Stop News Avoidance Now: 3 Engagement Principles

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Many publishers still offer a standardized news experience that looks the same to everybody. That “one size fits all” experience is there for a reason – it’s inspired by the print experience that offered a uniform page to every subscriber. That’s no longer enough to connect with audience preferences that revolve around data-powered personalization.

The way to win audience engagement and subscribers requires personalization and data. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube present customized experiences based on the user’s connections and preferences. Other online services like Netflix and Amazon have also leveraged personalized experiences to grow engagement. 

There’s a clear ROI to investing in personalization. Industry research suggests that high levels of personalization can lift conversions by 30% or more. That means increased subscriber sign-ups and fewer cancellations, key ways boost revenue and profitability.

Offering personalized experiences helps to lift customer retention and audience engagement. For publishers, personalization is also vital because publishers are facing a crisis of confidence and trust.

Misinformation And Declining Trust: An Existential Crisis For Publishers

Growing audience engagement and subscriptions become difficult when audiences do not trust a publisher on a fundamental level. The Pew Research Center has found that trust in national news organizations fell from 76% in 2017 to 58% in 2021. The same research also found trust is falling for local news from 82% in 2016 to 75% in 2021. Distrust isn’t the only challenge, either.

The Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism found that 72% of news industry leaders found that news avoidance is a challenge. Avoiding the news is driven by, “a response to media coverage related to politics, climate change, inflation or coverage of the war in Ukraine, which leaves people feeling overwhelmed and powerless.” says News Media Canada.

Solving news avoidance will also take a variety of strategies, including editorial changes. The Reuters Institute argues that explanatory journalism, Q&A formats, and inspirational stories are worthwhile solutions to news avoidance. All of these changes have their place in leading to a solution. 

Solving the misinformation crisis will ultimately require collaboration across society, including educators, publishers, and other stakeholders. Publishers have an opportunity to lead the conversation by enhancing trust.

Laying A Foundation For Trust: Integrity, Data, and Personalization

Restoring your audience’s trust in your publication starts with developing three principles: integrity, data, and personalization. These principles can then help to guide you through the tactical steps to follow.

Principle 1: Integrity

Publishers can earn trust by restoring a focus on integrity. Fortunately, many publishers and journalists are committed to practicing good journalism ethics. That said, some of the commitment to integrity is invisible to your audience. With some measure of transparency, it is easier for a skeptical audience to trust you.

Improving your publication’s reputation for integrity will depend on how your audience perceives you. The following methods can help you to enhance your perceived integrity.

Reinforce fact-checking

When a publisher fails to collect and present accurate information, it’s tough to maintain audience trust. For high-profile stories, it’s worth making the extra effort to verify the facts. Investing more effort into accuracy will also help to separate your publication from less professional outlets.

Own your mistakes and follow up

Every publisher makes mistakes now and then – it’s inevitable given the tight timelines and other pressures of publishing. When mistakes happen, whether factual errors or something else, take the time to update your digital stories with corrections. Many publishers already do this, so implementing this best practice is vital to staying  

Invite your audience to occasional behind-the-scenes conversations

Occasionally pulling back the curtain on the publishing process can also help to build trust with your audience. For example, share how you approach high-profile or controversial coverage. By revealing the care and due diligence you use, inspiring audience trust will get easier.

While integrity matters, it will only take you so far. To compete successfully against the largest media outlets, leveraging data and personalization is vital.

Principle 2: Data 

Data is the next element in solving news avoidance

Data is the next element in solving news avoidance and boosting audience engagement. Specifically, publishers need to make gathering and using first-party data a priority. First-party data is gathered directly from your audience without relying on anyone else. Asking consumers to provide more data is more likely to succeed when the audience sees value.

There are several ways to invest more deeply in data to build audience engagement and grow, including the following:

Deepen your audience understanding with first-party data

First-party data means information your audience has directly provided to you. For example, you might track opens and clicks on your email newsletter. That data gives you direct insights into what your audience values.

Upskill your journalists on data literacy

More and more stories and coverage today require data journalism skills. Whether you train staff, recruit people with this expertise, or take a hybrid approach, data skills matter. The capacity to analyze data critically for your audience will become a key way to build trust and counter misinformation.

Principle 3: Personalization

Personalization matters in rebuilding trust

Personalization matters in rebuilding trust because it shows that you are paying attention to what your audience values. For many publications, personalization based on first-party data is the largest opportunity for growth. Therefore, we’ll explore this opportunity in the greatest depth.

Depending on your goals and resources, there are multiple ways to personalize the subscriber experience. Here are some of the most popular ways to personalize the subscriber experience.

Personalize The Homepage Experience

Many publishers, especially those with a background in print, present their home page

like the front page of a newspaper. Some subscribers may like that approach, but it may not work for everyone. Give subscribers the option to customize their homepage experience based on their interests. For example, some of your audience may want in-depth political coverage, while others only want to see breaking business stories.

Tailor The Email Experience

Your email newsletter experience is the next opportunity to leverage personalization. Take inspiration from the Morning Brew, an email-only news publisher. The publication started with a general news publication broadly focused on technology and business stories in the US. More recently, the company has created separate email newsletters based on job roles (e.g., CFO Brew) and industry interests (e.g., Marketing Brew).

Arena Live Blog makes creating this kind of experience easy! For example, a new publisher could set up a live blog feed for local news and  another for sports and create an email newsletter based on the most popular content. In that way, your email newsletter delivers only the most popular content to email subscribers!

Invite Subscribers To Exclusive Events

Welcoming your subscribers with premium events is one of the best ways to offer a personalized experience. From the audience’s perspective, an event is a powerful networking opportunity because you can ask questions and interact with people who share your interests. From the publisher’s viewpoint, digital events are a powerful way to deepen audience engagement and gather data.

Running digital events doesn’t have to be complicated either. You just need the right tools – like Arena Live Chat – to get started. Check out the next section for tips and tricks on how to use live chat in your events!

Let’s take a closer look at how publishers can use digital engagement and events to engage their audience.

Unlocking More First-Party Data With Events: 4 Strategies

Unlike static articles, podcasts, or videos, interactive events offer the chance to connect with others who share similar interests. 

Expand Access To In-Person Events

A growing list of publishers like TechCrunch and WIRED offer in-person events to serve their subscribers. For those subscribers able to attend these events, there’s nothing quite like breaking bread with other people. However, the reality is that many of your subscribers may not find traditional events convenient to attend due to travel costs and other responsibilities.

The solution is to offer a digital pass to your event. Using Arena Live Chat, you can use chat experiences on your website to engage your subscribers in various ways. For those who buy digital tickets, you might offer an intimate small group event to interact with your publication’s top personalities. 

Run Brandsafe Events With VIP Guests

Every industry and interest has celebrities and thought leaders. Building an event around an exciting guest is one of the best ways to create an enticing event experience. One challenge associated with running a live event with a high-profile guest is moderation.

While many celebrities have a large fan base, such personalities inevitably attract their share of detractors and haters. Arena has you covered here! You get customizable AI profanity filters to stop the most common “not safe for work” language from ever making it into your chat. Also, Arena provides moderation features, so your staff can filter questions and comments before posting them.

Enhance Coverage Of Live Events

When a big story breaks, your audience will be hungry for up-to-date coverage and analysis. Major events in sports and politics offer tremendous opportunities to provide in-depth coverage. 

Arena Live Blog is one of the best ways to increase engagement during these high-profile events. Your team can leverage a combination of breaking news and content created in advance (e.g., explainers, Q&A with experts, etc.). A live blog – which some publishers call ‘live updates’ – makes it easy to provide short updates. 

When a major news story breaks, your audience may take to social media to share their thoughts. Arena Live Blog equips you with curating social media content to enrich your coverage. However, unfiltered social media can bring low-quality and inappropriate material. 

Arena Live Blog keeps publishers in control of how they bring in social media content. You can use a combination of automation and manual filtering to ensure that every social media update you feature meets your brand guidelines.

The Path To Bringing Personalization To Your Website

Building trust and engagement with your audience is a journey. Yet the first few steps of lifting engagement don’t have to take a long time. Many companies find they can install and implement Arena Live Chat and Live Blog in less than an hour (some are even faster!). Discover Arena’s solutions for publishers!

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