Digital publishing is minimizing the brand value of name publishers and star power of authors. The strategic question in 2016 is how to garner enough advertising dollars to publish over the long haul? One important method is to increase audience engagement: learn everything about your audience, know what it wants, and listen to its feedback.
News publishing sites can increase audience engagement by asking who the site helps and what it helps those people to do. Useful tips include:
* Tailoring the persona of the site to the target market
* Making it easy for the reader to know how to contact the site
* Knowing what to expect in terms of speed and depth of response
Impediments to audience engagement include:
* Under/non-performing ads languishing on the site
* Convoluted messages adding nothing to inspire the audience to talk back
* Poor quality navigation, broken links, old content, and exasperating slow page load times
Poor Audience Engagement
An example of poor engagement comes from university business management students whom I teach. They tell me that eight or nine times out of ten they get no response from sites after sending comments through the sites’ portals.
We experimented by having a student respond to an announcement that a famous upscale café chain is now selling bagels. She wrote on the site about three distasteful experiences where the bagels were mushy and bland. In relatively short time, a site messenger thanked her for her comment and attached a five-dollar coupon on her next purchase, never mentioning the criticism and what the store might do about the bagel debacle. The student sent a second comment and again received a thank you and coupon. Students laughed at the chain’s automated response to apparently any efforts at audience engagement. The best solution, students concluded, is to buy morning coffee at the café and cross the road to a bagel competitor.
How to Increase Audience Engagement
Shaping the Future of Media reports, “News organizations say increasing audience engagement is a top priority in 2016 as they face rising challenges over ad-blocking and the rise of distributed content.”
Jeff Weisbein runs an analytics platform for publishers, but there are many others like Google Analytics and Typeform. Jeff advises making audience engagement data collection a top priority. He offers the following tips:
* It’s more important to collect engagement data to drive content than numbers alone: number of views per page versus knowing how the audience enjoyed the page and were engaged by it.
* Collecting audience demographics will reveal their interests and help publishers develop strategies that can increase engagement. Advertisers are buying audiences rather than publications and platforms, so data are key, according to the American Press Institute.
* Personalizing the content to the audience will likely be the key to keeping the audience engaged and moving from one article to the next and will encourage the audience to suggest future topic ideas and story lines.