A quality experience is something every publisher wants to offer their audience. Yet, there isn’t a playbook on exactly how to do it.
There are many variables in what makes for a quality experience, but ultimately it’s the readers/users themselves that decide. Still, there are creative ideas that have been shared with us in recent months that publishers should think about when they evaluate the experiences they offer audiences.
Here are seven to consider:
1. Test Everything for Mobile
What’s actually resonating with consumers on their smartphones? For one thing, content with “snappy headlines” and “tight copy,” according to Erin Weaver, director of audience development at Group Nine Media.
“Know your character limits and keep all experiences mobile-friendly.” This means limiting big walls of text to 1-2 sentences per paragraph, keeping ad units non-invasive and ensuring that all video includes clearly legible captions for muted viewing.
Community has become somewhat of a buzzword in publishing over the past few years, yet it does accurately describe the like-minded loyal audiences many publishers enjoy. But Lorraine Goldberg, director of social strategy at Meredith, suggests there are effective ways to engage communities within communities.
Engaging these micro-communities can happen through a number of channels, from live get-togethers to Facebook groups.
“They may not bring scale, but you may reach people with a greater retention rate,” Goldberg says.
People magazine tested an interesting engagement play around the Oscars by encouraging readers to text them directly to receive live updates, and exclusive real-time information.
“Texting is such a ubiquitous way of communication so it makes sense for us to start talking to our readers this way,” says People digital editor, Zoe Ruderman.
“It’s much more conversational. The tone is different—it’s not hed, dek, click here for more—though of course there’s huge value in that sort of notification too. Texting is personal and chatty. It’s not just People sending out texts, but opening up the conversation to our community.”
Voice user interfaces are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the home, car and office. And since the technology took off, there have been some publishers on the cutting edge of testing content for audio platforms.
But given the proliferation of the technology, soon every publisher will need to recognize that their readers may search for the content through voice activation. Thus, CEO of Flip180, Vee Banionis, believes optimizing your site for voice search is a must.
“Nobody will associate your brand with voice content if they can’t find it on Alexa, Google, Cortana and Siri.”
Live events are an obvious measure to create quality user experiences. However, the months leading up to a tent-pole event can be an opportunity for publishers to implement a content strategy that generates momentum, and delivers a more holistic experience.
Winsight Media, publisher of Restaurant Business, has been enjoying significant growth in digital traffic, but it also has an engaged print readership that dates back to 1902. In order to focus more efforts on digital, but still offer a quality print product, the company is experimenting with “content cycles,” which are essentially quarterly content themes that also tie into larger initiatives. For example, in Q1 2020, the magazine’s theme is leadership, which dovetails with its Restaurant Leadership Conference near the end of March.
This strategy is also appealing to advertisers, according to Tara Tesimu, chief digital officer.
“Marketers crave an integrated campaign,” adds Tesimu. “They want each piece to support and complement the other. Our content cycles reflect that integration. We view success for our partners holistically, and we reach the audience on every platform—magazines, digital and live.”
Trust, data privacy and safety, these are all hot button words for publishers, and really anyone that depends on a customer database to do business.
But the issue of trust is a prickly one, and one that most publishers are still trying work through. But it’s imperative that they continue to work towards safer environments for their audiences and partners if they wish to stay viable.
“In today’s digital-first world, consumers deserve to understand what happens to their personal information, including what it is used for and who it is accessed by, says Keith Abbey, vice president of ad tech at Sovrn. “Individuals should be able to choose whether or not their data is collected and processed, and to determine who it is shared with. Many within the digital publishing industry are trying to find the path of least resistance and get around privacy laws simply due to bandwidth, or to maintain the status quo, but this isn’t the best approach. Embracing privacy is essential because it does right by consumers in the long run.”
Serving your most loyal audience should always come first. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow beyond that cohort.
Take Rolling Stone for example. For more than 50 years the rock n’ roll/culture/politics/trendsetter magazine has stayed in its lane as a music magazine first and foremost, but one that also ventures into headier journalistic territory. Despite its ups, downs and then up again, it has always had an articulated idea of who its audience is. But now it sees a new opportunity to offer them more, and grow beyond its core by including music industry coverage, and specialized products around the trade.
Not only did the company launch a music chart to complete with Billboard, but it also introduced a free subscription product—RS Pro.
“Music industry professionals must have dynamic resources to navigate the upheaval” Amy X. Wang, senior music business editor at Rolling Stone tells Folio:. “And the average music fan, for the first time, is also deeply obsessed with the economics behind their favorite artists and albums. Everyone craves storytelling that can distill the complicated issues facing the record industry, and Rolling Stone is perfectly poised to deliver both audiences what they need.”
Newsletters are a pragmatic way to segment, personalize and build a larger base of loyal readers. Further, they can tap into new audiences with limited infrastructure and resource requirements. After all, it’s much easier to build out a new e-letter than redesign a website or magazine.