How distribution channels drive reader loyalty: Our findings across devices 

We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching the drivers of subscriptions for publishers to better understand its connections to reader loyalty. Equally important is how you reach readers.

Below, we share some findings from our analysis of the relationship between distribution channels and loyalty.

Loyalty is no longer a desktop-only game

Believe it or not, loyalty is actually higher on mobile than desktop when we analyze our global publisher data.

Comparing loyalty for mobile vs desktop visitors

Across the board, mobile visitors show more loyalty. We see the accessibility of these devices — a 24/7 window into what’s going on at any moment — driving this trend. This does not mean desktop traffic is going away, it’s just often tethered to a single place (e.g., work or home), whereas your mobile device moves with you all day long.

mobile visitor behavior loyalty

When looking at weekly visits by traffic sources across mobile and desktop experiences, we saw that app direct visitors are nearly 6x more loyal than platform visitors.

reader loyalty direct app links

This finding begins to make more sense when you think about publishers’ renewed focus on mobile experiences, considering the overall number of visits taking place on mobile increased by more than 20%.

(Related: Channels, conversions, and churn: Why better mobile UX is key for subscriber revenue)

Where visitors are finding apps and its impact on loyalty

Visitors coming to apps via deep links or direct traffic on the web do so three times more often than platform visitors, as we see below.

deep links loyalty data

That said, at this point loyalty is roughly the same when it comes to the major platforms (i.e., Facebook, Google Search), as shown below.

reader loyalty on platforms

What our channel loyal findings mean for content creators

“Subscription is an act of loyalty, and readers need some way of developing that loyalty and affinity for a publication before they’re likely to pay,” Josh Schwartz, our Chief of Product, Engineering and Data Science, recently told Nieman Lab on the topic of reader revenue and loyalty

The data we outlined in this piece suggests that publishers are increasingly aware of this journey to develop loyalty, using multiple channels to grow these relationships over time.

A few other takeaways from the research:

Shift in app experiences suggests new paths to loyalty

The data suggests that loyal readers want a direct path to publishers — a huge indicator that there’s value in improving app and direct to mobile experiences. That being said, friction along the mobile journey poses a massive hurdle in getting even loyal readers to move closer to subscription.

Platforms still have a prominent role in loyal readership

Yes, we’re seeing an interesting shift in visitor patterns that favor direct visits to apps. Yet, loyal readers are still coming from Google or Facebook. Our recent research shows that there’s still a case to keep your platform presence top of mind.

Movement matters when it comes to device-based loyalty

Loyalty among mobile visitors is growing rapidly. This finding makes sense when you think about today’s mobile-first readers. Don’t go abandoning your investments in desktop, especially since we still depend on this experience every day.

Editor’s note: A version of this post first appeared in Digital Content Next.

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