Experimenting in Loyalty Conversion with WNYC: The Power of Complementary Content and The Big Mobile Question

A couple weeks ago, we kicked off our experiment in loyalty conversion with our good friends at WNYC’s On the Media. Inarguably, the show is one of WNYC’s crown jewels; the Peabody Award-winning program is broadcasted weekly on more than 300 stations across the country, and its podcast receives more than a half-million downloads every month. But WNYC producers have only recently started rounding out the show’s online content.

Where On the Media’s website was previously a repository for just-aired episodes, it now also hosts a newly launched blog called TLDR, which is helmed by producer PJ Vogt. The blog stays true to its moniker, providing readers with short and sweet takes on the day’s journalism and technology news. And clearly by design, Vogt’s epigrammatic tone and point of view are well-suited to connect with an audience that values added perspective.

tldr-screenshot, wnyc, on the media

Though TLDR has only been up for a couple weeks, its impact is already clear: In TLDR’s first week of existence, September 3 to 9, onthemedia.org saw a whopping 73% increase in visits. That’s compared to the previous week, from August 27 to September 2. It was hardly surprising to learn that the huge increase was largely driven by two excellent TLDR blog posts: “The Hilarious Face of Canadian Propaganda” and “Why is Syria Flummoxing American Satirists?

Satisfying Audience Appetite

So what can we learn from the successful debut of On the Media’s TLDR blog? If your audience has an appetite for additional content, look for any way to deliver it to them. (Tweet this) If you have a great brand with a highly engaged audience, as is the case with On the Media, extend your reach by developing supplementary content and tapping into new channels. TLDR may be riding coattails, but the blog is adding real value to the WNYC ecosystem.

There’s something else worth noting, too: The September 6 episode of On the Media took a look at “the media’s cautious coverage of Syria,” and the start of the episode features a clip from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” It’s meant to give lighthearted introductory context to a serious topic. But what’s interesting is that PJ’s blog post (“Why is Syria Flummoxing American Satirists?”) was able to extend the segment in a way that was complementary.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The audience listening to an episode about Syria will likely have some propensity to engage with other contextually relevant content about Syria. It’s basically the editorial equivalent of Amazon’s “If you like this, you might also like…”. Now, the idea is hardly revolutionary, but it’s low-hanging fruit that not every publisher reaches for. But by doing so, you can keep visitors on your website for longer.

Why is that important? Well, as we outlined in a blog post a few months ago, high levels of visitor engagement correlate strongly with visitors’ propensity to return in the near future. In our research, we found that visitors who read an article for three minutes returned twice as often as those who read for one minute. So, if you’re a publisher looking to build a loyal and returning audience, time is one of the best metrics and leading indicators out there.


The Big Mobile Question

So, now that we know TLDR has the capacity to engage On the Media’s listenership in a different format, producers now want to understand how their audience interacts with content using different devices. At any given moment, roughly 80% of onthemedia.org’s visitors are using desktop computers—and 20% of visitors are using mobile devices. From our observations of other publishing sites, that’s a fairly typical desktop-to-mobile split.


Essentially, we want to find out: What’s the average Engaged Time for users who visit TLDR on a desktop computer versus a mobile device? How do visitors using different devices interact with content? Are scrolling patterns notably different? How do visitors move from page to page? If there are significant differences in average Engaged Time between desktop and mobile users, we might deduce that WNYC needs to optimize for mobile.

Josh Schwartz, one of Chartbeat’s data scientists, is digging into the data to find out. I’ll report back with the answers and other findings in our next post, due in a couple weeks. Things are starting to get interesting…

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