What Traditional Media Companies Can Learn From Social Media Companies?

Over the past decade plus, we’ve seen social media evolve from a trend that kept people connected to arguably the most important and influential medium in modern society. More than just a way to share photos with friends, social media has grown into a space to share information, exchange ideas, and discover new communities. As we’ve seen from countless newspapers who failed to adapt to creating online content, traditional media companies can still learn a lot from social media organizations.

How social media changed consumption

Social media has changed not only the way we interact with each other, but also the way that content is consumed. For better or worse, many users want quick digestible content that they have the option of learning more through either a link to more longform content or the opportunity to react and discuss with other community members. That said, we’re now seeing a growth of social media intelligence, where most users are aware of lazy tactics such as clickbait or misleading headlines, and will have negative emotions towards any organization attempting to generate attention this way.

A traditional media company may look at a social media organization and see that audiences want quick, digestible content and find frustration in the fact that users aren’t sharing their content no matter how digestible it may be. However, these organizations are missing one key factor that social media companies thrive on.

The most successful social media companies thrive because they are able to target users with not just any digestible content, but content that matches their specific interests. By finding out what it is that each user wants to read, enjoys seeing, and is open to discussing, social media organizations can curate each user’s individual feed to provide an onslaught of content designed specifically for them. While this level of personalization can come across as exceedingly intimidating for a small startup that doesn’t have the resources that larger social media brands do, the lesson comes down to one simple point.

Know your audience

By leveraging data from their community to create personalized news feeds, advertising and programming as well as building a group of like-minded individuals who have an interest in discussing and expanding on the shared content, traditional media companies can provide some of the curated content that users love to experience from their favourite social media platforms.

Personalization can turn into a habit forming retention strategy

Through creating a personalized landing page, organizations are able to build habit forming behavior for their users. Many of the most successful social media companies even take it a step further and implement some sort of notification tool such as the bell icon found on both YouTube and Twitter that will immediately alert those who opt-in of any new content through a push notification. It works as not only an effective retention strategy that keeps users coming back for more with daily frequency, but also helps to keep those same users informed on the most recent conversations so that they can contribute to discussions and assist in growing the community.

Typically, people enjoy some sort of routine and familiarity which is why name recognition, brand loyalty and ease of use are such important factors to how people choose to consume online content. What social media companies thrive at is forming habits that in turn help create this brand loyalty. If someone is checking a specific Twitter account for news every day, then they’re more likely to have a positive association with that person and any other content that they may create.

In conclusion

While quality of a product is always the most important thing, social media is teaching all of us that quantity carries far more weight than traditional media companies originally thought. The days of quarterly, monthly, or even weekly papers are a relic of the past, as users now want new content on demand every time they glance at a publication. By providing something new every day, even if it’s just a short blurb or discussion, organizations can give their users a reason to keep coming back and build that positive association and loyalty that all media companies strive for.

What is a value exchange moment?

Publishing in the digital age, not unlike advertising, has become a conversation between audiences and content providers. A conversation that’s full of opportunities to form substantial and lasting relationships, that is – as long as both sides stand to benefit from a value exchange. Through entertainment, information and fostering a sense of community, it’s up to publishers to give audiences something worthwhile for what they have to offer as digital individuals: unique, rich, first party data.

If publishers are able to create interest, garner engagement, and earn subscriptions and all the first party data that comes with them, they gain a huge advantage. Continued access to first party data will inform improvements to their audience development strategy and usher in new growth; growth in their following and subscriber base and inevitably a marked boost to ad and subscription revenues.

However, digital savvy consumers are hyper focused on protecting their privacy by knowing exactly who’s collecting their data and what it’s being used for. Just recently, fast food chain Tim Hortons came under fire for collecting data without proper consent. Users will typically agree to provide personal data only if they believe it’s worth what they get in exchange. This decision is what we refer to as a value exchange moment, a point in time where the end user decides if what they receive is worth their trust and, of course, their personal information.

While the value a publisher may traditionally provide is content, more and more we are seeing that community has become a huge draw for prospective subscribers. For example, a user who regularly engages with a publisher’s content has a higher propensity to become an active member of the publisher’s community by registering or subscribing. The social perks may vary, but a more nuanced value point is the sense of reassurance a trusted community gives to newcomers. When faced with a group of folks who share interests and values, all of whom consent to share their data with the publisher, anonymous but engaged users are likely to feel at ease when it comes to sharing their information. As publishers, it’s essential to provide high quality content to draw in leads, but the value of a thriving community to prospective subscribers is just as valuable when seamlessly guiding users toward registered and subscribed states.

Once anonymous users have been drawn in by interest-rich content and/or community, they agree to a value exchange and join the ranks of subscribers. With access to their audience’s first party data (e.g. how much time they spend on site, which pages they view, how they engage with sponsored content, etc.), publishers gain a far better understanding of their audience as individuals and cohorts alike. With this data, publishers need only keep their audience growth strategies and first party data strategies up to date in order to keep optimizing their content and retain registered users while continuing to recruit new subscribers.

Once immersed in the community, formerly anonymous but active engaged users become user generated content (UGC) contributors – another value point for prospects on the outside looking in. These contributors comment often and create posts of their own within the community, typically generating over 41 times more pageviews and 100 times the amount of ad impressions compared to anonymous users. As the numbers demonstrate in the funnel above, engagement improves exponentially as users move further along the registration process. By retaining user interest and engagement, publishers not only get closer to the value exchange moment that earns them subscriptions, but they also reap the rewards of substantial growth in impressions as their audience members move further along the funnel’s stages.

Publishers who understand that the potential to maximize their registration, retention, and revenue lies directly in this value exchange moment are on track to setting themselves up for success. So long as users – anonymous, engaged, or fully subscribed – are benefiting from a continued value exchange for their information, publishers can continuously use that self-replenishing well of information to improve their offerings and win big in both audience loyalty and business growth.

Are You Getting The Best Value Out Of Your Engagement Tools?

If you’ve invested in an audience engagement solution, you’re probably well aware of how important the data you collect from the platform will be for the future performance of your business. Insights into how your existing users engage with content and the community built around it allows you to optimise your strategy. An optimised content strategy means you’ll produce more content that should drive additional users to convert into loyal subscribers.

Making those strategic decisions requires the right platform so that you can collect those insights. You need a solution that helps you collect first-party data and analyse on-site user behaviour. With that data in hand, you can effectively maximise the 3Rs:

  1. Registrations
  2. Retention
  3. Revenue

So how do you ensure you’re getting the best value out of your engagement tools? Our latest infographic offers a helpful visual guide on what you need from your platform and how it can help achieve your overarching business goals.

The right audience engagement platform should provide strategic recommendations that you can use to help grow the nature of your business. The technology should help you answer the questions of how to grow registrations, retain existing users, and increase revenue as the end benefit for all of your hard work.

Your team should find daily value from their audience engagement platform. They should not only know how to use the platform, but they should also understand why there’s so much value to be gained from these solutions. You’ll know the platform is a success if your team:

  • Feels motivated to use the platform every day
  • Increases productivity across the entire spectrum of your business
  • Understands how each of the core features helps solve the underlying business needs
  • Has the desire to collaborate with other departments and gain the deepest understanding of user intent and behavioural insights

If answers to any of these questions are anything short of yes, it might be time to ask yourself a much harder question: do you have the right audience engagement solution? Remember that audience engagement is the first step towards monetisation and greater revenue for your business. Without a platform that can help you gain the necessary insights to make effective revenue-driven decisions, you will likely struggle to achieve those aspirational growth targets.

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.

How to overcome the most common hurdles of buying a new tech solution


  • 40% of companies that have experienced revenue loss lack the digital technologies needed to keep up with their competitors. 
  • Having budget restrictions, too many platforms or decision-makers to manage, vendor lock-in and the build-versus-buy dilemma all act as hurdles on the road to adopting new solutions. 
  • 50% of executives across industries will invest in technologies that give their enterprises an edge over their competitors and contribute to their digital transformations.
  • On average, companies use 110 different software solutions at a time. 
  • Companies must reduce the complexity of their technology assessment and buying processes to overcome their business problems.

Regardless of your industry, odds are there’s software that can help you address any challenge and boost company-wide results. In fact, every business’s survival has become largely dependent on the technologies they rely on to grow, improve processes and earn revenue.  

But some business leaders are hesitant to adopt new tech solutions, which can negatively affect their bottom lines. According to McKinsey & Company, 40% of organizations that have seen significant revenue loss in the past few years lagged behind their competitors when it came to their use of digital technologies.

That said, buying a new tech solution can spark a wide range of challenges, resulting in organizations delaying the purchasing process and leaving major problems unresolved. 

“If you’re unwilling to use SaaS products to explore ways to improve the value your business delivers, you’re potentially missing out on a lot of learning and growth,” says Dan Seaman, VP of product management at Viafoura. 

So we compiled a list of the main challenges organizations encounter when adopting a new tech solution, and how to overcome them.

Budget restrictions

Having a tight budget can create a major mental barrier for professionals and deter them from buying the technologies they need to resolve recurring business challenges. 

Yet many organization leaders understand the importance of taking on new tech solutions. McKinsey & Company reports that over 50% of business executives are willing to invest in solutions that offer them competitive advantages or can further their digital transformations.

A quick fix:

With so many executives pushing for the adoption of digital tools that can better their companies, you may be able to get some wiggle room in your budget through a convincing business case. The most persuasive ones zero in on the potential value and ROI of the technology in question.

“Some vendors offer revenue-share models that cost zero dollars to use… and split the risk and reward between customer and vendor,” Seaman explains. “This type of model removes the mental barrier of having to get more budget and do ROI calculations.”

Business presentation in front of group of people.

Managing too many platforms

Statista reports that enterprises all over the world rely on an average of 110 different SaaS applications. 

Taking on a complex new tool that will change internal workflows in an environment with dozens of other software solutions can be highly off-putting to an organization’s workforce, and may result in pushback from staff.

A quick fix:

Focus on adopting streamlined, intuitive platforms that prevent teams from getting overwhelmed by its features or from needing extensive training. Tech solutions that offer users a frictionless log-in and authentication experience as well as drag-and-drop front-end tools can also help reduce the overall complexity of a platform.

Too many decision-makers

When assessing a tech solution, every interested stakeholder will have different types of questions and concerns. So if a large number of these decision-makers are involved in the buying process, it can complicate and delay the potential adoption of a solution.

A quick fix:

Alex Lea, a senior account representative at Viafoura, outlines that the easiest way to speed up the buying process with multiple decision-makers is to be upfront about who will be making the purchasing decision. 

“By being forward about the people who are (involved in the buying discussion), vendor representatives can focus on what’s actually going to solve their problems,” Lea says.

Vendor lock-in

Many organizations can become so dependent on a single software vendor that moving to another seems nearly impossible.

A quick fix:

Avoid vendor lock-in by making sure your company will be able to own and access all relevant data from a potential solution in a portable, usable format.

“If everything the vendor does is opaque and is locked in, that’s a risk,” Seaman says. “If you know you can export all of your data to another vendor, that risk is eliminated.”

The build-versus-buy conflict

It can be challenging to decipher whether it’s worthwhile to go the final mile and purchase a tech solution or build one in-house with or without open-source code. Unfortunately, this conflict may stop business leaders from adopting a robust product that will ultimately save them money and time in the long run.

A quick fix:

Even through an open-source solution, creating a tech product in-house requires hidden time and cost investments around infrastructure and support. Plus, open-source software typically doesn’t give organizations access to their data or rich solutions that offer substantial value. 

To find the best path forward for your business, weigh the importance of data ownership and the benefits of building versus buying a solution against the existing resources that you have.

Are you winning the attention war with competitive digital experiences for your audience?


  • Media companies must provide extraordinary digital experiences that compete with Big Tech organizations to win audience attention and revenue. 
  • First-party data can tell organizations how, where and when they can engage audiences on a personalized level; however, only 25% of companies are data-driven. 
  • Interactive and social experiences can add value to publisher properties. 
  • Customers who use Viafoura engagement tools experience up to a 364% boost in time visitors spend on their web pages each week and 248% more page views.
  • 80% of all user registrations happen on pages that have digital engagement tools.
  • Publishers must prioritize engaging users on their own websites and apps over Big Tech platforms to reinforce their direct connections with audiences. 
  • By teaming up with Viafoura, media organizations can deliver memorable digital experiences for audiences in a highly profitable and sustainable manner.

No matter what type of content a publisher produces, every media company is striving for the same goal: to earn human attention. 

But your organization is competing with far more than other media organizations to win the attention of advertisers and subscribers. It’s also up against any other company that serves people outstanding digital experiences, like Netflix, Amazon and social media platforms. 

And the only way to give your organization an edge over its competitors is to provide users with frequent digital experiences that are highly captivating. Without doing so, your media company will lose the attention of potential audiences and advertisers — as well as their associated revenue — to companies that offer better user experiences. 

“Gone are the days where you could simply create a set of content, put up a paywall, wait for people to arrive,” says Edward Roussel, head of digital strategy and development at The Times and The Sunday Times. “You’ve got to work really hard to catch people’s attention.”

Here’s how your media organization can effectively add value to its online community and secure attention, advertisers and subscribers by creating captivating digital experiences.

Follow an engagement blueprint based on first-party data

The most engaging digital experiences for audiences are often built around their unique interests and habits. But guesswork isn’t enough to help you determine what types of experiences will actually resonate with your media company’s users. 

That’s where data comes in. 

By collecting different types of first-party user data and extracting actionable insights, you can inform and strengthen your business’s community engagement plan. This is essential for bolstering registration, subscription, onboarding, customer retention and ad engagement strategies. 

First-party data can give your organization a clear picture of your audience members and their preferences, which can be fed into their experiences around your brand to win their ongoing attention in the future.

“Once we understand who (the customer) persona is, then we can walk through the customer journey to make sure we’ve got the right content, at the right time, on the right channel, to build that relationship between your brand and your target audience,” says Michael Beckerman, Torstar’s chief client officer. 

Unfortunately, the International News Media Association highlights that only 25% of organizations are led by their data. 

Media leaders must start embracing their first-party data now especially as third-party cookies die out — if they hope to power highly personalized, engaging experiences that can transform passive visitors into active, loyal brand advocates

Man reading news on mobile device

Elevate user experiences with interactive opportunities

To earn consumer attention consistently, media companies may want to consider investing in user experiences that involve an interactive component. These interactive or social opportunities — think push notifications, comments, likes, replies and author follows — encourage people to stay interested in content for longer and return to a website or app after leaving. 

In fact, a Viafoura study reveals that digital engagement tools can boost audience interest significantly, resulting in: 

  • A 364% increase in time spent on customer web pages each week
  • A 248% boost in weekly page views
  • Notable user registration growth, with 80% of all registrations taking place on pages that have on-site engagement tools

Since publishers can build visitor habits through subtle, interactive digital tools, the value of their properties can grow over time as these experiences become a part of their audience members’ daily routines. 

“The most successful (subscription programs) are supported by consumer experience strategies that create the stickiness necessary to keep customers hooked, happy and renewing,” shares West Monroe, a consulting firm, in a report on the state of subscription services.

Host engaging digital experiences directly on your website or app

Although it’s crucial to develop interactive experiences to succeed in the media industry, not all engaging spaces across the internet are worth investing in. 

For instance, engaging followers on social media or another third-party platform does not offer your company complete control over its audience, data, content or related revenue. 

Rather than relying on these third-party platforms, media companies need to start hosting engaging experiences directly on their owned and operated websites and apps for greater access to their communities and profits. Otherwise, organizations won’t have the resources they need to understand and consistently attract their audience members.

According to a media reporter at Digiday, “(publishers) are finding the direct access to readers — away from competing social media algorithms — can serve as an honest way to see what readers want most and are adopting their subscription businesses to meet those needs.”

John Witherow, The Times of London’s editor-in-chief, also reports that more than half of consumers don’t remember what news brands publish the stories they read on Big Tech platforms, which threatens the identity of media companies.

Organizations hoping to connect to their audiences with competitive and memorable experiences must, therefore, prioritize digital engagement on their own properties. 

Your media company doesn’t have to build out highly competitive digital experiences on its own, though. By embracing Viafoura’s suite of digital experience tools, your organization can continuously amplify the value of its website or app and strengthen its profitable, long-term relationship with audiences.

The Most Effective Retention Strategies for Publishers

As a publisher, you’ve worked hard to create valuable and exciting content. You’ve likely worked even harder to funnel visitors to your site and turn them into paying users. Now you face the biggest challenge of all:

Retaining and engaging your prized subscribers.

There are dozens of retention strategies that publishers can implement to keep their users from clicking the dreaded “unsubscribe” button. Still, not all of them are equally robust. We’ve gathered a few of our favorite and most effective retention strategies below.

Find and Use the Right Engagement Tools

When most publishers think about community building and engagement tools, they think of social media. Social platforms are highly effective because users can’t help checking for the latest updates. The fear of missing out (FOMO) has become one of the most potent audience development and engagement tools.

While social media can help you build an online community or encourage subscribers to develop brand loyalty, it’s not the ideal strategy. Since most of the interactions happen off-site, you have very little access to first-party data and user information.

Why is first-party data so critical? At its core, it’s far more valuable and insightful than third-party data, and it’s yours. It’s the one way you can reliably learn about your audience’s tastes, interests, and habits. It’s also useful for developing personalized experiences through hyper-targeted audience segments.

Additionally, with the fast-approaching end of third-party cookies, gathering data through an external middleman will soon become nearly impossible. So, what can you do instead? Luckily, there are a few other options to keep your users engaged with on-site engagement tools and strategies.

Provide a Personalized Experience Right from the Start

Onboarding a new subscriber and providing them with a personalized experience is one of the most effective yet most underutilized strategies to turn a conversion into a loyal, paying user. According to the American Press Institute (API), fewer than 20% of publishers provide subscribers with personalized content recommendations, newsletters, or discounts.

Similarly, over 90% of publishers realize that onboarding is an invaluable part of the retention process. While 78% typically send a welcome email, less than a quarter tell new subscribers about the benefits they receive or the materials they can now access.

You need to make your audience feel valuable right from the start, and personalization is the best way to do so.

Add Value With Push Notifications and Newsletters

It can take up to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. That’s almost two-thirds of a year! That’s also how long you’ll need to constantly remind users to keep visiting your site before they’ll start doing it out of habit.

Okay, so that’s not true for all subscribers. However, most people just don’t have the time to check a site for the latest news or content every day, especially if the content isn’t always in line with their interests.

With personalized, curated push notifications and newsletters, you can let subscribers know if there’s something they might be interested in seeing. Not only will they feel more valued, but they’re also more likely to start checking your site for new and exciting content habitually.

Most importantly, they won’t want to lose access and will be more likely to renew their subscription when it becomes due.

Focus on Building a Community

We know that most publishers use subscription models to generate an income from their content. However, that shouldn’t be your only goal. If you focus on your audience and foster interaction, you’ll build a much stronger community.

While social media is one of the best places to do so, it doesn’t have to be the only one. There are several ways you can encourage interaction amongst subscribers through exclusive membership areas, virtual events, video tutorials, or webinars. Even something as simple as a comment section can impact your engagement rates, develop your audience, and help you build a community.

Analyze Your Results to Improve Retention Even More

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a 100% retention rate? As impressive as that sounds, it’s nearly impossible. Even large, global publishers lose subscribers somewhat continually. Instead of becoming discouraged by a canceled or lost subscription, analyze the data to gain insight into why it happened.

The biggest reason for churn is unengaged subscribers. According to API, over 50% of publishers don’t know how to identify at-risk subscribers accurately. If you pinpoint and engage these users, you can significantly increase your retention rates.

Final Word

We’ve shared some of our top retention strategies for publishers and even a few helpful tips. With the right tools, you can improve audience development, enhance your community-building activities, and decrease churn.

Warning Signs That Your Audience Isn’t Reaching Its Full Revenue-Generating Potential

With the proper engagement and retention strategies in place, your audience has the power to sustain your media company financially. 

“Consumer revenue streams, including digital subscriptions and ticketed live events, are increasingly important to news organizations as reliance on traditional advertising revenues continues to decrease,” explains Angelica Irizarry, the Inquirer’s director of events.

There’s a clear connection between active audiences and elevated revenue. However, not all media organizations are tapping into the full value of their digital communities.

Keep your eyes open for the following warning signs, which indicate that your media company may be losing out on potential revenue from its community.

High Churn Rates

Your existing subscribers are often more valuable than new subscribers. 

“It can cost five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one,” reads an article on Forbes. 

In other words, having high churn in your digital community can translate to significant revenue loss for media companies. 

So if your company has an unusually high churn rate, you may want to consider reinforcing your retention strategy. 

Work with your engagement tool and paywall providers to identify unengaged community members that may be about to churn, and then send them unique offers and discounts to re-engage them. That way, you’ll maximize the revenue your existing customers are funneling into your organization.

High Amounts of Toxicity in the Comments

If you notice a climbing number of user-generated posts getting disabled by your moderation system, odds are, your digital social spaces are infested with trolls or spam.

Allowing offensive comments to overtake the meaningful, productive conversations within your digital properties can scare away advertisers and community members. And that means less revenue for your company in the long run.

“You can protect your social spaces by keeping your community guidelines up to date and ensuring your moderation system can properly enforce them,” says Leigh Adams, director of moderation services at Viafoura. “To discourage trolling behavior, moderators and editors can also highlight and reward positive behavior whenever possible.”

Your Most Engaged Audience Is Coming From Social Media

We’re well aware that social media holds millions of active users and advertising opportunities for brands. But this comes at the cost of precious first-party data, direct relationships with audience members, trust and, ultimately, complete revenue ownership. 

Having social media at the center of your community engagement strategy jeopardizes your company’s control over audience members and over any of the revenue earned from them.

Instead of giving a portion of your profits to big tech companies, there’s a better alternative for media companies: to invest in their own properties. 

That’s what led one media to build a brand-new podcasting app rather than relying on a third-party podcast streamer. 

“We needed it to be an experience that we control so we built apps to do this and the experience of doing the discovery, the experience of convenience, the experience of actually being in the Zetland universe when you listen to it, I think it’s quite important,” states Zetland CEO Tav Klitgaard. 

Companies can even replicate the social experiences offered by social media directly on their own properties with the help of audience development companies like Viafoura, to keep visitors on their sites and interacting for longer.

Engagement Spaces Aren’t Being Leveraged for Ads

Integrating audience engagement tools into your website or app can help your organization activate interest and conversation around your brand. However, some media companies don’t realize that there’s a significant amount of advertising revenue that can be earned from audiences through these tools.

By failing to run advertisements in these social spaces, you’re missing out on the opportunity to maximize engagement around your ads. Organizations can instead become more successful by advertising to highly engaged community members. 

“Today advertising value is measured by engagement so if publishers want to improve their ad offering, they must devise a successful engagement strategy first,” says Chris Waiting, CEO of The Conversation U.K. 

As you work to build, retain and monetize community members, keep your eyes open for warning signs that your company may be losing out on potential profit. Adjusting your business strategies accordingly will help you increase the revenue your organization can earn from its audience. 

The Different Ways You Can Monetize Your Audience

If you take a good look around the media industry, you may notice something social media and other big tech companies are no longer dependable revenue sources. This is the time to break away from mainstream advertising tactics and, instead, begin investing in your own digital properties and audience… before it’s too late.

Ultimately, those who control how users are engaging with their platforms will be most likely to survive in the long run.

Forbes even reports that there’s a “direct and proven correlation between the level of customer engagement and business profitability.”

Profitability starts with consumer engagement. Unfortunately, there are still many media organizations that have yet to tap directly into user engagement-related revenue. Look below for a breakdown of the simple ways you can monetize your engaged audience on your own platform.


Use Conversation Tools

People who read comments represent your most engaged audience. With 10% of a platform’s total attention time originating from comments, it’s easy to understand why live conversation widgets are so valuable to media companies. 

And yet, many media players hold negative perceptions about these types of interactive tools. Individuals tend to see conversation tools as a way to tolerate discussion that’s been riddled by trolls, bots and harassment. But in reality, conversation tools that are properly moderated can be a goldmine for user engagement and, therefore, revenue. 

Conversation tools that use advanced moderation systems also ensure that the quality of discussion between audience members is high. 

Take your conversation tools to the next level by embedding ads between comments. A quick and easy way to boost your company’s earnings is to embed cheap advertisements into these spaces on high-performing content pages.

When we think about monetizing the comment area, it’s a way to isolate your most engaged audience and put ads in front of them,” says Dan Seaman, product director of engagement tools at Viafoura.


Link Engagement Tools to Your Registration System

In addition to hosting live conversations, there’s a whole slew of user engagement tools that can help you maximize and monetize time spent on your digital properties. For instance, you may choose to use content recommendation tools, live chats or real-time blogging tools to keep your users interested in your offerings. 

Once you’ve selected which engagement tools best suit your business’ needs, we highly recommend that they be connected to your member or subscriber registration system. 

Your audience engagement tools and paywall provider should be able to work together to send registration messages to highly engaged users. They should also be able to alert you when a subscriber’s engagement drops and they may be about to churn. 

Implementing separate engagement and registration systems doesn’t mean that consumer dollars will start pouring in. To effectively  monetize your audience, your systems must work together to build engagement and send paywall messages to your most interested consumers when they’re ready to subscribe.

As the CEO of The New York Times puts it: “people don’t want things to be free, they want them to be easy.”


Create Subscription-Only Experiences 

Many media companies like Hearst and Time are planning to run subscriber-only, ‘premium’ experiences to connect with their paying audiences on a deeper level.

“So much of brand-building now is around community,” Thomas Ordahl, the chief strategy officer at a brand consulting company, tells Digiday. “The question is whether you can take all of the equity and then wrap other types of offers and services and benefits around it that become sources of revenue.” 

Whether your company relies on digital subscriber-only events (like an exclusive Q&A with a celebrity) or in-person experiences (like meetups with popular journalists), subscription-based experiences can help convince your consumers to pay. Some companies even reserve their engagement tools for subscribers. 


Collect User Data

First-party user data is the gift that keeps on giving to media companies. Not only does it allow businesses to learn more about audience members and serve them relevant content, it also improves the ability to advertise to users. 

This means that gathering insights on your  audience will make your digital property more appealing to other advertisers. Forget running your own advertisements on social media, where you have little control over your content and revenue.

“First-party data becomes the new currency and advertisers know where to buy the media at scale,” states Amit Kotecha, the marketing director at a publisher data company.

In general, the best way to monetize your audience is to make the most of user interactions on your own digital properties. The more opportunities you can give consumers to engage with your brand, the better.

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