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Putting Your Readers First

By Camille Schuster

Readers help your stories have a wider impact. Through reading, sharing, liking, and commenting, your audience allows your words to live on. In turn, publishers create content that enables readers to have more informed opinions and discussions. Publishers also provide the ideal forum for debates and conversations because they give the appropriate context for these discussions. This relationship between publishers and readers is essential for publishers’ sustainability and society’s overall health. Publishers must consider building on this relationship and encouraging their readers to continue to read and return to their sites.

Create a Toxic-Free Environment 

So, how do you do this? First, it’s essential to look at what people don’t like. Roughly 62% of Americans consider online harassment to be a major problem. Abusive behavior online has even stopped users from joining discussions. To create a better environment for readers, you need to put in place systems that help you build an online community where people can freely speak their minds without fear of abuse. There are many ways to go about this, but we’ve seen moderation technology, combined with transparency, go a long way. See: “How to Deal with Trolls.” There are also ways to put your users in control with different reporting features that allow the community to moderate themselves. Each community is different, and no one knows the community better than the users themselves. 

Foster a Sense of Belonging 

Your readers want to feel like they belong to the community on your site. A straightforward way to do this is by giving them a sense of identity with a personal profile. When you give each user a profile, it makes the community members feel real and connected. These profiles can also help you build a healthy environment where people aren’t faceless usernames behind a computer, but rather humans communicating and interacting with each other on your site. Profiles also can become a hub for the community to interact with each other. There they can connect with other community members and find out what story people are talking about the most. 

Recognize Users for Positive Contributions

It’s important to encourage your readers and recognize them when they’ve made thoughtful comments and positive contributions. There are many different ways to recognize and reward users. If a reader has made a thoughtful comment, you can tag it as a “featured comment.” This allows you to reward the user and show the community what types of comments are encouraged. When it comes to users’ reputations, you can lean on the community to decide who the top users are. You can also give additional privileges to your top users. They can start and lead discussions or even help with moderation. 

Bring Them into The Conversation

A recent survey we conducted found that 23% of users wanted to talk directly with experts and authors. So, it’s essential to make sure you bring your readers into the conversation. It’s not enough to post an article and move on to the next. Talking with your readers will not only build trust, but it will encourage readers to continue to make a habit of reading and engaging with your stories. If you are unsure how to start the conversation, check out our guide to talking with your readers

Ask Them How You Are Doing 

Survey your users to see if there’s anything you are missing. Sometimes the best way to put your readers first is to ask. This way, you can cater to their exact needs. This ask doesn’t need to come in the form of a formal survey. Instead, you can simply join in on the conversations readers are having on your site. Our partner Salon.com asked their readers directly, “What do you want from our community?” Salon addressed their readers’ concerns and made improvements by just asking. We also give an in-conversation survey to users across the OpenWeb platform to determine the health of the conversation so we can work to improve it. 

Learn more about building a user-based ecosystem that drives higher retention and also value for your business here

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