Real-time data, long-term reader engagement: Why publishers need more actionable insights

Given the ever-accelerating news cycle, editors have less time to make important decisions that impact real-time reader engagement. Even with more content strategies informed by data, publishers—and their traditional platforms—just can’t keep up with the swift changes in reader behavior.

So where should editorial teams devote their time, particularly when 45% of the readers who load an article will leave within the first 15 seconds? With real-time data, you can quickly diagnose the problem and reduce the risk of losing engaged, loyal readers.

It’s a question with significant implications — more than 60% of those readers that leave your site will not return. This translates to lost opportunities for reader acquisition, retention, and ultimately, revenue. The good news is that the longer a reader engages, the more likely it is that they come back. Our research shows that small details can yield big results—it also requires adjustments in real time that can increase reader engagement and loyalty.

The reality is that readers expect nothing less than a high-quality digital experience. In order to deliver, publishers need to use systems that can make an immediate impact — whether it is calling attention to content problems or identifying enhancement opportunities — all before that brief window to engage readers closes.

Accurate, actionable data allows publishers to optimize workflows, encourage deeper engagement, and expand reach. Most importantly, real-time analytics allows organizations to better leverage its most valuable resource—its people.

Create better reader experiences with real-time data

Publishers have the opportunity to turn reader visits into high quality interactions. More challenging, however, is encouraging certain behaviors such as reading as much of the story as possible and/or reading more than one before they leave.

Making small adjustments to stories while they are trending in real time allows editors to make these desired behaviors a reality. Those types of optimizations can include:

  • Improved ledes. A great lede can keep readers highly engaged.
  • Powerful quotes. Move them higher up in the story to encourage deeper reads. 
  • Placement of visual elements. Photos and videos make readers more engaged with the text.
  • Linking strategy. Add links to the related stories, placing them where most readers are likely to see it. 

These adjustments sound easy to make, but the opportunity to do so quickly will come and go without real-time metrics tailored for the digital experience. Get to know Engaged Time, Scroll Depth, and Recirculation.

  • Engaged Timethe average period visitors are spending actively interacting with your content.
  • Scroll depthhow far readers went down your page in the last two hours. Percentage decreases represents fewer people who scrolled that far down the page.
  • Recirculationcompares the number of people on a given page to the number of people who have traveled from that page to another article page.

Real-time information uncovers social media opportunities

Digital teams spend a substantial amount of time leveraging social platforms to connect with readers. With the help of real-time data, they can see the effectiveness of content immediately after it’s posted. 

Real-time data is also useful when performance doesn’t live up to expectations. Experiment with minor changes that help publishers reach their goals. Here are a few examples:

  • Be cognizant of tone. Readers respond to the human or emotional angle of a story, especially on social media.
  • Consider a different platform. Each social network has its own personality, and certain stories may be better suited to one platform over another.
  • Uncover opportunities to capitalize on organic sharing. Articles that are trending on social points to a real-time chance to boost performance. Share content directly with followers across social accounts to give stories new life.

A quick note:

On average, readers from social media only return to a site about 1.2 times per week. By combining your social strategy with an engagement strategy, you can begin converting those side-door visitors into brand loyalists.

We believe a proactive approach to promotion strategies is crucial, particularly as platforms and reader habits evolve. Running targeted, data-informed experiments can increase the efficiency and outcomes of anyone who works with social media.

How real-time analytics can lead to growth

The competition for readers is substantial. Even more so: the competition for revenue. We’ve seen that a higher engagement has a direct tie to reader revenue goals. Whether you monetize via advertising or subscriptions, longer reads and deeper visits will help your bottom line. 

A quick note:

This especially applies to subscriptions, where the ability to quickly identify loyal non-subscribers creates a massive opportunity for direct appeals to subscribe. On the other end of the spectrum, real-time data can improve retention by identifying paying subscribers that show lower levels of engagement.

Real-time data addresses the level of immediacy needed to encourage the greatest possible engagement and future visits from your readers.

By leveraging real-time data to supplement overarching reader growth and retention strategies, publishers can align their organizations and build an end-to-end sustainable revenue model.


Want more real-time engagement tactics? Download our playbook.

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