Thursday August 10th || by Megan Morreale

The publishing industry is always focused on their audiences—specifically the experience while consuming content or engaging with online communities.

Audience engagement is a top priority for publishers, and they’re preparing for the next generation today, keeping up and coming content opportunities in mind—like video, interactive storytelling, and virtual reality.

According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, in a web of saturated content, the shift in focus is towards quality reach as opposed to big numbers, no matter the content type:

There is also a new focus on audience engagement, on driving ‘quality reach’ rather than just big numbers, and on building habit through email and mobile notifications.

“There is a new focus on audience engagement, on driving ‘quality reach’ rather than just big numbers.” – Reuters Institute

Recently the Global Editors Network Editors Lab, a global series of hackathons of developers, journalists, and designers from top newsrooms explored the future of audience engagement.

We gathered insights from the Reuters report and findings from the Global Editor Network’s hackathon to identify the top three insights that the new generation of publishers will define in terms of audience engagement.

They’re coming up with new ways to listen to their audiences.

audience engagement

The idea of driving audience feedback isn’t new—it’s pretty logical that in order to better engage your communities, you have to listen to what they want.

New content formats are providing new opportunities for audience engagement and feedback. In a workshop with Andrew Haeg, Founder & CEO of GroundSource, he discussed how publishers should think about this moving forward.

  • Guide your calls for audience interaction: If you put out an open-ended statement for feedback, you’ll intimidate users and readers. Surveys are a good way to overcome this.
  • Put your audience first by listening to your social media and forum communities: If your content is driving a lot of comments, they can be a gold mine.
  • Create authentic content for each distribution channel: Your audience will be different on each of your channels, and you should cater specifically to them.
  • Don’t overlook anything: the opinions and points of view of your audience should never be overlooked.

In order to better listen to their audiences, publishers are bringing, even more, data into the newsroom about the channels they use to reach them.

They’re improving data in the newsroom.

audience engagement

In the Reuters Institute’s latest survey on key industry challenges and opportunities, they found that bringing more real time data to the newsroom was important to 76% of their respondents:

“Over three quarters (76%) of respondents said that it would be critical to improving the use and understanding of data in the newsroom.”

Insights from the Global Editor’s Hackathon supported Reuters data. Mike Sukmanowsky, VP of product at the social analytics firm Parse.ly spoke about behavioral signals:

“Behavioral data can give amazing signals. You can have many visitors with a low engagement, and you can have a few visitors with a high engagement, especially if your content matters to small communities or interest groups.”

“If a reader stays 5 seconds on a page you can call it a bounce. But what if this person stays 45 seconds?” – Mike Sukmanowsky, Parse.ly

“If a reader stays 5 seconds on a page you can call it a bounce. But what if this person stays 45 seconds? Even if the person does not read the whole article, it’s a visit that counts and needs to be acknowledged. A real completion rate—this can be far more interesting.”

Whether they’re looking at engagement rates or time spent with content, this real time data is informing content decisions.

Just having the data isn’t enough, publishers are taking a necessary step further and responding to it by looking forward to future mainstream content formats.

They’re looking for new formats for engagement.

audience engagement

We’ve all heard about that the future formats of content—video, interactive storytelling, voice activated devices like the echo, and eventually, artificial intelligence—are right around the corner, and publishers are preparing for them today.

They’re not only thinking about the formats, they’re thinking about the new opportunities these new formats could emerge. For example, Mic is investing a lot of energy into social videos on Instagram, targeting specific interest groups and communities.

In a workshop with Cory Haik, Publisher of Mic, she insisted on the individuality of each platform:

“Each platform is nuanced, specific and editors should not port content from a platform to another. You have to create authentic content for each platform. It’s pretty luxurious to have an editor for each platform, and it performs better this way.”

“It’s pretty luxurious to have an editor for each platform, and it performs better this way.” – Cory Haik, Mic

Having an editor by format is becoming increasingly necessary as formats become more unique. Reuter’s report mentioned the emergence of voice-activated digital assistants like the Amazon Echo, and that for the publishing industry, they could bring a big change in the way audiences engage with their content.

Voice-activated digital assistants like the Amazon Echo are emerging as a new platform for news, already outstripping smart watches in the US, UK, and Germany.

The importance of audience engagement will never change for publishers – but what will change is the way those audiences engage with content as technology evolves.The next generation of publishers is ready.

Taboola is the world’s leading content discovery platform, serving 360B recommendations to over 1B unique visitors each month on the web’s most innovative publisher sites. To learn more about how Taboola can help you, contact us.

Megan Morreale

Content Marketing Manager at Taboola and proud iced tea addict. You can find me online writing, tweeting or crunching a set of marketing data. Tweet me @MeganRoseM, or check out my blog: www.meganmorreale.com/journal.