By Rob Armstrong, SVP of Product at Eyeota
If you’re a publisher operating in today’s digital ecosystem, you’re probably pretty sick of hearing that you need to get better at capturing permission-based audience data. The future, everyone tells you, belongs to the publishers with the strongest first-party data strategies.
While that’s true, it’s not helpful in addressing the biggest roadblocks you’re actually facing – like how do you encourage your audiences to sign up, log in or subscribe with their valuable personal info?
Most publishers still wield opt-in prompts like blunt instruments, swinging at every potential lead with the same crude approach. That should, must and will change.
The tools needed to better optimize website prompts according to an individual’s receptiveness are already being refined to better equip publishers for the future. Let’s take a look at what the proper implementation of these solutions will look like and why it will change the game for publishers that lean into this approach.
The problem with today’s prompts
In their quest to gather first-party audience data, publishers have leaned heavily into sign-ups and login prompts. Some publishers simply require registration to view desired content, while others look to monetize their content directly through tiered subscriptions. While the models vary, there tends to be a blanket consistency within the site experience of any given publisher when it comes to when, how and to whom they deliver their prompts.
On the advertising side of the media ecosystem, the concept of “right person, right message, right time” has become the accepted mantra of digital marketers everywhere. It also applies to publishers, who need to start seeing their “audiences” and “customers” as one and the same. Publishers have always been engaged in a value exchange with their audiences, but as basic ad monetization models give way to more nuanced hybrid models, the importance of positioning the value of that exchange is becoming ever more evident on both sides.
Whether a publisher serves a prompt upon site arrival or after a given number of clicks, the simple reality is this: If you’re treating every site visitor the same, you’re not creating a good experience for most of them.
People react differently to offers from publishers that request deeper engagement, be it sign-up or payment. Some people will register immediately to access a single article or video that’s of interest to them. Others need to go deeper into a site experience before they’ll consider offering personal information in exchange for content. Then there are readers who bail immediately when they hit a registration wall, regardless of the prompt.
When it comes to paid subscriptions, some readers will sign up with the right incentive (like a Black Friday-esque low monthly fee). Meanwhile, the most loyal readers will proudly subscribe and renew at full price because supporting publications that matter to them is a fundamental part of their consumer identity. Of course, there are also some readers who will never, ever bust out that credit card for a subscription – ever.
So how can publishers expect to succeed in a data-driven world of hybrid monetization if they’re shoving the same prompts in front of everyone, regardless of their personal preferences or where they are in their journey with the publisher? The answer, of course, is they can’t.
The path to intelligent opt-in tactics
For today’s publishers, the prospect of one-to-one personalization of site experiences prior to securing opt-in from a reader can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But it’s really not. Even without cookies, there is a ton of contextual and behavioral intelligence available to publishers to help them recognize reader preferences and tailor opt-in prompts and experiences accordingly.
These predictive solutions are well established on the advertising side of the digital landscape and can translate seamlessly to suit publisher needs. Some of the features that could go into a prediction model for determining when to serve a registration prompt include:
- User site history (frequency of visits, session depth, keyword and site section interests)
- User current session history
- Current page historical user conversion rate (for a “hot” or “unique” article that is riding a pique trend of user interest, users would be more likely to register in order to get the content)
Of course, these data-based examples don’t consider any dynamic components of the prompt itself. Elements like size, color or choices (login with Google, email vs. phone, NetID or SimpleLogin.io sign-up, etc.) are also significant factors that can help personalize the user experience – and just like we see in the digital advertising space, AI models can run experiments to optimize prompts over time.
The who, when and how aspects of reader engagement have never been as vital to a publication’s success as they are today. It’s time for publishers to empower themselves with the same type of data-driven audience insights and solutions that have been key to their advertising partners’ success for years now. In doing so, they’ll be demonstrating to their audiences that the experiences they opt into will be worthy of their attention.