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Why Audience Development is Critical for Publishers in 2018 and Beyond

By NativeAI / April 10, 2018

Content fatigue is a real concern for publishers.

Readers see stories and articles everywhere, and it can easily become overwhelming. People simply don't have the attention span or inclination to consume content at the pace it is being produced.

That’s why over 55% of online readers spend on average 15 seconds or less on an article. This isn’t exactly news to publishers but, 15 seconds of attention isn’t an acceptable level of audience engagement, so it is crucial that your article is in the right 45%!

How does a publisher do that?

The Keys to Consistent Audience Development

Compelling stories are the key to attracting readers. But, what happens when that’s no longer enough?

In today’s world of content overload, publishers need to adjust how they think about readership. While content is still a huge component of a publisher’s long-term success, one thing that can make or break a digital publisher is community.

Publishers need to develop a community of loyal readers - a community that not only consumes the content, but engages with it. A loyal community doesn’t just read an article, they discuss the article and share the article. Publishers that can create a welcoming, engaging space for their readers will outlast other publishers that do not.

There's no magic trick that keeps readers coming back again and again. It takes dedication and a commitment to your audience. Publishers must dedicate time and resources to proper audience development. The most successful publishers understand this and know exactly how to keep their readers coming back again and again.

Case in point: Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet is one of the most successful travel-focused publishers, owning 25% of a nearly $90 million guidebook market. They've become incredibly successful in digital publishing, where other travel book companies have failed. Everything from their high-resolution travel photography to their annual Best in Travel piece, keeps aspiring travelers coming back for more.

The brand was originally called Lonely Planet Publications. The founders, Maureen and Tony Wheeler, were traveling through Asia in the 1960’s when they began to produce travel guides. With a focus on providing practical advice and revealing unknown hotspots along a "hippie route" through Europe and Asia, the couple picked up additional writers along the way.

The start of Lonely Planet helped create it's authentic, adventure-seeking aesthetic. However, with a constant influx of new travel publishers, Lonely Planet focused squarely on their loyal readers. They created an online community called, "Thorn Tree Forums." This provided an owned space where readers could engage with each other, contribute and ask for advice, meet travel buddies, and get ideas for trips. In doing so, they effectively locked down their audience.

You, as a Publisher can learn from Lonely Planet's example. Command the attention and loyalty of your readers with these curated audience development tips.

The Audience Has the Power

When all else fails, remember one thing: people dictate everything.

Readers have countless options for interesting content. Publishers who know how to build to a loyal audience will flourish. To effectively build audience loyalty, publishers need to know and understand their readers at a granular level, such as preferred device, referral channels, engagement level, as well as interests and sub-interests.

You must understand readers' preferences, interests, and needs deep enough to anticipate the subjects and topics they want most. This desire can change from day-to-day, which is why anticipation is the key.

The simple mantra of Audience Development is - "Know your Reader, you'll know how to keep them hooked."

It's why publishers like Mashable are always broadening their subject matter. Buzzfeed, Mashable, and Perez Hilton all cover more areas of news, culture, and entertainment than when they initially began to publish. By expanding their coverage based on their audience’s interests, these publishers keep that audience coming back.

Should you cover more topics? It depends on your audience.

At NativeAI we've built the publisher analytics platform with that principle in mind: publishers need to have a deep understanding of their audience. That’s why we focused most of our energy on developing an artificial intelligence system that analyses audiences and content to discover why audiences engage with particular pieces. Thanks to cutting-edge machine learning, NativeAI has identified and tracked over 1 Million distinct audience interests.

This depth of audience intelligence is helping major publishers get to know their audiences at an intimate level, effectively taking the mystery out of audience development.

Give Them What They Want

National Geographic is one of the oldest publications in the country. Since 1888, their content focus on nature and culture has built an incredibly loyal readership. However, the brand had no choice but to make a drastic shift in the 1990’s as media consumption habits underwent a rapid change. Otherwise, there was a risk of missing out on attracting new readers.

Today, NatGeo invests in customer data and supporting technology to provide key audience development insights, helping them to remain one of the most successful publications out there. Publishers can utilize the same approach to adapt to reader preferences, giving them stories in the formats they desire.

Getting Started With Audience Development

For publishers, the reader is everything. People that feel a sense of commonality and community with a publisher are much more likely to become a loyal reader. Without valuable insights into their interests, however, it is extremely difficult to keep readers from going to another publication.

Using the right tool, publishers can gain the insight necessary to build stronger relationships with their readers. A content analytics tool such NativeAI can provide the insights publishers can actually use.

To learn more about NativeAI, sign up for a free demo of the audience analytics platform.

How to Extract Actionable Publishing Insights From Deep Audience Data

Written by NativeAI / April 10, 2018