Writing Engaging Content Starts By Giving Your Authors the Power of Audience Insights

By NativeAI / April 12, 2018

Why do talented writers write bad pieces?

Given the increasing volume of articles publishers must produce on a daily basis, contributors are always in demand. Authors that can deliver intriguing stories are a tremendous asset for any publication. But even the most talented writer cannot drive performance if they do not understand their audience.

Today, publishers utilize both in-house and outsourced authors. Despite all of the editorial meetings or brainstorming sessions, content creators still may not deliver stories your audience engages with.

Low engagement is detrimental for publishers.

That’s why publishers must invest in deeper audience insights, and give all their contributors access to audience intelligence tools.

The Secret to Writing Engaging Content

Audience insights tools give publishers context about the trends, topics, and subjects their readers are looking for, in real time. If publishers arm their contributors with these same tools, creators will be more consistent in churning out compelling content.

Over time, the interests of an audience shift and change. Having deep audience intelligence empowers publishers to track these interests and monitor the ebb and flow of important trends. With all of the competing publications out there, these audience insights are a resource publishers can't afford to ignore.

The Washington Post, for example, knows how to track audience interests. The Post has a vast readership, recording nearly 86.5 million visitors a month, as of March 2017. Due to the large volume of stories The Post produces, editors don’t always have the resources to explore all the sub-topics that interest that large of a readership.

After working with The Post's audience, writer Ezra Klein saw an opportunity in more in-depth subject matter. The suggestion was to create another branch of the newspaper, called Wonkblog.

Readers of Wonkblog are still readers of The Post, with similar interests about current events and culture. However, Klein discovered that a significant segment of their audience craved more in-depth coverage. Using insights about sub-topics and trends, Wonkblog digs deeper into topics such as domestic and economic policy. In a recent piece, for instance, Wonkblog took the time to break down the exact numbers of the recent tax break, for even the poorest of Americans.

This kind of very specific subject matter derived directly from their audience’s interests. Tracking and studying the interests of segments of their audience helped The Post provide more compelling stories. 

You can adopt a similar strategy to identify and fill gaps that your audience may be yearning for.

4 Secrets of Creating Engaging Content

Secret 1: Measure What Works

In order to craft better stories, creators need to understand what success looks from the audience’s point of view. When creators only have access to metrics like total visits or Facebook likes, they don't have any context from which to draw conclusions.

By giving creators access to analytics tools designed specifically for publishers, they get more context about the various factors that determine the success of their posts. They can drill down into their audience segments to understand what they want most, and what about their best-performing content resonated with their audience.

Here at NativeAI, we use a custom metric called Engagement Quality (EQ) to connect the dots between audience and performance. This metric uses a variety of measurements, such as the time spent, scroll depth, user actions, and story length to accurately score the quality of engagement from each visit, story, and even entire segments.

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It’s one thing to measure what works in terms of basic metrics: story A got X more traffic than story B. It’s another thing entirely to know what exactly drove the higher performance of article A, compared to article B, to apply that insight to future editorial decisions.

Measure what works, learn why it worked, and then repeat it.

Secret 2: Get Deep Audience Intelligence

The other problem with base metrics is that they can't tell you what readers really want. This is why basic metrics fall short for major publishers. Advanced publisher-relevant analytics helps publishers analyze their content performance based on content engagement.

It's how sites like NPR develop better stories.

NPR makes it a point to know and understand their audience on a deep level. It’s a mostly liberal-leaning audience politically, with a variety of interests in psychology, and culture. This high-level view into their audience’s interests doesn’t lend direct value to their ability to create exceptional stories. So, NPR goes deeper, and digs into the micro-niches, and sub-interests of their audience. And the result is in high-performance articles ranking in topics from how Stephen King writes horror, to why mother bears stick around their cubs longer.

Publishers can use this kind of audience intelligence to learn more about their audience. The deeper your audience intelligence, the more effective your stories will be.

Secret 3: Understand Your Audience Segments

Within every audience are diverse segments of people. Every group, of any size, will have different preferences about the channels they engage on the most, as well as the kinds of stories they find engaging. 

For example, a Facebook audience may prefer a completely different style or format than an audience from Twitter. NPR actually studies the audience engagement from Facebook, and uses those insights to build a more targeted engagement strategy. This strategy includes segmentation, which lead NPR to split Facebook efforts throughout multiple pages. These each focus on a different subject matter, such as NPR Politics, NPR News, and NPR Music. The decision to segment their efforts comes from audience insights.

By exploring all channels and segments, publishers can pinpoint patterns in each segment's interests and engagement trends. However, doing this at scale is almost impossible without a robust audience intelligence tool, like NativeAI.

Secret 4: Stay Informed on Engagement at All Times

Audience trends come and go quickly. One day, your audience may scour the internet looking for more information on the verdict of a popular trial. The next day, they may not care about that trial at all as their attention shifts to a new story.

This is where audience interest tracking is key.

By keeping a finger on the pulse of an audience with a tool like NativeAI, publishers and creators can know which topics are driving the most engagement right now, and what exactly about those topics is most interesting. This can help inform stronger editorial calendars, and provide context if and when audience interests shift dramatically to new subjects.

Read more: How to use Editorial Analytics to gain & retain Audience Attention

Using Analytics to Craft Engaging Content

For publishers, every story counts.

All it takes is one bad article to lose a loyal reader. That's why it's important for publishers to produce highly engaging stories, and to get the best from each of their contributors. Without audience analytics, creators are forced to work off assumptions about the kind of content readers want. That’s why we decided not to limit the number of seats our publishers can register on our analytics platform.

We believe even the smallest contributor should be able to explore the characteristics and DNA of their audience. With deeper audience intelligence and publisher analytics, content creators can more consistently develop the stories that drive engagement.

To learn more about NativeAI, register for a free analytics platform demo.

How to Extract Actionable Publishing Insights From Deep Audience Data

Written by NativeAI / April 12, 2018