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.

How To Leverage First-Party Data To Activate Your Audience

The days of social media companies profiting from publishers’ communities are over — and that’s a beautiful thing. Leaving behind the necessity to chase volume for ad impressions is pushing the publishing industry in a positive direction and presenting media companies with the chance to reclaim their positions of power for the first time in 20 years. Publishers now have the freedom to focus on producing great content and engaging audiences without being at the mercy of an algorithm or cookie.

The move towards a first-party data and revenue model relies on highly valuable content and incredible user experiences. Building a proprietary and high-resolution first-party audience that will attract advertisers and marketers, based on contextual and behavioural signals, is how publishers will reclaim their audience and generate new revenue opportunities in a post-cookie world. One of the best things that publishers can do today in preparation is to focus on increasing the volume, accuracy and recency of their first-party data gathering activities. 

Let’s break down the values of data volume, accuracy and recency: 

The value and volume of first-party data is clear; the more data that a publisher has to make available to buyers, the better. The value of data accuracy is also immense; it’s collected when users declare their interests, either directly or by their actions, and stored on the server-side regardless of how browsers or regulators evolve their privacy restrictions in the future. Finally, user data has a very short half-life, so media companies with audiences that return frequently will have an advantage with data recency — bringing users back to your website frequently will help to ensure that your audience data is fresh. 

Now, let’s review some of the ways that publishers are collecting first-party data today:


Newsletters have emerged as one of the most popular tactics for collecting first-party data. It’s a great strategy because newsletters capture registrations in a user-friendly way and provide a clear value exchange for readers. They also cement a direct relationship between the publisher and the user.

Registration Walls

Registration walls are becoming increasingly popular both as standalone tools and as a step along the paywall meter. Registration walls can be very effective in collecting first-party data but they can also undercut the relationship-building process with your audience and put a damper on data collection so they should be implemented carefully. As the value of first-party data increases, publishers may want to consider rebalancing their registration walls to ensure they’re maximizing the perceived value exchange for users.

Community Engagement and User-Generated Content

Community engagement and user-generated content (UGC) represent the most comprehensive and sustainable ways for publishers to build their first-party data stores. While some publishers previously shied away from community engagement and UGC in fear of the costs traditionally associated with managing online communities, modern automated moderation technology is making this process highly cost-effective — creating new and scalable opportunities for publishers to promote community engagement and generate valuable first-party data. 

We mentioned earlier that authenticated users allow publishers to store and track their activity on the server-side regardless of how browsers or regulators evolve their privacy restrictions in the future. Viafoura data shows that even the simplest implementations of audience engagement tools drive between 30 to 50 percent of all user registrations on our customer sites. 

Here’s some compelling data from Viafoura on how user engagement tools drive user engagement and retention: 

  • Engaged users spend three times as much time onsite than non-engaged users. 
  • Engaged users have a fifty percent retention rate in month two, versus three percent for non-engaged users, and even after six months, engaged user retention rates only dip to forty percent.
  • Registered users generate twenty times more page views and monthly time spent on site than non-registered users. User retention and frequency is crucial, and engaged and authenticated users are much more likely to return. 

Here’s the clincher: 

To leverage first-party data to activate their audience, publishers must offer value in exchange for the effort it takes for a user to register, and for their consent to collect. At Viafoura, we call these “value exchange moments” and we design our products to easily integrate these moments into your site. The landscape has changed. Building a value-driven relationship with your audience by creating a series of engagement opportunities is how you will reclaim your audience and revenue opportunities in a post-cookies world.

To learn more about how to build your first-party data strategy download The Publisher’s Guide to First-Party Data today.

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