What the true lifetime value of your digital audience looks like

Every audience member is a valuable potential source of revenue for your media organization. However, some users offer more value than others throughout their lifetime as readers. 

So which visitors should you invest the most time and energy into nurturing across your digital properties?

Dan Seaman, Viafoura’s VP of product management, says the value of a user is ultimately down to the dollars you earn from them, but he adds that user value can also be measured through the data and user-generated content (UGC) you can extract from them. 

“Someone who shares a lot of content might also be more valuable than someone who doesn’t because they’re essentially contributing free content into the digital experience for other users,” Seaman says.

So what does that mean for your organization?

The engagement gap between anonymous and registered users

While almost all audience members start as anonymous visitors, the faster you can convert them to registered users, the better.

In fact, Viafoura’s data team reveals that registered users are significantly more engaged than anonymous visitors, resulting in:

  • 11 times more page views
  • 3.7 times more days spent active on publisher properties
  • 18.5 times more time spent on-site

All that additional engagement is key for publishers to collect critical data and insights to better understand and serve their audience. 

“Being able to use that knowledge of your users to improve your content coverage and also inform the experience provides unique value-add,” Seaman explains. “By getting users to register, you’re also forming a direct relationship, meaning you can communicate with them, personalize their experiences based on their profiles and gather behavioural data around the content they engage with.”

This means that your registered users who offer superior data collection opportunities around their interactions — can inform your content and business strategies.  

Meanwhile, anonymous users can only be monitored with third-party cookies, which are no longer reliable forms of tracking since they’re coming to an end.

digital customer experience

The impact of audience engagement on your revenue streams

There’s a direct connection between your most engaged users and your ability to grow your advertising and subscription revenue. Your registered users are known and are more engaged than your anonymous, passive visitors. So they offer greater revenue-earning potential than your unknown readers. 

“The more engaged a user is, the more time they spend on-site, the more frequently they return, the more likely they are to subscribe, the more ad views they’ll generate,” Seaman says. “And the more you know about your audience as they interact with your site, the more you can target your ad campaigns.”

Advertisers will pay for premiums to target specific audience groups. Viafoura data highlights that each registered user can generate an average of 13.7 times more ad revenue than an anonymous user when publishers have three ads on a page. 

To maximize the lifetime value of a user from both reader and ad revenue perspectives, publishers need engagement tools to persuade their audience to register or subscribe.

Extending user value without cutting off engagement

Though many companies use registration walls and paywalls to persuade users to convert, interact and pay, these tactics can also cut off user engagement if they’re not deployed effectively.

Superior registration walls just block or blur out the content, leaving the rest of the site functions and allowing users to continue to read comments,” Seaman reveals. “And if you’re going to ask people to pay, you have to make sure you’re listening to what they want and are providing them with a value in the form of community.” 

You can’t lock all content and on-site features behind a registration or paywall and expect people to want to convert. Instead, you have to build their engagement levels first by allowing them to access on-site engagement features, even if the content itself is locked. 

Humans naturally want to form social connections. So if you give your users the tools they need to explore your brand’s community, they’ll gradually want to register to join conversations. 

Once they register, you can form in-depth profiles of your known users and guide them to a paywall when they’re highly engaged and connected to the digital community. 

Users are seeking the opportunity to join communities of like-minded individuals around specific topics of interest. The more you can guide them toward an engaged, socially connected state, the harder it will be for them to lose interest in your brand. 

For example, data from the Pew Research Center reveals that 81% of teenagers feel highly connected to their communities of friends on social media and 2/3 of teens feel that they can depend on social media for social support.

For these users, quitting social media comes with a price: sacrificing social support and meaningful connections. So providing your users with opportunities to socialize with others is a simple way to encourage them to become loyal to your brand’s community and content.

“The era of going to a site and having a lonely experience will be increasingly odd,” says Seaman. “From a loyalty perspective, it’s easier for you to walk away from a brand than to walk away from an actual community.”

A NFTy New Future For Publishers

From Access to Ownership: How NFTs will unlock the value of media companies’ greatest asset — their intellectual property.

Last week, Jack Dorsey auctioned off his first tweet — “just setting up my twittr” — for a whopping $2.9 million. Media company Time, Inc. also made news last week, auctioning off three special edition digital magazine covers, including the 1966 iconic cover, “Is God Dead?”, the first cover to include only text. Finally, Kevin Roose, the technology columnist for The New York Times is auctioning off the very first New York Times article to be distributed and sold as an NFT. The current bid for this NFT article is $564,000! 

What makes these events unique is not the price paid at auction but the nature of the auction itself. These digital works are being sold as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of cryptocurrency that verifies the authenticity and ownership of a digital file. NFTs offer a new way for creators — artists, musicians, writers, etc. — to monetize their intellectual property by selling the ownership rights to their digital works on the blockchain.

How NFTs will unlock the value of media companies’ greatest asset

What makes NFTs desirable is that they are unique and inherently scarce. Each NFT carries identification codes and metadata that distinguish them for each other. NFTs cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency, like cash or even Bitcoin, and cannot be replicated. Buyers and collectors are investing in NFTs as a way to own, not merely access, digital assets that are expected to increase in future value due to their provenance, popularity and scarcity. 

The value of an NFT can be expressed as the sum of its utility, ownership history, future value and liquidity premium. Perhaps the most important driver of value today is ownership history. As NFT and blockchain author Hugo Chan explains, “Value depends on the identity of the issuer and previous owners of the NFT. NFTs with a high ownership history value are often created or issued by famous artists or companies with a strong brand. There are two ways to increase value. First is to co-operate with companies or individuals with a strong brand to issue NFT tokens. That naturally brings traffic and users to the ecosystem…The second way is to resell NFTs that were previously owned by people who are influential.” 

Recent news on NFTs has focused on individual creators — including digital artist Beeple, who made history by selling an NFT of his piece, “Everydays: The First 5000 Days”, for a record-breaking $69 million — but media companies and digital publishers may have the most significant opportunity.  As Time demonstrated, publishers have the means to turn their massive store of proprietary digital assets into NFT gold. What’s more, over the past decade, publishers have shape-shifted into digital incubators and creative agencies with a roster of talent that includes digital artists, technologists and storytellers who regularly produce stunning visual and interactive content. Up until now, publishers could only monetize their digital content by controlling access to them — placing stories behind a paywall or surrounding them with annoying ads. NFTs offer a completely new revenue model for publishers that values the underlying asset itself, not merely the right to access it.  As Jarrod Dicker of The Washington Post recently noted:

[The] real struggle in the existing media space, is the value attributed to creative assets. As media moved from print to digital, creative assets have lost the ability to control and maintain value throughout the web ecosystem. With NFTs, digital media now becomes a liquid financial asset secured through cryptography, and programmable through smart contracts.

Media companies have spent years building teams of creatives that have produced petabytes of unique and valuable digital content. The strategy to date has been to leverage this content to build sizable audiences that are packaged and sold to advertisers. Now, media companies can leverage their in-house creative talent to package and sell NFTs to buyers and collectors who want to own some of the world’s most prestigious content, such as The 1619 Project, by The New York Times Magazine, or this piece from The Washington Post that won the 2020 Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting, or these photos from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which won the 2015 Pulitzer for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the aftermath and protests in Ferguson, Missouri. It is undeniable that each of these creative assets has intrinsic value, historical significance and mass collector appeal that would command huge NFT valuations. As Kevin Roose notes about the New York Times article he’s auctioning as an NTF:

The biggest perk of all, of course, is owning a piece of history. This is the first article in the almost 170-year history of The Times to be distributed as an NFT, and if this technology proves to be as transformational as its fans predict, owning it might be tantamount to owning NBC’s first TV broadcast or AOL’s first email address.

Beyond individual articles, publishers could even sell entire digital editions as collectibles; for example, the 9/11 digital edition of The New York Times or the front-page artwork from the day the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. The opportunities to leverage publishers’ digital archives and creative assets as NFTs are virtually limitless.

NFTs are a boon for media corporations. They also offer journalists, videographers, photojournalists and digital creatives the opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the “liquid financial assets” they create. After an NFT sale is complete, the asset’s creators can receive royalties in perpetuity each time the NFT resells. This new economic model has the power to transform how creatives are compensated and initiate a virtuous cycle that attracts more talent to publishers and media companies, driving the production of in-demand creative assets and NFTs. As Sean Blanda of Crossbeam noted:

Writers, long subject to the whims of social media algorithms and shrivelling media companies, have never had more opportunities to be fairly compensated for their work. And maybe, just maybe, there is yet another opportunity on the horizon: NFTs.

NFTs offer a vision of a future that recognizes and rewards the value of digital content as a new asset class that is sold and traded like gold or art. It is a future that values ownership over access and scarcity over surplus. Imagine a world where publishers no longer have to run click-bait articles or pop-up ads or limit access to their best content to make ends meet. Instead, they could fund their future by monetizing their most valuable asset — their intellectual property. Now, wouldn’t that be NFTy?

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