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.

Do You Have What It Takes To Build a Thriving Digital Community?

Every digital audience is flowing with revenue-generating power. Whether that power remains untapped or is harnessed to grow your company depends on how well you can transform your audience into a thriving digital community

Future plc, for example, grew its online audience by 56% in one year by nurturing its digital communities with worthwhile content and experiences.

But building and sustaining a profitable community online isn’t a simple walk in the park — it requires attention, effort and a carefully-crafted engagement strategy.

If you’re interested in securing loyal brand supporters and additional revenue-generation opportunities, we’ve created a checklist below that outlines everything you need to build a thriving digital community.

1. Social Tools for Your Owned and Operated Properties

2. Re-Engagement and Retention Techniques

3. A Process for Understanding Your Audience

4. Personalized User Experiences Based on First-Party Data

5. Comment Moderation

1. Social Tools for Your Owned and Operated Properties

You can’t form an active digital community if people don’t feel connected to your brand. For this reason, media companies must encourage their audience members to forge strong relationships with one another right on their websites or apps.  

Adopting conversation-based engagement tools like commenting widgets, live chat tools, and live blogs will allow your company to establish meaningful social connections between your audience members and brand.

A recent analysis of Viafoura data even revealed that people who interact with social tools online have a 20-40% higher retention rate after six months of visiting a site compared to those who do not.

2. Re-Engagement and Retention Techniques

With an abundance of media companies and services competing for your subscriber’s dollar, preventing churn is a constant struggle.

Take video streamers, for example. 

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, consumers paid for around five streaming services in 2020. And yet, nearly half of the consumers surveyed canceled at least one of them that same year.

It’s important to have a strategy in place to re-engage your community members when their engagement levels begin to drop. That way, you can keep people away from your competitors by gently nudging their focus back toward your brand. 

Consider working with your engagement tool provider to find out when a user becomes unengaged. Once you identify your inactive subscribers or registrants, you can send out targeted offers and content to re-engage them.

3. A Process for Understanding Your Audience

As is true with any connection in the physical world, the relationship between your company and its community members shouldn’t be one-sided. After all, you can’t expect your audience to give you their loyalty, data or money without getting something valuable in return. 

And how could you possibly know what your audience wants if you don’t collect their first-party data, monitor their comments and speak with them to discover their interests?

To fully understand your community members and meet their needs, you’ll also need to turn anonymous visitors into known, registered visitors.

In fact, Piano, a subscription service provider, reports that, on average, registered users are 10x more likely to convert than an anonymous visitor. 

Organizations that use a proper identity management system will have a clear, 360-degree view of audience members and their interests.

4. Personalized User Experiences Based on First-Party Data

Once you have a steady stream of first-party audience data coming in, you can draw actionable insights to personalize the on-site experience for your community members.

“This way, audience fragments become super-served niches and loyal viewers become VIP members — who will stick around and pay off in the long term,” explains Rande Price, research director at the Digital Context Next trade organization. 

It’s also worth noting that people are hungry for personalized experiences. 

According to a research expert on Statista, 90% of U.S. consumers perceive content personalization in marketing to be appealing.

Producing customized experiences around your audience’s behavior will, therefore, keep them coming back to your digital properties for relevant content time and time again.

5. Comment Moderation

Your social tools are critical for forming strong connections between your community members; however, not every internet user will leave positive and productive comments. And unfortunately, toxic comments can damage your digital community.

The Pew Research Center states that one in every ten people will abandon an online service if they see nearby offensive behavior.

Safeguard your brand’s integrity and keep your social spaces inviting by enforcing your community guidelines through an effective moderation system.

We would recommend selecting a moderation system that can immediately detect all 6.5 million variations of each word. It should also be able to evolve alongside your community and understand sentence context for maximum protection.

Whether your end goal is to achieve sustainable revenue growth or simply to serve your audience members better, your success depends on the state of your digital community. The more engaged and connected your community members are, the more valuable they’ll find your membership program or subscription package to be.

The truth is that anyone can create a thriving digital community. All it takes is connecting our business to the right engagement, data-collection and personalization strategies.

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