Audience engagement insights from around the world for the second quarter of 2020

A significant rise in reader engagement driven by the global pandemic was front and center in our latest analysis for the quarter ending June 30. Across the globe, we saw increases in Engaged Time and referrals, yet the challenge for publishers was (and remains) translating those increased site visits into returning, loyal readers.

Below, our most recent findings and what it means for content creators.

Compare to our previous insights | Q1 2020

Africa continues to see rise in Engaged Time

Readers in Africa are engaging with content at increased levels, averaging 35.1 seconds of Engaged Time this past quarter, our data shows. This is up from 33 seconds in the first quarter and 31 seconds in the last quarter of 2019.

Unsurprisingly, readers in Latin America still have an edge in engagement, averaging 36.3 seconds of Engaged Time this past quarter, making it consecutive quarters as the region with highest average engagement and continuing the upward trends we saw in 2019.

European readers continue to fall on the low end of engagement quarter over quarter, with Central and Eastern European readers averaging 28.8 seconds of Engaged Time and Northern European audiences at 29.3 seconds. However, this does not appear to impact reader loyalty, as we’ll discuss in more detail below.

Engagement throughout the world remains high, which corresponds with our recent data on coronavirus readership. It’s also worth noting that our data shows that readers who engage with content for at least 15 seconds are more likely to return.

Mobile referrals are up across the world

Referrals driven from mobile devices saw a rise globally, punctuated by a whopping 87% of readers in Central Asia getting their content via mobile — a 10% increase since last quarter. As mentioned above, we have seen engagement related to the global pandemic as a driving force of referrals across devices.


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Mobile referrals in Africa rose as well, to 83% from 80% quarter over quarter, while data from the rest of the world saw modest increases in the 1% to 2% range compared to Q1.

Central Asia, Middle East see search referral increases

Audiences in Central Asia also saw a notable rise in referrals from search, up to 38% from 33%. Readers in the Middle East drove the second most referrals, up to 29% from 26%.

Based on what we know about reader behaviors, we can see that these regions are increasingly seeking information, typically in line with factual content or “news they can use”, via search.

Social referrals in Southeast Asia still far above rest

Publishers hoping to get the attention of audiences in Southeast Asia may consider strategies around social media platforms, which referred 32% of traffic in the past quarter. Combined with their 76% of traffic referred from mobile devices, the data suggests there could be a compelling reason to experiment with audience engagement on mobile-first social platforms. 

The next highest referrals generated from social traffic was in Africa at 25%, a 3% rise since last quarter. Across the rest of the world, we saw single-digit or flat growth compared to our prior analysis.

Loyalty declines in Asia, remains high in Europe

Audiences across Asia are referring high amount of traffic via search and social channels, yet they’re missing the mark in getting them to consistently return, our loyalty* data shows. 

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

Only 18% and 19% of readers in Central and Southeast Asia were classified as loyal readers, down from 24% and 21%, respectively. Compare this to Europe, where readers in the Northern, Central and Eastern, and Southern regions classified 48%, 40%, and 39% as loyal, respectively. Those figures are all up or static compared to last quarter.

*A loyal reader is someone who returns to your site in at least 50% of days in a two-week period.

Global audience engagement: Takeaways from our second quarter analysis

A few takeaways from our audience data analysis this past quarter:

Engagement, on average, is up

Average Engaged Time and referral data saw rises across the world, which is consistent with the trends we’ve seen across engagement with coronavirus and non-coronavirus articles. Yet, as we highlight below, publishers will need to consider their Recirculation and article page-level optimizations if they want to keep those readers around over the long term. 

Loyalty is down

Audiences in Southeast Asia serve as one recent example of the conundrum many publishers face: attracting readers to your site through critical channels such as social media are still important, but more needs to be done (i.e., comprehensive Recirculation strategies) to ensure they’ll stay, read deeper, and keep coming back.

Impact of coronavirus on readership

We described last quarter as the “calm before the storm.” That view held strong — the data speaks volumes about what we’ve found across our coronavirus data — traffic and engagement are up at unprecedented levels. However, it will likely take several quarters to have a clearer idea of whether this vast increase in audience engagement can translate to greater loyalty, and ultimately, reader revenue opportunities.

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