Loyal Users vs. Flyby Users: Do Publishers Lose Out When Users Flyby?

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Which publications do you read? How often? How thoroughly? In what format?

“Wait,” you say, “I consume most content on my phone and computer. I jump around like crazy.” It’s likely you’re loyal to very few publishers too.

Your answers make you the typical content consumer: the flyby. More often than not, you go where the sound bites you come across on social media take you.

As a publisher, you must turn these questions around and take a hard look at user loyalty (and your challenges earning it).

  • Who reads your content?
  • How often?
  • How thoroughly?

This next one is a big and perplexing question:

  • What’s the value of the flyby user compared to the loyal user?

We’re diving into the difference between the two, and how you can best interact with both to optimize your efforts for monetization and engagement.

Who’s a Loyal User?

As important as metrics are to you, there isn’t a magic number that nails the answer to this question. As pointed out in a previous article about defining loyalty, publishers struggle to identify a singular metric.

You might consider any or all of the following:

  • Visits within a timeframe
  • Number of days a user visited in the past 30 days
  • Articles read in a timeframe
  • Average page views per visit
  • Breadth of interest

This is what we recommend:

The average daily number of pageviews in the last 30 days, coupled with the recency and frequency of visits. This makes the calculation a bit more dynamic. For example: If User A had 10 pageviews 5 days ago, and User B had 10 pageviews 15 days ago, User A would have a higher loyalty score.

Regardless of whether or not you can nail a loyal user down to a KPI, it’s safe to say that a loyal user is someone who knows your content, and comes back at least semi-regularly to consume it. These are the users for whom you’ll have multiple opportunities to monetize (as long as you keep providing them with engaging and relevant content, again and again).

Who’s a Flyby User?

Flyby users are the users who, well, ‘fly by.’ These users might have responded to a social media ad, read one article of yours, and left. Or, they bounce when they hit the page and don’t return for many months.

These users don’t know your content, and probably aren’t coming back to consume more of it. These are users you’re not going to have a lot of opportunities to monetize and engage with.

Tossing the flyby users out of your strategy just because they’re not coming back regularly (yet), is not necessarily an effective strategy. You can treat both flyby users and loyal users with different user experiences, strategically.

Who should you nurture with subscriptions?

There’s no denying it, publishers have turned their attention to the subscription model, and for those users that do want to subscribe, it’s a great monetization tool. It shows in the data—more publishers are prioritizing subscription models over other forms of monetization.

While publishers have various revenue sources — including, of course, ad sales — a 2019 report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found subscriptions are by far their largest priority.

But, choosing a priority “revenue focus” shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all decision. Subscriptions are best targeted at those users who are more loyal—those who are already coming back again and again, and are showing signals that they’re a candidate to subscribe.

These users should be shown less advertising and sponsored content, and more organic content and calls-to-action to subscribe.

At Taboola, we believe that the solutions to building subscriber-based revenues are three-fold:

  • Winning new subscribersReaders that engage most have the highest propensity to subscribe. The more you know about them, the better chance you have of inspiring them to subscribe.
  • Retaining subscribers – Of course, you want to prevent your existing subscribers from clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ button. It’s no secret, you do so by delivering relevant and engaging content.

But, the priority revenue focus for the other users, the flyby users, should be advertising and sponsored content. These users aren’t likely to ever subscribe, and by providing them with the same user experience as loyal users, you’re missing out on revenue. Which brings us to our third point..

  • Recognizing the ‘forever-free’ contingent – Some readers will never convert. This is not to say, however, that they are permanent members of your flyby audience. Your content can keep them coming back for more and your reason for doing so is to engage them with your advertisers via sponsored content.

Create a better user experience, no matter the user

One simple way to look at why users do or don’t flyby is to consider if they like what they see—literally. We’re talking about the user experience, in particular, the elements visitors find on your site and how you present your content.

A Taboola post highlighting ways to attract and retain visitors includes these tips:

  • Add featured content boxes – Breakup text-based content with boxes that highlight a specific point, product, or content.
  • Include non-intrusive ads – Ads can repel or attract visitors. Increasingly, publishers forgo traditional banners in favor of native ads, which blend in with a website.
  • Offer onsite search – Enable visitors to search for content on your website. Make your search mechanism easy to find and use. Bonus benefit: you’ll learn a lot about the users’ content needs by examining the metrics your search mechanism captures.

Personalization is Today’s Flyby Reduction Plan

It’s probably not fair to conclude flyby folks are not buyers. In this detailed report, the digital analytics firm Parse.ly says ‘bouncers,’ or people who leave a site before consuming more than one page, are more valuable than they’re given credit for.

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