Why Engagement, Not Scale, Is Critical For Publishers

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Engagement, not scale, is becoming the key differentiator between big publishers. According to comScore’s recent “Cross-Platform Future in Focus” report, digital media publishers are growing. About 206 publishers have audiences in excess of 20 million users. Included in those publishers are 21 publishers with audiences approaching 200 million users.

As more publishers achieve scale at this numbers, what distinguishes them from each other, particularly at the top end of the range, are those publishers that can better engage with their users. Why? As AdExchanger explains in its article “As Scale Becomes Less Of A Differentiator, Publishers Must Focus On Engagement” –

… the growth of publishers hitting 20 million uniques will push them to demonstrate the power of a site’s audience.

This means that creating engaging content is a critical monetization optimization strategy. It is also very important to optimize ad products in use on your site and I have some pointers for you below.

Mobile is driving publishers’ growth

The main growth driver is also the key to better engagement with users and shouldn’t be a surprise to you: mobile. According to comScore, consumers’ time spent on their mobile devices has grown a dramatic 78% between December 2013 and December 2015. Time spent on desktop, by comparison, was pretty much flat.

Although desktop is relatively flat in total engagement, it is losing share to mobile – which now accounts for 65% of digital media time spent. Mobile apps now drive the majority of digital time spent at 56%, and smartphone apps alone look to account for a majority of digital media consumption in 2016.

With mobile usage becoming more and more prominent, a publisher’s ability to successfully engage with a new generation of “mobile first” consumers will likely determine whether those publishers will survive in the new advertising era, let alone thrive. ComScore pointed out that virtually all 18–34 year olds are mobile users and roughly 20% of them don’t use desktop devices at all.

As mobile devices become more powerful and capable (consider Apple’s recently announced iPad Pro 9.7″ and the latest generation of smartphones), publishers may well find that the proportion of mobile versus desktop users will only increase in time in favor of mobile.

Tips for better engagement

Produce more engaging content

As I wrote at the end of 2015, the rules of engagement are changing dramatically and, as you can imagine, the user experience on mobile devices is particularly important to users.

5 Rules For Marketers for Successful Engagement

Referring to Adobe’s 2015 report titled “The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise”, I point the following out:

Another set of insights from this report to a strong tendency towards using multiple devices at the same time (referred to as “multiscreening”) while also being easily distracted when multiscreening (not really surprising). If they have to choose which medium to consume if limited to a 15 minute time period, they opt for video.

User experience is very important to the survey’s respondents and 73% of those surveyed insist that content “must display well on the device”. They also have a strong preference for beautiful design over “simple and plain” content presentation. This is probably one of the contributing factors for Tumblr’s growing popularity, for example.

Design is increasingly important to consumers. According to Adobe’s latest report titled “The State of Content – Rules for Engagement for 2016”, 59% of consumers would “rather engage with content that’s beautifully designed” than content that is simply designed. 54% of the consumers surveyed regarded good design, appealing layouts and good imagery as important.

Last year, Sinead McIntyre wrote an article titled “5 Ways To Create More Engaging Content” in which she explored content types that tend to engage users more effectively. Here is an overview of what she recommended:

  • Use language that sounds friendly and personal;
  • Ask entertaining questions;
  • Use emotive language that touches on a range of powerful emotions;
  • Humanise your company (consumers don’t resonate with impersonal companies); and
  • Provide visual aids, video where possible.

You can read her full article for detailed insights on this blog:

5 Ways To Create More Engaging Content

An opportunity for more engaging monetization solutions

As comScore’s Andrew Lipsman pointed out to AdExchanger –

“Digital has gone through a big growth period, and a lot of the economic growth from that value hasn’t been realized,” he said. “There is often a lag in monetization after the growth in consumer engagement.”

What this means for publishers is that the growth the industry has enjoyed has created tremendous opportunity to boost ad revenues. A powerful way to do that is through more engaging and better designed monetization solutions.

We explored some of these solutions in our article titled “3 Native Advertising Formats for Interstellar Revenue”. Native ad solutions to pay particular attention to include sponsored content (with the potential for really well designed content) and, of course, in-image ad technology which blend highly engaging imagery with personalization through Big Data Analytics.

Your choice of ad product is almost as important as your ad placement choices. As advertisers become increasingly concerned about ad viewability (read more about this), publishers are paying careful attention to the factors that influence this emerging ad performance metric. Optimizing your ad placements can dramatically improve ad viewability and increase ad revenue. You can read more in our article titled “Optimize Ad Placements for Higher Viewability”.

Meeting The Viewability Threat to Publishers’ Revenue

Use your size to engage more effectively

A number of publishers have enjoyed a remarkable growth phase in recent months and years. As publishers reach comparable scale, their relative sizes are less important. As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, “what distinguishes them from each other, particularly at the top end of the range, are those publishers that can better engage with their users”.

The dramatic growth of mobile and consumers’ expectations mean that publishers must focus on producing more compelling content and optimizing advertising on their sites to take better advantage of their hard earned scale.

Image credit: Pixabay


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