Digital Publishing: 3 Types of Audiences and How to Monetize Audiences with Email

digital publishing monetizing audiences

In a press release marking the end of a successful 2017, the New York Times declared that 2018 would be the Year of Audience.

Sure, maybe it’s just a bit of playing to the crowd—in which case, the Year of Audience is off to a great start! Still, if publishers want to monetize their audiences directly (which seems to be the best path forward for the publishing industry), they’ll have to put that audience at the core of their work. And not just with content.

Publishers must also reevaluate how they approach selling premium subscriptions, which might mean different strategies for different sectors of the audience. The latest American Press Institute research identified 3 broad audience types based on their paid subscription habits (the Civically Committed, the Thrifty Transactors, and the Elusive Engagers) and how publishers might convert them into subscribers.

Does that mean every site visitor going to fit neatly into a cute alliterative title? No, but it can help publishers tailor their email, audience development, and paywall efforts for maximum effect. Let’s kick off the Year of Audience by taking a look at these 3 audiences and how publishers can best connect with, nurture, and monetize them.

1. Connect with your Civically Committed audience by using Cause-Oriented CTAs.

The first type of paying audience API identifies is the Civically Committed sector. These readers “support missions and initiatives that reflect their personal values and commit to a higher-than-average number of subscriptions,” making them the most likely to pay for content.

Such dedicated audiences are more common among harder news outlets, but that doesn’t mean publishers have to do immersive investigative journalism to foster deep connections. API notes that audiences might feel a duty to support content they care about, such as local outlets or publishers who cover specialized topics that resonate with them.

At any rate, these audiences are very loyal to the publishers they feel connected to, and email is an effective way to foster this connection with new site visitors. A welcome email that feels personal can kick off the relationship on the right foot, while occasional marketing emails appealing to the audience’s sense of civic duty might also help.

Publishers with a flexible paywall might try testing a tighter meter or tweaking their messaging among audiences they identify as more civically engaged. Tweaking your messaging on paywalls and email capture widgets might also convert more of these readers. For instance, the civically committed might respond more strongly to a serious CTA that invokes the importance of the content, rather than a discount. You can save the discounts for the thriftier members of your audience…

2. Tell Thrifty Transactors about the value of your content.

In the middle of the “willingness to pay” spectrum are Thrifty Transactors. These subscribers can also be quite loyal to particular publishers, but they’re also more price-sensitive, reserving their subscription dollars for a small number of publications.

According to the study, publishers might identify these audiences by their reliance on premium content for a specialized topic. That might mean looking for “digital users with regular, high engagement in one area.” Once identified, publishers can more effectively convert these audiences by building strong connections based on this specialized content. This makes it more likely that a publisher’s content is top-of-mind when thrifty transactors are deciding what content to purchase.

Thrifty transactors are driven by utility and relevance, so connecting them with the content they value is paramount to driving conversions. When ever-changing social algorithms keep publishers from connecting with audiences (as evidenced by Facebook’s decreasing referral traffic to publishers), email ensures you have a way to deliver content directly to your audience. Contextual email capture forms are twice as likely to convert email subscribers because they correspond with the content on the page, ensuring the newsletter offer is relevant to their interests.

Once they sign up for a newsletter, you can connect these habit-driven readers with content they care about. API notes that these audiences can be ritualistic in their consumption of content, and email newsletters deliver that content in a way that resembles the habit-forming delivery of print publications. From there, you can take steps to nurture these audiences through email engagement.

Cross-promoting newsletters encourages additional email signups, while personalized content recommendation deepens the engagement within each email. PostUp’s Parse.ly integration allows for 1:1 email personalization, allowing publishers to show subscribers more content they personally care about. When publishers demonstrate an ability to deliver routinely relevant and valuable content to these discerning audiences, they can be more effective at turning newsletter subscribers into paying subscribers.

3. Encourage your Elusive Engagers to exchange an email address for content.

According to the research, elusive engagers are the least likely to purchase a paid subscription to content. Converting these audiences isn’t impossible, but it’s not as likely either. Maybe these visitors view content as a freely-available commodity. Or maybe they’re inquisitive readers who just don’t have the disposable income. Either way, you’ll have to consider other options for monetizing these users and increasing their engagement over time.

So how can publishers identify their elusive engagers? The American Press Institute notes that visitors who fit into the elusive engager category are much more likely to visit your site from social or search. Publishers can tweak their approach to different referral sources to maximize revenue from these more elusive audiences.

Sometimes, what makes these engagers “elusive” is a fear of the commitment paid subscriptions require. Instead of asking these visitors to immediately fork over money, ask them to exchange an email address for access to content. An “email paywall” is a lower hurdle that they may be more likely to clear. By leveraging the email address, visitors get access to more content, and you get a way to more effectively connect with your fleeting traffic.

A direct email connection can help you increase engagement among your non-paying visitors. PostUp data shows that site visitors from search and social visit fewer pages per session than visitors from email. They also view fewer total pages over their lifetime. Connecting with drive-by visitors through the inbox allows you to monetize these audiences and generate more revenue from pageviews and in-email ad placement. Make sure you grab their attention with active capture widgets that offer them a relevant email newsletter.

What else can publishers do to optimize revenue from elusive engagers? You can test a flexible paywall meter, ensuring you don’t miss out on serving ads to readers who won’t ever pay for content anyway. If nothing else, you can keep sending email. When the Seattle Times found that visitors from email are 25 times more likely to convert to a paid subscription than Facebook referrals, who knows? It’s possible you may eventually win them over.

After all, it’s the Year of Audience. Anything can happen.

Download PostUp’s Content Wall Solution Guide to learn how a flexible wall can help you monetize your audience directly, no matter what type they are.

Melanie is a PostUp marketing robot designed to spit out facts about email and canceled sitcoms on demand. In her spare time, she recharges her solar fuel cells by playing guitar, obsessing over politics, and listing things in threes.