A few months ago, we sat down with the good folks at WNYC in their Lower Manhattan offices, wanting to get their feedback on some new products and features we were developing. It turned out that many of the station’s strategic goals and priorities were things that we strongly believed in, too: audience development, reader engagement, loyalty conversion, etc. Working together with WNYC more collaboratively seemed to make mounds of sense.
They felt the same way, and we’re thrilled! So today, we’re kicking off an experiment with our good friends at WNYC. Together, over the next four months, we’re going to tackle the the granddaddy of audience development: creating loyalty. How can WNYC and other publishers turn first-time visitors into visitors that come back to them over and over again?
It’s a head-scratcher, to be frank, but it’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot. (In March, our man Joshua Schwartz wrote a post about converting engagement into loyalty. Short version: high levels of visitor engagement correlate strongly with their propensity to return.) We believe everything changes when publishers are free to stop chasing page views, and instead focus on growing qualified and sustainable audiences. But we have more to learn.
Learning from a Leader
Not only has WNYC been a long-time client of ours, but its also a well-respected leader and innovator in the worlds of data, journalism, and technology. (If you have any doubt — you shouldn’t! — check out the station's award-winning political coverage, groundbreaking storm coverage, or — our favorite — the quirky and genius “Cicada Tracker." They’re always welcoming us into their newsroom and never shy about taking smart risks in order to learn.
Other reasons to work with WNYC? For starters, WNYC Radio AM 820 and 93.9 FM are the largest and most listened-to public radio stations in the country; every week, the station produces 100 hours of original programming and reaches more than 1 million listeners. And as any listener of Radiolab, Studio 360, or On the Media knows the quality of WNYC’s programming is stellar. We — and other publishers, too — can learn a lot from these guys.
Outlining the Experiment
We’ll be lending our expertise and perspective in an effort to broaden the audience for On the Media, an hour-long weekly radio program that covers journalism, technology, and First Amendment issues. Brooke Gladstone relaunched the 18-year-old show with a fresh format in 2001. Since then, Gladstone and co-host Bob Garfield have won a slew of awards and earned On the Media a reputation as one of NPR’s fastest growing radio programs.
So what are we hoping to figure out? The primary objective here is to learn as much as we can about audience development — to test hypotheses, challenge assumptions, and share everything we discover along the way. Which actions positively impacted engagement and loyalty conversion? Which actions didn’t work, and why not? There will likely be as many failures as successes, but we’re totally okay with that. This will be an iterative process.
I’ll be chronicling all of our testing, tooling, and tinkering here on the Chartbeat blog, so be sure to check back every couple weeks for all kinds of exciting learnings. And, of course, don’t be shy about chiming in with your own ideas. You might just turn on a light bulb.