movies, live sports and music. These sites also include audience engagement solutions to build invested communities. What consumers often fail to realize though, is that by streaming something for free, their seemingly insignificant action becomes part of a much larger problem: billions of people are contributing to digital theft. That theft is making it extremely challenging for content owners and legitimate streaming services to succeed. 

MUSO, an anti-piracy watchdog organization, found that just this past June the movie Detective Pikachu was downloaded a whopping four million times via pirate sites. That’s a potential four million consumers that should be (but probably aren’t) paying to watch the movie in theaters or accessing it through subscription services.

“It would seem that a lot of modern-day pirates are merely frazzled parents who wouldn’t dream of stealing their Friday night bottle of chilled Riesling from the grocery store but don’t want to pay the same amount to watch the latest TV phenomenon,” says Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO. “Online piracy is like taking candy from a baby.”

Unfortunately, pirate sites tend to offer more than an often all-encompassing library of media: they’re also experts at providing a great user experience for their visitors. Streaming something illegally is almost too easy thanks to their audience engagement solutions. 

If media streaming service providers want to be successful in this highly competitive climate, here’s what they need to do before they can walk in the right direction: 

Leverage an Audience Engagement Solution

One area that pirate sites excel at is building communities around their content. While regular streaming providers can’t compete with the breadth of content found within pirate sites, they can do a better job at engaging and building their own communities.

Many of these pirate sites rely on commenting tools and comment forums like Reddit, where consumers often go to find illegal streams. Highly engaging conversations are then built as people say thanks to those who provide the streams as well as comment on the overall quality and content. By providing people with valuable content, and engaging them, pirate sites are able to convert visitors into loyal community members and advocates.

Some pirate sites also use commenting as well as rating and review tools to allow their community members to help flag bad or fake files. This helps to build up visitors’ trust towards these platforms and encourages them to return.

Although these pirate sites spark an impressive audience engagement solution, it’s mostly based on people exchanging ideas over what content is worth stealing — which is a type of engagement that you don’t want to have on your platforms.

So why not beat these pirate sites at their own game? Give people valuable content that is enhanced with opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations. In other words, giving them a platform to engage with one another will allow them to form relationships around the content that they like or dislike.

Streaming experiences can then be enhanced. Think about implementing moderated commenting tools, live chats for sports or event coverage, live blogging or ratings and reviews.

Audiences love viewing your content and love talking about their favorite content. Make sure both of those activities are happening on your platforms.

Collect Data to Personalize the Experience

When it comes to an audience engagement solution for streaming service providers, personalization is key to building a superior experience for consumers.

Take sports games, for instance. The ability to target content based on a fan’s favorite team or player will allow you to significantly improve their experience just by understanding their likes and dislikes.

Pirate sites are completely free to users, which also means visitors often don’t need to login or develop an account to consume content. Those who visit pirate sites even make an effort to protect their identities using tools like VPNs or incognito mode. As a result, the majority of their audience is anonymous. Their visitors also run the risk of being infected by malware as many pirate sites make money by allowing hackers to put malicious code onto their platforms.

And that gives media organizations an advantage: the ability to create a much more personalized and pleasant user experience.

First-party audience engagement data will help you to not only curate a highly-relevant selection of content for consumers, but it will also allow you to understand general behavior on your platform to inform your content, subscription and retention strategies.

As you get to know your audience’s interests and build loyalty-driving habits, you can also identify which users are no longer engaging with your content and are likely to churn. This information can then be used to send your known users exclusive content, a custom offer or discount to keep them invested in your brand.

Pirate sites aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So give consumers a compelling reason to dish out some money in exchange for your content.

Interested in learning more about audience engagement solutions? Then check out this article: Audience Engagement Data is About to Amp Up Sports Media.

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