Loyalty as the key performance indicator

“Driving loyalty requires focusing on quality. Readers and reporters will be grateful.”

In the coming year, publishers will focus on building direct relationships with audiences and learning as much about their readers and viewers as possible.

As business models shift from pageview-driven display to direct sales — whether subscriptions, memberships, events, or courses — key performance indicators evolve.

In 2018, journalists will become more attuned to loyalty metrics and the types of stories and distribution methods that encourage repeat visits.

Reporters and editors will receive stats on how many people within the loyal audience segment read a particular story; audience development editors will focus on Facebook, Line, email newsletters, and other platforms that drive readers to visit repeatedly.

There will be new community roles in newsrooms as publishers launch and host Facebook groups and pages with the aim of encouraging loyal behavior. Example communities are Quartz’s At Work (closed) Facebook group, The New Yorker’s (open) Facebook group, and the Huffington Post’s unbranded Facebook pages (such as the one for introverts.

Loyal audiences are more valuable than flybys: they consume more (a one percent increase in loyals will give a far greater uplift in pageviews); they’re more engaged (they scroll deeper and watch more videos); they are more likely to share stories and behave as brand ambassadors; they are more likely to agree to be contacted and provide an email address.

Publishers will decide on an appropriate loyalty rate to target for their brand. High-volume news providers may not consider a reader loyal until she visits 10 or 15 times a month. Niche publishers are more likely to consider 4 or 5 visits a month as a sign of loyalty.

Subscription publishers will measure the relationship between the frequency of returns and the propensity to subscribe.

Driving loyalty requires focusing on quality. Readers and reporters will be grateful.

Sarah Marshall is head of audience growth at Vogue International, Condé Nast International.

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