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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Publishers are focused on revenue and time on site

April 6, 2020 | By Megan Morreale, Senior Content Marketing Manager – Taboola @MeganRoseM

Due to recent trends in news related to the Covid-19 outbreak, publisher traffic is booming. Not only are people visiting publisher sites more, they’re also sticking around longer and reading more content.

Last month, we surveyed publishers, agencies, and brands to ask them about their top priorities for the year. We uncovered insights related to revenue and engagement in 2020, which are more relevant now than ever.

Ninety online publishers responded to our survey—a mix of representatives from both small and large businesses from a variety of different verticals. We’ll share the results we uncovered, indicating a focus on revenue and engagement, and strategies for tackling those goals.

Whose goals are they?

When we took a look at survey respondents by job function, we saw a mix of representation from sales, business development, revenue and ad operations, product, editorial and executive management. The majority of respondents came from revenue, ad operations, and business development. This is probably why revenue made it to the top of the priority pile.

This mix of survey respondents came from publisher businesses of a variety of sizes. They included everyone from large publishing houses in the global news sphere to smaller niche-based publishers looking to reach their audiences more effectively.

These publishers cover a variety of topics. The most heavily represented were business, entertainment, news, and technology. Some of these publishers span more than one news vertical and we allowed each respondent to select all of the verticals that were most relevant to their operations.

All of this to say that a wide range of people from publishers of all types revealed their top KPIs for their businesses across the board.

Top KPIs: revenue and time on site

Respondents were given a list of potential KPIs to choose from. Most respondents selected revenue and time on site as their top KPI for the year.

Not far behind these KPIs was direct advertising revenue, returning visitors, sponsored content click-through-rate (CTR) and reader revenue and/or subscriptions.

The focus on time on site and returning visitors indicates high interest in user engagement. Publishers don’t want visitors to come around once and then leave. They’re looking for people to stay, consume more content and come back again.

Other top KPIs are a clear support of revenue-driving efforts.

Tips for increasing revenue and time on site

The best way to increase both revenue and engagement metrics like time on site is easier said than done. It is important to reach the right person, with the right content, at the right time. In reality, doing so requires a holistic strategy behind the content itself, your site’s design, and exactly what monetization efforts you’re deploying for each user.

Valuable content

You know your site visitors better than anyone out there, including their definition of valuable and entertaining content. On top of this know-how, recent events have proven that publishers can do a lot to act on current events to stay relevant for their users.

We’ve seen publishers do the following:

  • Take down their paywalls for Covid-19 related content.
  • Replace in-person events with virtual events to encourage people staying inside and possibly recoup revenue lost from cancelled live events.
  • Curate lists of entertainment ideas, products, and services related to their niche to inspire people while they stay inside.

These strategies can expand beyond issues related to the current global pandemic. For example, providing sporadic free content related to holidays, current events, and cultural milestones is a good strategy for publishers looking to engage new readers.

Pleasing to read, watch or browse

Having the valuable content is half the battle. You also need to make sure your content is easy to consume on all types of platforms, is pleasing to the eye, and easy to access.

Here are some tips inspired by advanced publishers:

  • Consider segmenting your user experience by loyalty. Users that return to your site to consume content more often might see more organic content or more opportunities to subscribe. (Side note: Defining exactly what loyalty means for you can be tough. We’ve spoken to publishers who define it using everything from pageviews in a set number of days to breadth of interest on site.)
  • Change your paywall depending on who’s looking at it. There’s more than one way to put up a paywall, and provide options like free trials, complimentary access with a purchase or exclusive access to certain pieces of coverage might be a good option depending on the user.
  • All content should be responsive, keeping various types of mobile audiences in mind.

The right mix of content initiatives and monetization efforts is the best medicine for hitting your KPI goals this year, no matter the landscape. Staying authentic, valuable and top of mind for your site visitors is the best way to keep them engaged and drive revenue.

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