Reader traffic and engagement insights from around the world: First quarter 2020

Our analysis of global reader traffic from the first quarter of this year showed us the calm before the storm. We saw key metrics such as Engaged Time and loyalty remain flat from our previous analysis — a precursor to the influx in coronavirus-related traffic that occurred much later in the quarter and into April.

Below, our most recent analysis of audience engagement across the globe.

Compare to our previous insights | Q4 2019

LATAM regains top spot in Engaged Time

After a fourth quarter where reader engagement in the Middle East outpaced the rest of the world, there has been a return to what we saw in most of 2019 — higher Average Engaged Time by audiences throughout Latin America.

Readers in Latin America averaged 34.5 seconds of Engaged Time (compared to 30.7 in the Middle East) while engagement in Africa saw a notable rise to 33 seconds from 31 seconds in the past quarter. 

By comparison, coronavirus-related traffic showed an Average Engaged Time of nearly 40 seconds as coverage and readership spiked, with non-coronavirus articles slightly above Latin America at 35 seconds.

Mobile engagement up or flat across the board

Mobile referrals were consistent with last quarter, with readers in Africa generating a whopping 80% of pageviews from the channel. Central and Southeast Asia trailed by a small margin, at 78% and 77%, respectively.

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The other global regions tracked by Chartbeat showed minor increases or remained flat for the period ending March 31.

Referral traffic from search and social shows usual suspects

Audiences in Central Asia continue to referral significant traffic from search, which drove 33% of pageviews in the past quarter. The next closest region was the Middle East at 26%.

We see a similar story in Southeast Asia, where 31% of traffic was referred by social networks by a wide margin. Readers in Africa had the next highest referrals generated from social traffic at 22%.

Loyalty and European readers remain synonymous

Africa, Asia, and Latin America may lead in many reader metrics, yet we still see that audiences in Europe are the most loyal*.

(Related reading: How distribution channels drive reader loyalty: Our findings across devices

Forty-six percent of readers in Northern Europe were classified as loyal, while Central, and Southern Europe were not far behind at 40% and 38%, respectively. The Asia-Pacific region was the only other region to cross the 40% threshold this past quarter.

Global audience engagement: Takeaways from our first quarter analysis

Quick takeaways on international audience engagement highlights from this past quarter:

Key metrics remained flat

Average Engaged Time and referral data remained static, echoing much of 2019 which saw engagement in Latin America and loyalty in Europe climb as those regions increased their focus on experimentation and paywall optimizations.

Reasons to be cautiously optimistic

Looking ahead, our analysis on traffic to coronavirus and non-coronavirus content shows a promising second quarter ahead. Our data suggests that audiences that came for breaking news around the virus stuck around to go deeper into other content. However, it’s yet to be seen if content creators have done enough to retain those audiences as overall traffic declines.

Look to the long-term trends

Organizations seeking the key drivers of loyalty can continue to count on Europe for a glimpse into the future. The strategies being implemented across those publishers continues to pay off, forging a global blueprint for bridging the gap between loyalty and reader revenue.

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