In April 2014, NPR played a clever prank on their readers by publishing an article called, “Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?”
The article wasn't real.
It only had a paragraph of text in it, asking the visitor to simply “like” the post without commenting on it. A lot of readers left comments and feedback about the article, despite the fact they obviously never read it.
While this was just a prank, publishers should still take notice.
Publishers rely on returning readers, and build their publishing strategies on first retaining their loyal readers. To retain a loyal audience, publishers must continuously deliver better content that compels readers to go beyond the headline. Every article needs to be intriguing to the target audience, or that audience will meander to the greener pastures of a competitor.
The Secret to an Effective Content Engagement Strategy
Simply keeping up with competitors is not enough to grow and sustain a loyal audience. In the competitive landscape of the internet in 2018, readers have hundreds if not thousands of content sources to choose from. Publishers are relying on content engagement strategies to produce stories their audiences want most, and to do it at scale.
Discovering what topics perform best, and the format that drives higher interaction is key to long-term engagement. In the past few years, Conde Nast publication Bon Appetit has successfully tapped into a content engagement strategy that just works.
Bon Appetit is a property focused on the food niche, but unlike some of their competitors, they based their editorial calendar on content their audience signaled an interest for. While their content is all still food related, they also explore the sub-interests of their food readers and find underserved micro-niches, such as pop culture, celebrity vegan diets, city guides, and Dorito Bread.
As a result of their content engagement strategy, Bon Appetit is now the fastest-growing food title in the United States.
Lessons Learned From Bon Appetit's Content Engagement Strategy
You Must Track Audience Interests
The interests of your audience change a little every day. Depending on what is going on in the world, readers may flood a certain category of content today, and abandon it tomorrow. To maintain audience attention, publishers need to act on trending topics and subject matter, quickly. Tracking trends and audience interests empower editors to publish timely, relevant content that excites and energizes their target audience.
The New Yorker excels at tracking audience interests. They complement the evolving interests of their highly selective audience with thoughtful coverage on trending topics. Using insight into the topics their audiences are most interested in, editors can plan to produce what their audience wants right now.
The New Yorker's ability to understand their reader has helped grow their print and digital readership up to 5.5 million, and drive a 24% increase every year.
You Must Go Deep on Audience Intelligence
While it's valuable to know your reader is interested in sports or politics, publishers need to go deeper. Understanding audience interests is great, but diving beneath the surface to explore multiple levels of sub-interests, down to the granular level, reveals golden content engagement opportunities.
You can’t get granular interests data with simple web analytics. Traditional analytics can reveal that Republican-centric stories are getting a lot of visits in the politics category. But, you won’t get much additional context.
You need to know your audience's interests, and the sub-interests down to the micro level. In other words, web analytics may reveal that, in the political category of your website, Republican-centric stories are getting more traffic than Democratic-centric pieces. That could signal a publisher to consider creating more Republican-centric stories.
But, what if that traffic is looking for more negative-focused articles?
Or maybe it's a certain policy (gun control, climate change, etc.) that is important to your audience right now?
Without deeper audience interest data, editorial teams can't possibly deliver the high caliber of content their audience craves, without fail, day after day.
The Onion, creates great content by mining humor out of media trends. Their editorial team must understand recent trends, but also why their readers care about those trends. They need insight into the feelings and opinions behind their audience's interest. The writers at The Onion, and many other publications, need more than just vague topics to create content around. Otherwise, they risk spending time and resources on content their audience won't find entertaining.
It’s not enough just to create content in a category. If you want to engage your audience, you have to know exactly what about that category matters, how they feel about it, and why.
By seeking more granular insights, your editorial team can create content that resonates with their reader more consistently.
You Must Supply for Demand
With a constant influx of digital publishers, the publishing world has become about supply and demand. Readers demand articles and content about trending topics and niche subject matter, and publishers supply it.
Editorial teams should track engagement patterns regarding topics, article length and format, tone of voice, contributing authors, and the interests that are driving the most engagement by channel. These patterns can help dictate a much more effective content engagement strategy and publishing calendar.
For example, knowing that the influx in traffic on stories about Colin Kaepernick is driven more by interests in social issues rather than the sport of football can signal that more social issue content is desired. The actionable insight is in the audience interests behind the engagement, not necessarily the categorization of the story.
Websites like The HuffPost rely on that kind of insight to get the most engagement from their content. The editorial team at HuffPo studies audience data, trends, and topics to produce nearly 600-to-1,000 pieces of engaging content every day.
On average, ten-to-one hundred of those articles go viral every day. For HuffPo editors at this point, content engagement has become a science more than an art.
Executing a Dynamic Content Engagement Strategy
A content engagement strategy begins and ends with an exceptional understanding of the reader. With the right publisher analytics, editors can track the emotions, opinions, and motivations of readers, and then take advantage of that insight to deliver more engaging content.
Audience intelligence tools, like NativeAI, are essential to developing and maintaining an effective content engagement strategy. Editorial teams that have access to this kind of insight gain a wealth of information about their readers, helping them create highly engaging content on a regular basis.
Right now, you can get a free demo of NativeAI here.