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How publishers can overcome churn to build engagement and loyalty

“More than 60% of those readers that leave your site will not return”

Editors note: We are republishing an article by Faisal Kalim which was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.

“45% of the readers who land on your site will be gone in less than 15 seconds,” according to a new report by analytics platform Chartbeat. “More than 60% of those readers that leave your site will not return.”  

How can a publisher keep these readers engaged on-site to develop a relationship that translates into revenue? That’s the focus of the report, Navigating the New Reader Journey. The report uses reader engagement data sourced from Chartbeat’s global network of thousands of digital publishers. It outlines six actionable steps to ensure a seamless content experience that keeps readers engaged and builds loyalty. 

“Create a tailored content approach for each channel”

The first step is understanding how readers discover content i.e., where they usually come from. Chartbeat research shows that readers’ expectations vary according to the platforms they use to visit a site. 

For example, readers coming from social media tend to look for the emotional side of the story. Search referrals, in contrast, are looking for factual information and deeper reads into a specific topic. This opens up opportunities for recirculation, i.e., directing readers to other articles.

Source: Navigating the New Reader Journey

“While organizations dedicate resources to promotion across channels such as search and social media, many neglect to create a tailored content approach for each channel,” the report states. 

“Small, yet critical windows of opportunity after a visitor lands on a site will mean the difference between engagement and exit.”

Navigating the New Reader Journey

UOL, one of Brazil’s most popular news outlets, analyzes its audience engagement in real-time. The data shows which articles visitors are reading, where they come from, and how they are interacting with the site. This allows the publisher to segment and understand its audience in “ways we never could before,” says Flávio Moreira, Editor-in-Chief, Content Subscriptions, UOL. 

Moreira shares how they use this real-time data to improve engagement by capitalizing on direct search trends. The publisher segments users who are coming from Google search. The data shows the kind of stories they are searching for organically. This information is used to promote those articles on social networks, says Moreira.

“Opportunity to challenge the status quo and improve”

The next step is optimizing the content to keep readers engaged and improve recirculation. It involves studying how readers from search and social interact with the content, and where they exit. Tactics like changing subheadings, adding links or alternative images can increase audience engagement. The report recommends publishers examine content from the following angles:

  1. Is there a piece of text that is so long or detailed to the point of reader confusion? 
  2. Is there a visualization, such as an infographic or block quote, that would better convey your information? 
  3. Is there a chance to link to additional information that may serve them better?

Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) has experimented with the different components of an article including image positions, use of text and bullet points, and sub-headings. “Every single component of an article became an opportunity to challenge the status quo and improve,” said Martin Jungfer, NZZ’s former Head of Audience Engagement. An experiment in which they moved images downwards in lengthy articles resulted in a 4% increase in readers engaging with the article until the end.

Evergreen content can be rejuvenated with new information and links. Additionally, headlines are critical as they “can make or break a story.” The report emphasizes the need to test headlines as research shows that the original headlines win only 38% of the time when tested for engagement. 

“Ensure that you’re not building walls around your content”

The above tactics should be iterated upon and scaled on an ongoing basis. The report recommends publishers foster a culture of experimentation and collaboration underpinned by data. “Data is more actionable when it is shared — make it accessible and digestible across your organization,” it states. “Reiterating the importance of using data to gut check human decision-making in the process is critical.” 

The next step involves finding ways to drive readers deeper into the content. The report recommends publishers create windows to their content with a proactive recirculation strategy.

This includes providing a top-notch mobile experience as readers increasingly consume content on their mobile devices. Placing related links at strategic points in the content is an “effective way to encourage deeper visits,” the report adds. 

The best way to ensure that you’re not building walls around your content is by simply giving readers somewhere new to go—a video or related link, for instance—and making sure they’re not being led to content deserts, prematurely ending their journey.

Navigating the New Reader Journey

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Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

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