Loyalty Depends on the New King—Data: Publisher Insights From Taboola Talks

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A cultural change is afoot.

Users are consuming content in new ways, and publishers need to adjust to this brave new world if they want to increase brand engagement and loyalty. This means understanding users’ behaviors and patterns, and, most importantly, giving them content that they love.

What was crystal clear at our latest Taboola Talks—data is the new king.

Our CEO, Adam Singolda, summed this up, saying:

“Data is a map. People who have a promotional angle know how to drive it, but for the most part, it’s not about getting more data, it’s about activating any piece of data.”

Put your data to work.

The entire panel agreed that a data-based approach is the way forward, yet each applies the knowledge that their data provides in different ways.

Some use data to create new products, some different types of content and others multiple platforms. Here’s what the panelists had to say:

“We have launched a whole new product in response to looking at what the data tells us about the users… the user engagement for this is off the scale.”

Christian Broughton, Editor, British national daily newspaper The Independent

“Content we create isn’t necessarily just all in one place—we can utilize the resource and the video content on TV programs, Instagram, Snapchat or other platforms, as well as our core business.”

Julian Childs, Managing Director UK and SVP International of global finance and business news website Business Insider.

“There has been a change in user consumption, moving into audio and new ways of letting users digest content and increase engagement—like podcasts.”

Zach Sullivan, Chief Revenue Officer of British magazine publisher Future plc

Brand Building & Revenue Streams Can Work Together

The publishing industry is often associated with ‘doom and gloom,’ but panel moderator and Managing Director of AOP (Association of Online Publishers), Richard Reeves, rightly highlighted that tech giants are continually innovating and building loyalty, and publishing can follow suit.

“Advertising still remains a fundamental source of income, and we should be thanking the likes of Facebook and Google who made us wake up and understand that we need to diversify and understand a different way of interacting with users,” said Reeves.

The Independent is doing just that with its Independent Minds subscription.

Independent Minds brings out our sense of identity. Through engagement and huge levels of brand trust, this type of product allows us to know our readers better, and we can build in a lot of other things that work with our brand to support The Independent as a news source,” said Broughton.

Business Insider’s approach to driving loyalty is investing heavily in content.

“We have to believe there is a model in doing great content. To get more users, they must first want to engage with your content. Production value and services [are higher] than we would traditionally have, but it pays off if we’re delighting our readers” said Childs.

To Scroll or Not to Scroll

Although Taboola was historically instrumental in implementing widgets across websites, the company has now shifted to focus on feeds. This led the panel to ask: ‘Is scrolling the way to encourage engagement?’

According to Taboola’s CEO, Adam Singolda, the answer is yes.

“People like to scroll. We saw Instagram doing well and thought why not—let’s do it too. People like to scroll, so we gain the social benefit of a page not starting and ending.

I do think they found something with this scrolling behavior—small things that work. If someone on your site gets to the twentieth card in your feed, that person is evolving into a superhero,” said Singolda.

While many agreed in the power of infinite scroll, it’s worth noting that one publisher felt there were still challenges to face there.

“Scrolling just wastes your time. When you scroll, you are wasting time unless you are trying to focus on making a buying decision and if I am just scrolling, I wouldn’t buy anything—I would just scroll, because I have a big idea about what I want them [readers] to do,” said Sullivan at Future plc.

There’s a lot of misconceptions around scrolling in the industry—competing studies have shown conflicting data around the topic. Huge Inc., a digital agency behind some of the biggest brands in the world, like Nike, Lowes, and Google, set out to settle the discrepancy.

They found that no matter what the design, users always scrolled. Whether or not they engage is up to the content on the page and its relevance—which is what Taboola strives offer—relevance and personalization for the user.

The Key Takeaways

You can find the magic mix that will work for your audience by checking your data and understanding your users’ behavior.

  • Build trust with your audience by focusing on quality instead of quantity.
  • Serve the right kind of content based on where users come from and their intent.
  • Experiment with new formats and channels.

Every audience is unique, and there’s a special sauce that will resonate with yours—just dig deep, team up with the data experts and find it.

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