Building a loyal audience can easily be named the most challenging part of the digital publisher’s business. However, it’s easy to lose track of readers when you are struggling to stay on top of changing ad standards, battling fake news, and figuring out the two-click penalty, all the while trying to grow revenue.
Without faithful readers, though, no newspaper or magazine can survive, be it a digital one or in print.
Connecting with your audience to build loyalty and strengthen your relationship, requires a holistic approach. The reader’s journey in the digital age is a complicated one, and people constantly switch between devices and content channels. In order to keep up and meet them wherever they are, you should consider widening your scope and exploring different platforms.
A multichannel strategy will allow you to improve customer retention and sustain a long-lasting relationship to your readers.
Read on for actionable tips on how to build a loyal audience as a digital publisher.
1. Produce Relevant Content
The quality of the content you produce should be a top priority over any other strategy you undertake. Meaningful articles are what your customers want and what can keep them coming back for more.
Publish Evergreen Content
To build loyalty, you should deliver content that’s relevant to your readers’ interests. Even if your publication is strictly news-oriented, consider diversifying your editorial calendar with valuable content that is evergreen in nature such as interviews, opinion pieces, and articles reviewing topics from a more global perspective.
WIRED Magazine, for example, has discovered that while 60% of their total website visits are generated by new stories, the remaining 40% are leveraged by other relevant publications.
Evergreen content brings value to digital publishing and contributes to a deeper, longer-lasting relationship with your readers.
Diversify Your Scope
Another pain point for audiences today is the constant flow of negative news. People become overwhelmed and need a fresh breath of air. Some readers go as far as actively avoiding any news to give themselves a break. Consider trying to retain their loyalty by exploring different options such as:
- Building drama-free news blocks.
- Delivering engaging content on various topics.
- Focusing on positive stories.
- A take on different points of view.
Content is the source of your credibility and reliability and maintaining top-notch quality will keep your audience loyal and engaged.
2. Add Value to Subscriptions
While subscription rates are not a reliable indicator of reader loyalty, they are still important. Most people are not aware of how exactly journalism is financed. They don’t know that in digital publishing paid subscriptions can be the difference between staying in business and not. That’s why many readers abstain from subscribing and paying for services that they can get for free.
Here are some strategies to explore how to encourage customer loyalty through subscriptions:
Consider adding more value to what readers receive in exchange for their money, by offering incentives such as:
- Special editions
- Exclusive content
- Affiliate discounts
- Niche-related benefits
Freebies can make your readers more inclined to consider a paid subscription and can also make them feel more involved with you and keep them engaged.
Develop Membership Products
You can also consider developing membership products targeted at specific cohorts of your audience with similar interests. This way you will strengthen both the feeling of community and the feeling of belonging to your brand.
Don’t Neglect Non-Subscribers
And yet, not all loyal readers are subscribers. A person can see your publication as their most credible source of information but not be a regular reader simply because they don’t consume content every day.
How often a customer visits your website should not be viewed as a defining element of their loyalty or connection to you. If you focus only on paying subscribers, this can hurt your relationship with the rest of your readers and you can lose their loyalty.
By finding the balance between paid subscriptions and free content, you can find a way to keep different audiences around and earn their loyalty.
3. Send Personalized Newsletters
Newsletters can keep your audience engaged with a regular supply of selected stories, based on their preferences. Emails can easily be automated to deliver top news from different sections of your editorial or on specific topics.
Popular magazines like The New York Times and The Washington Post offer a variety of more than 70 types of newsletter options that their readers can subscribe to. These include morning updates on recent news, highlights from popular sections like business, sports, entertainment, and editor’s picks. Readers can also subscribe to exclusive email notifications on hot topics, breaking news, and favorite topics.
Even highly specialized audiences consist of individual people with unique reading preferences. Some want to be kept in the loop with daily updates, while for others once a week is enough.
Consider setting up a selection of newsletter options your users can subscribe to, such as:
- Daily updates
- Weekly round-ups
- The editor’s monthly pick
- Topic overviews
- Top journalists’ favorite articles
- Guest author’s selection
By providing a variety of choices, you allow your readers to control the information flow. This minimizes the risk of overwhelming them with content they don’t want or like, and enables you to reduce churn.
Trying different newsletter approaches can shake things up and keep the audience engaged with your content.
4. Engage Readers on Social Media Platforms
Nowadays, more than half of American adults report they look for news on social media platforms, rather than on news websites. However, one of the disadvantages of social media is that it’s hard for users to distinguish the fake and misleading news from the genuine ones.
As a publisher, you have credibility that sets you apart as a trusted authority to your readers and makes your content a reliable source of information. By meeting your readers where they are, you provide easy access to trustworthy news and, at the same time, you save them the hassle of having to change their habits. This way, you will be more likely to retain them as loyal customers and keep them interested.
Furthermore, regularly distributing your free content on social media is only the first step.
Social networks give you almost limitless opportunities to engage with your audience and establish valuable connections. Some of the benefits you can explore are:
- Organizing live streaming events where your followers can ask questions about hot topics.
- Making polls to learn people’s take on important matters.
- Hearing out your readers’ opinion on stories.
- Joining discussions.
Social media platforms can be a place to connect with your audience on a personal level and in real-time. It removes the barriers and distance of print and digital editions and virtually puts you face-to-face with your readers. This allows publishers not only to build a loyal audience but to build a community.
5. Start a Podcast
Podcasts are on the rise and are very popular amongst younger and older generations alike. By converting your articles into podcasts or starting an original podcasting series, you can make your content more user-friendly and keep your audience around.
Stories in the form of podcasts are easily accessible on the go and allow people to interact with content while they are doing other everyday tasks. And having a variety of options at their disposal makes it easier for readers to stay engaged. Also, voicing your articles makes them more personal and can bring your connection to your audience to a whole new level.
There are different strategies you can consider when approaching podcasting:
- Using a computer-generated voice. This strategy allows you to quickly and relatively cheaply transform all your articles into voiced content.
- Hiring a professional voice actor. Opting for this approach will deliver more publicity and attract a wider audience.
- Choosing a journalist as a host. This strategy allows you to leverage the professionalism and popularity of your news team.
Each strategy has its advantages and which one you choose often depends on the time and resources at your disposal.
Podcasts provide an opportunity to create a variety of valuable and engaging content. Their popularity and loyal audience in recent years make them a lucrative format worth the consideration of digital publishers.
For advanced tips on how to start a podcast, read DevriX’s article on the topic:
6. Build a Mobile App
Apps are a convenient way for people to get quick access to their favorite websites and services. As a digital publisher, developing an app to deliver your content to readers is another opportunity to keep them engaged and make your publications easily available.
Most readers nowadays consume content on their mobile devices. Research shows that 88% of that time is spent on mobile apps. Passing on the opportunity to stay in touch with customers and strengthen your relationship, can cost you loyal readers.
Similarly to the newsletter, apps can be used to deliver notifications for breaking news, editorial selections, and personalized feeds.
Furthermore, downloading your app can be considered a sign of loyalty and trust. An analysis of user data can give you valuable insight into the habits and behavior of your most faithful readers. By leveraging this information, you can better identify the topics that are important to your audience and focus on covering them better.
7. Organize Virtual Events
Virtual events have enormous potential for digital publishers. You can entertain your readers, attract new audiences, and partner with sponsors and advertisers. Events build excitement and create an invaluable opportunity to position your brand and build loyalty.
What’s more, virtual events have an advantage over offline ones, because everything is recorded and you can analyze the data to get to know your readers better. The digital format allows you to:
- Monitor the attendance across different segments.
- Communicate in real-time with visitors.
- Respond to changing behavior.
- Keep track of what’s interesting to the audience and what’s not.
So how to deliver a lasting impact on your readers?
Organize an event related to the topics that your publication generally covers, or if your focus is on everyday l news, consider relevant niche topics such as environment, sports, food, or music. Ecommerce sales are also a popular choice to create a buzz and even attract sponsorship.
Events not only generate engagement while they are happening but the publicity before and after them keeps your audience involved and entertained. They build an audience of loyal readers and inspire a sense of belonging.
8. Speed-Up Your Website
Last, but not least, to build a loyal audience you should make people feel at home. Digital publisher websites can often load slowly due to the large amounts of content and visuals on them. Or they can be overloaded by sudden traffic surges that they are not optimized to handle. And a slow loading and clumsy website can frustrate your readers and drive them to look for information elsewhere.
Furthermore, with Google’s Core Web Vitals update, your website performance can impact your ranking and make it more difficult for your audience to find your content through organic search.
Speeding up your website will help you provide a hassle-free reader experience and keep your audience happy.
Building a loyal audience requires a complex approach and the need to spread your efforts across multiple channels. By maintaining communication with your readers and keeping them engaged, you will be able to learn more about their interests and habits, and continue building up a loyal community.