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Mobile Monday: Read All Over & All Around

Posted Feb 19, 2018

This week, Mobile Monday is taking a look at how user engagement metrics are beginning to drive newspaper goals as well as how mobile apps are helping newspaper publishers increase their subscriber base globally.

Read All Over
It’s hard to forget one of the very first riddles we heard in the school yard that asked us “what’s black & white and read all over?” In an era where the content is more colorful — both figuratively and literally — newspaper publishers are also struggling to be read all over. In short, they are struggling to find deeply engaged users.

Sure, newspaper publishers can monetize a single article view via the placement of ad alongside the content, but their true monetization potential is not realized unless that user converts more meaningfully via a subscription or a premium opt-in ad unit (such as a full-screen video that grants access to otherwise paywalled content).

After all, according to recent data by Nieman Lab, the typical newspaper rakes in $2.31 per week for each subscriber it has.

In this quest to convert more users to subscribers, newspapers are beginning to look at user metrics a bit differently. For instance, according to Max Willens at Digiday, newspapers are now beginning to value metrics that indicate user session depth & quality over mere quantity. Sure, page views and visits have historically been an easy “vanity metric” as noted by Devin Smith of The Boston Globe. However, countless studies have shown that the more quality time a user spends in a given environment in which a purchase could be made, the more likely that person is to make a purchase.

While measuring visitor growth is a relatively straight forward task, measuring user loyalty remains a bit more nuanced. For instance, Hearst now looks for the share of readers that visit 10 or more times per month. Note that this is the share of readers, not the total number of readers. It isn’t just about getting fresh eyes to the site and bringing them back, it’s about the success ratio of how many of their users will come back a considerable number of times in a given period of time.

What’s also telling about this quest for repeat visits is the implications it means for general ad monetization, as well. Often, nonpaying readers are given access to a certain limited number of articles per month. For instance, the New York Daily News recently announced that it will limit non-subscribing users to 10 articles per month.

In order to access additional content, the users are often given two choices: subscribe now for unlimited access, or watch a single premium ad to continue reading that article. In either scenario, if the user is hooked on the publication and its content, they are likely to choose one of those two monetizing options instead of turning away.

Read All Around
Of course, publishers aren’t limiting their quest for revenue growth to merely better engaging their current audience base. They’re also looking to increase the geos where they are are read to new markets all around the world.

For instance, the New York Times has grown its international subscriber base notably over the last year, and now 14% of its total subscribers come from individuals outside the Unity States. Similarly, The Atlantic is now garnering 16% of its new subscribers internationally, and The Washington Post is finding similar success, as well.

Of course, 10 or 20 years ago, international aspirations for a newspaper would’ve seemed absurd. The sheer costs and infrastructure requirements to produce and distribute a physical good into a new market at a daily or weekly frequency would’ve been too great of a risk. However, the growth of mobile usage globally has made digital subscriptions to newspapers far more appealing to users.

In turn, newspapers who have fully embraced mobile publishing through the development of user friendly apps are also the ones enjoying the most success with international user acquisition & monetization, as evidenced by the top newspaper charts on both Google Play and the App Store.

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