Without naming names, let’s say that there are approaches to boosting revenue that are less than ideal. Publishers might, say, convert list-based articles into spammy, pageview-boosting carousels. Or they might make it so that unrelated video content starts autoplaying on every article (with the volume on, naturally). Or they might load their pages with so many ads that the actual content becomes impossible to find.
Approaches like these inevitably alienate readers. No question, publishers are in the business of making money; however, it should never seem, to readers, that making money is the primary goal, over and above the production of high-quality content. Readers are smart: they can tell when they’re being manipulated. And they can tell, too, when publishers view them solely as conduits to clicks/ad revenue.
So, it’s a delicate balance: maximizing potential revenue on the one hand, while not overstepping and turning readers off on the other.
Publishers need tools designed to square this circle—to help them boost revenue while keeping operations streamlined and the experience reader-friendly. We believe that cultivating readers and increasing profit are actually two sides of the same coin—because the more your readers appreciate the on-site experience, the likelier they are to come back (and to register or subscribe).
Below is a quick run-through of some of the solutions we’ve built that enhance user experience while seamlessly driving revenue.
Conversation with Multi-Layered Moderation
Noise pollution, on the internet, is a perennial problem. A reader enjoys an article, scrolls down to check out the conversation, and finds—chaos. The trolls have arrived, and they’re not leaving until they’ve annoyed and/or insulted everyone else in the conversation.
Unsurprisingly, this kind of thing sends readers running in the opposite direction. Getting yelled at by strangers is no one’s idea of a good time.
Conversely, when the conversation’s respectful—when people can talk without fear of attack—it brings people in. OpenWeb’s AI/machine learning-enhanced, multi-layered moderation technology creates precisely these conditions, with dramatic results: the Conversation, we’ve found, leads to 35% more time on-site and 200% more pages viewed by active users.
In other words: Conversation boosts revenue by improving the user experience, not sacrificing it.
The ideal reader would read every single article a publisher puts out there, regardless of subject, out of sheer love for the brand. Unfortunately, the ideal reader doesn’t really exist: even your most fiercely devoted fan has to conduct some form of triage, balancing their desire to read your content with the demands of, you know, being alive.
By simply allowing your readers to follow the topics they care about, you ensure that your content finds precisely the audience that cares about it most.
Again, the point here is to make things easier for your readers—to boost revenue by offering more utility to readers, providing an experience that caters to their needs and interests.
When Google announced, in 2020, that it was phasing out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser, people were understandably concerned. But in the years since, a kind of consensus has formed––namely, that first-party data, data collected directly from users, can be just as (if not more) effective when it comes to reaching readers. In other words: there’s no real reason for concern.
As it happens, the kind of advertising that first-party data allows for fits directly into what we’ve been talking about here. Readers tend to like it more, because it allows for much greater targeting precision. It’s just further proof that you can boost revenue and bring in readers without compromising the user experience.
Think back to your school days. Did you prefer the teacher who droned on and on as if you weren’t there, or the one who actually engaged with you––who made you feel like your opinions mattered?
We’re guessing the latter. And the same applies to the publisher/reader relationship. Editorial engagement is a small, simple thing; it costs no extra money; and it can pay tremendous dividends, as readers come to develop a greater sense of loyalty towards your brand.
Plus, by engaging with readers, you can get a clearer sense of what’s resonating (and what isn’t), which can guide future content production and further boost revenue.
Polls and Instant Reactions
OpenWeb’s instant Reactions feature—which lets users quickly react or respond to your content, or answer a poll—is yet another remarkably simple tool that can make a massive difference: our partners who use Reactions have seen a 700% lift in revenue. Polls, too, serve a similar function: they give your readers a voice, compelling them to stick around for longer.
As you can see, profit, for publishers, doesn’t have to come at the expense of the reader experience.
A successful relationship between reader and publisher today is characterized by a true value exchange. Readers are sophisticated: they know that publishers’ income comes from advertising and subscriptions. What we’ve seen is that they are totally fine with that, so long as they get what they want: a positive, rewarding, and useful user experience.
It’s a simple formula, really. And it’s the path to winning readers’ ever-more-divided attention.