Chartbeat Blog

Loyal readers in perspective: Analyzing engagement data across audiences

Our analysis of engagement data and trends over the past year led us to another important question — did all of the changes to our lives related to the pandemic have an effect on reader loyalty? Moreover, did news consumers become more or less loyal to news sites?

More from our analysis below.

How loyal audiences compared to other visitor types

To begin, we looked at the percentage of pageviews from visitors classified as New, whom we consider to be those whose last visit was more than a month ago, compared to Returning or Loyal visitors. 

(Note: We define loyal visitors as those that visit a site every other day or more often, while Returning visitors are those whose reader behaviors are somewhere in between.)

The data showed a slight uptick in the percentage of pageviews attributable to New and Returning visitors in the initial period of Covid reporting. However, that increase was not sustained, as the chart above shows.

Here’s two reasons why we believe that might have been the case:

1. In the early days of the pandemic, people who may not have typically read much news were increasingly coming to sites for updates, but eventually stopped due to fatigue, and thus New and Returning visitors declined.

2. Those readers who came in growing numbers routinely came back to receive updates, eventually becoming Loyal audiences.

While visitor frequency is one indicator of reader loyalty, it does not say whether loyal visitors translate into subscribers. More on that topic in the next section.

A look at loyal audiences and subscription trends

We then analyzed trends in subscriber engagement over the year to see if the economic challenges associated with the pandemic affected subscriptions. Here’s what we found:

Comparing engagement data to previous reader loyalty research

Here’s how our findings in 2020 compared to previous loyalty analyses:

1. Our quarterly analysis of loyalty throughout the world demonstrates the relationship between engagement and loyalty. While much of the world saw increases in loyal readership it was Latin America, our most engaged region by Engaged Time, showed the largest growth comparatively.

2. A look at mobile user experiences and loyalty showed us that engagement is just one piece of the loyalty puzzle. As audiences increasingly interact with content via mobile devices, our data suggests that the ability to create seamless mobile subscription experiences can make a significant difference in converting subscribers.

3. When we looked at how distribution channels impact loyalty, we found that many of those readers want a direct path to publishers — another important indicator that there’s value in improving app and direct to mobile experiences.

Overall, our data suggests that the growth in readership during the pandemic positively impacted global publishers with subscription models. This aligns with our annual research on the most engaging content, which showed that publishers were able to demonstrate their value through not only timely reporting, but innovation across their live blogs and infographics.

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