Audience development: Using real-time insights to grow engagement, loyalty

Audience development, at its lowest common denominator, is uncovering why readers return to your site. When over 45% of readers leave within 15 seconds and even more may never come back, it’s crucial to understand and measure the actions that affect the audience coming to your site.

Let’s take a closer look at some simple engagement- and loyalty-building tactics that audience development teams can implement in Chartbeat’s Real-Time Dashboard.

Use this Quick Start Guide for Audience Development link if you’d like to skip ahead and get moving.

Use referral sources to diagnose UX issues

Pivoting on referral sources such as search, mobile, and social in the Real-Time Dashboard offer a brief glimpse into a reader’s journey to (and through) your site.


Your first task is to get a sense of how certain sections and authors within your site perform to have a base of comparison. A sudden drop in Engaged Time could mean your content is not reaching the right audience.

To further diagnose and tackle these issues, assess the following:

  • Does the headline match the content? Readers want to get the story they thought they were clicking on.
  • Are you drawing readers to a content desert? Use the Scroll Depth indicator to see where your audience is dropping off — it may be a simple formatting or linking issue.
  • Are you ignoring your spike alerts? Short-form content that spikes is an opportunity to link to your most engaging content.

(Related: Using the Engaged Time metric to grow audiences, unlock loyal readership)

Align device experiences to encourage return visits

Mobile continues to dominate device-based engagement across the world. Between 55% and 60% of readers engaged with content through this channel, followed by desktop and tablet.

mobile user experience responsive image

Improve the reader journey across devices to develop a global audience. Here’s how:

  • See what your readers do on mobile.  Always think about the line above the fold, including how many entry points you’re giving readers. This is crucial on mobile, where readers only see 25% of the page. One way to do that? Simulate the mobile experience using this quick Developer Tools hack (as shown in the image above).
  • Use the Heads Up Display to spot low engagement on mobile. See how far mobile page readers scroll on your page to identify engagement drop-offs. A simple addition of sub-headers or top billing for your most engaging pieces of content can enhance the experience.
  • Check your UX. Slow mobile site loading speeds and a clunky user experience will lead to more bounces. Even worse, it will vastly limit the opportunity for readers to become subscribers right then and there.

Subscriber data: Readers that pay behave differently

When over 60% of visitors to your site won’t return again in the next 30 days—that’s a loyalty issue. However, small changes can have a positive impact on site traffic over time. And remember:

  • Engaged Time is connected to loyalty. We’ve seen that readers that engage longer with content are more likely to return. Your editors can curate the pages that have the lowest engagement and/or add inline links that give your readers another opportunity to see great content.
  • Pages have high Engaged Time for a reason. They are likely being read by your most loyal audience. Therefore, use these pages to place an offer for a subscription links or your newsletter so that readers can have more reasons to come back again.

What now: Turn audience insights into actions

Growing a loyal readership is difficult, but with these real-time tactics, audience development teams are in a better position to succeed. Some helpful reminders:

  • Go holistic, then granular. A wide view of your readership is important, but how it breaks down is critical. Pivot on your real-time filters to quickly see referral source trends that you would not be able to capture otherwise. If there’s lots of traffic coming from Twitter, but bouncing quickly, that could be a headline issue. Experiments with different types of headlines that let readers know what content they’ll get when they land on your site.
  • Remind yourself that loyal readers behave differently. Audiences that return to your site in at least 50% of days in a two-week period read an average of 4.8 articles versus 2.3 articles for non-loyal readers. Give your loyal readers a chance to become subscribers by not only providing more content, but presenting them with an opportunity to become part of your paying readership.

Quickstart Guide for Audience Development teams

Setting up

Get started with the following Chartbeat tools:

Getting familiar with Chartbeat data

Now that you have your tools installed, it’s time to start looking at data. Here are some potential considerations as you’re sorting through by tool:

  • Historical Dashboard. Filter by “section” to see if any old stories surfaced and review “High social” stories to see what they have in common.
  • Offsite social. Check the site and social view of Real Time Dashboard and investigate “acquiring” stories throughout the day.
  • Heads Up Display. This is your low engagement barometer. Use the Scroll Depth indicator to see if readers are completing articles or moving deeper into your site via Recirculation. If not, it could be your user experiences, particularly on mobile. Don’t worry, there’s a hack for that.

Are you a reporter or editor? We have a guide for you too.

For even more insights delivered directly to your inbox, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

More in Product