3 Steps to a Strong Digital Strategy for Publishers that Drive Engagement & Revenue

PowerInbox Jeeng

As consumers have moved increasingly to online news consumption and have so many more options available, print publishers have seen their revenue plummet. And for many, it’s been tough to adapt to a digital strategy that actually works. Paywalls have been mostly a disaster, driving subscribers away toward the abundance of free content. Display ads and sponsored content have helped, but direct sold programs are labor-intensive and costly, making them entirely out of reach for thousands of small, niche publishers. 

Using an ad network to auto-fill inventory has been somewhat successful, but these rely heavily on cookies for audience targeting, creating four huge roadblocks. First, cookies have never been very accurate. They’re device-specific, so they can’t distinguish between multiple users on a shared device (a tablet used by several members of the household, for example), which means the data they gather is murky and inaccurate. Cookies also can’t follow users from one device to another. If a user switches from a laptop to a mobile phone, the cookie trail is lost. 

Second, cookies aren’t opt-in. Until recently, cookies have tracked users entirely without their consent, and most often without their knowledge, raising privacy concerns. Third, ad blockers and private browsing have put the kibosh on cookie-based tracking as media reports about how companies are using – or misusing, as the case may be – audience data have eroded trust, making users increasingly suspicious and uncomfortable. And finally, the recent ban on third-party cookies by all major browsers has pretty much-rendered ad network cookies null and void. 

Meanwhile, publishers have also struggled to take advantage of social networks to drive revenue—or perhaps more accurately, social networks have taken advantage of publishers. Not only have these platforms stolen away a huge share of ad spend, but they’ve also pushed publishers’ content off the newsfeed, robbing publishers of the opportunity to get in front of their audience.

And the final blow: social traffic is 100% referral traffic, which means if a user does click through to a publisher’s site, the publisher has zero access to user data. Because they can’t get to know those referral visitors, it’s impossible to learn their interests and use that knowledge to serve up more of what they like to keep them engaged and coming back. 

So, what’s a publisher to do? In order to adapt to this new reality, publishers must take more control of their audience relationship and build a stronger one-to-one connection instead of relying on third parties. Here’s how to get started with a three-step digital strategy which puts publishers at the helm and drives new revenue.

Step 1: Own Your Audience

Own your audience. Rather than relying on third parties like cookies and social channels, instead, focus on building your own subscriber base through signups for your email newsletters. Because people rarely ever share an email address, and it’s the same across every device, email is a much more accurate and effective unique identifier than cookies. And unlike social channels, you can interact with users directly over email, cutting out the middleman. 

With this direct engagement, you can begin to build a more complete picture of what users want by tracking their behavior and learning their interests even across devices and channels. And, because email is fully opt-in, users have automatically given permission for you to learn their behavior, so there’s a much higher level of trust. 

Step 2: Leverage Owned Channels Over Third-Party Channels

Use direct channels like email and push notifications to engage subscribers as much as possible instead of social and search. Again, with social and search, you’re putting a third-party in control of your audience relationship. These gatekeepers not only dominate the ad revenue but also the user data, making it impossible for you to learn about their likes and interests. Shifting your focus toward channels you control means you control the user data as well.

Step 3: Send Relevant, Customized Content

Now that you know more about what each subscriber wants, you can leverage those channels to send content personalized to each individual. Instead of a batch-and-blast, one-size-fits-all email or message that goes to every subscriber, sending customized content has proven to be far more effective for engaging subscribers and cultivating a relationship that lasts. 

For GoGy Games, an online gaming platform, sending custom push notifications has been a big part of their successful engagement strategy.

The ability to send the right message and most relevant notification to each user is very important. They’re looking for something personalized, and the popularity of the game is also very important. They want to play what everyone’s playing and that alone has helped drive click-thru rates up substantially.

Tal Hen, GoGy Owner

This customized content strategy has already been used by publishers like GoGy, Assembly, Salem Web Network, Dysplay and Farmers’ Almanac to:

  • Deliver over 2 billion notifications a month
  • Drive a 25% lift in traffic
  • Drive a 40% increase in pageviews
  • Drive a 35% increase in revenue

While the strategy has proven effective, you might be wondering:

Who has the time and resources to send personalized emails and push notifications to hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers? 

That’s where automation comes in. The Jeeng by PowerInbox platform offers a simple, automated solution to send personalized push and email alerts to subscribers with zero hands-on effort. Built specifically for publishers, Jeeng’s machine learning technology learns user preferences and online behavior to serve up highly relevant, customized and targeted notifications that drive user engagement. 

In addition to providing a fully automated solution, including the ability to schedule notifications to optimize engagement, Jeeng even allows publishers to monetize their push and email sends to add an additional revenue stream. And, with Jeeng’s revenue sharing model, publishers can add this powerful automated engagement solution with zero up-front costs.

By building a personalized content distribution strategy leveraging channels that allow publishers to own the audience relationship, publishers can drive more traffic—and higher quality traffic—back to their own pages, therefore driving higher revenue. Learning what your audience likes is absolutely critical in this process and you simply can’t do that when you’re relying on third-party, referral channels. Taking control of that relationship with owned channels is the best way to build a digital strategy that grows your audience and revenue.

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