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The year of the loyal reader

“For years, we’ve seen news websites chasing bigger and bigger traffic gains. But the truth is driveby traffic is basically worthless.”

2019 will be the year of the loyal reader.

For years, we’ve seen news websites chasing bigger and bigger traffic gains. But the truth is driveby traffic is basically worthless. It’s time for newsrooms to focus on the shift from just pure growth to focusing on retention — or answering the question: How do we get our audience to keep coming back for more?

It’s great to get big traffic spikes (who doesn’t love to see their story on the front page of Reddit or the top of Drudge?) and see big pageview numbers. But in 2019, newsrooms have to grab the reader and keep the reader. That loyalty is earned, which means news orgs need to put time, commitment and resources (ahem, staffing) into this strategy.

At the end of the day, bigger may not actually be better when it comes to an engaged audience. Instead of chasing pageview goals this year, I’d love to see more teams focusing on how to increase time on site or pages per visit. I’d love to see more newsrooms talking about how they deliberately plan to move a user from a mobile app to a podcast to a newsletter and back to the mobile site all in the same day or week.

Declining social traffic for everyone, plus the shift to more organic/direct traffic, means loyalty and retention are increasing in priority for publishers. This could mean embracing a paid audience through subscription or membership programs. But it could also mean focusing on habit-forming products like podcasts and newsletters.

Either way, successful news publishers in 2019 and beyond are the ones who aren’t just looking to grow their audience by driving traffic, they’re looking to build an audience and cultivate a real relationship with them. For many of us, this will mean true engagement between audience, journalists, and the journalism.

Emma Carew Grovum is a product manager at The Daily Beast.

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