Segmented approach to digital audience management maximises monetisation potential

By Ken Harding

FTI Consulting

Washington, DC, USA

By Justin Eisenband

FTI Consulting

Washington, DC, USA


We recently outlined the importance of the customer experience (CX) and value proposition. To recap, the CX and value proposition should be thought of as a map with a variety of different roads that are built with the intention of creating a frictionless and user-friendly path to maximise monetisation.

With this in mind, it’s time to move on to the fifth element of the seven-lever digital subscription framework: digital audience management.

If the CX is the map, digital audience management is the navigation to guide a reader from their current engagement level to becoming a subscriber. Each action taken by a publisher to move a reader down the funnel should be personalised to create the fastest route to conversion and then retention.

The approach will be different depending on engagement level. Therefore, it is important to design the customer journey by creating a segmented approach to achieving a given goal, whether that is increased engagement, registration, conversion, or retention.

The fifth element of the seven-lever digital subscription framework is digital audience management.
The fifth element of the seven-lever digital subscription framework is digital audience management.

Our team at FTI Consulting has developed a three-step approach to digital audience management:

  1. Identify the audience segment upon arrival.
  2. Define the goal by segment for next user action.
  3. Deliver the segmented user experience (UX) that guides the audience toward the goal.

Identify the audience segment upon arrival

The first step is to determine the customer profile of the visitor as soon as the individual interacts with the publication. By gathering key pieces of information, publishers can segment individuals to increase the prospect of monetisation. The approach to segmentation should be focused on the critical information necessary to understand the person who has come to the site.

To do this, publishers should answer a series of questions that can be extracted from tracking and reporting platforms.

  • Referral source: Where does the audience come from, and where on the site are they landing? A reader who is coming to the site from social media and going directly to an article page is less likely to recirculate on site than a reader who goes directly to the home page.
  • User state: Do we know who the visitor is? Are they logged in? Known visitors visit more frequently with a higher propensity to subscribe.
  • Historical engagement: Has the user visited in the last 30, 60, or 90 days? Engagement is the most critical factor in driving conversion and retention.
  • Past actions and persona: What insights do we have about the user’s past behaviour (types of content, past purchases, channels, and preferences)? What decisions can we make based on demographic, geographic, and attitudinal information? By determining this information, a publisher can customise content, newsletters, and offers to specific interests.
  • Device type: Is the user interacting with the publication on desktop, mobile, or tablet?

Define the goal by segment for next user action

After determining the proper visitor segment, a goal should be set. While the goal may not be mutually exclusive to each segment, it should aim to move the specific audience profile toward the next step in the customer journey in a way that feels organic and personal.

For new or infrequent readers, the goal may be to increase engagement. Alternatively, the goal for high-engagement or high-propensity-to-subscribe readers, like registered users, may be to convert these individuals into paid subscribers. The goal for current subscribers may be to extend the length of term or increase average revenue per unit (ARPU).

Deliver the segmented UX that guides the audience toward goal

The mechanism for achieving these specific and intentional goals will vary depending on the specific data that is known about each visitor. This information used enables the publisher to create a coordinated and targeted experience that continues to nudge the reader toward the goal of optimal monetisation.

To increase engagement, publishers may design the page experience to drive recirculation and extend the visit. By building infinite scrolls into landing pages and articles, displaying in-article or side bar content recommendation sticky widgets, loosening the paywall to allow for increased sampling, and retargeting on social media platforms, publishers increase return visits and develop habitual audiences.

Once engaged, publishers may implement tactics to deepen the relationship between the publisher and the Web site. The strategy to reach these readers will centre around increasing the convenience of access to content. Instead of having the audience make a conscious decision to view publisher content, the publisher will bring the content to the location where the reader spends the most time.

Some of these tactics could include social media sign-up campaigns for younger audiences, recommendations to download the mobile app for those coming from mobile Web or tablet, and push notification alerts on desktop for professionals.

Additionally, publishers should consider leveraging one-click newsletter sign-up assets like modals and toasters and registration sign-up assets like registration walls and in-line assets. These have proven to be an effective engagement, conversion, and retention tool.

Whether it is a morning briefing newsletter or a pop-up newsletter, the ability to offer personalised content to a reader enhances the relationship and increases brand loyalty. This ultimately leads to more paid subscribers.

If the goal is to increase conversions, publishers could adjust paywall settings or display custom offers on site. For high-propensity-to-subscribe readers, the site may show a hard paywall immediately, while readers who are less likely to subscribe may get a metered paywall. In addition, the publisher may utilise recirculation assets to drive visitors to premium content.

To improve retention, publishers should implement a personalised 30-day e-mail onboarding campaign that demonstrates the value of the subscription, creates a connection with the newsroom, and develops habitual usage over the period.

Applying this approach

In the short term, this process will be a coordinated effort between the newsroom, product, technology, and marketing teams. The newsroom needs to create the content that readers desire. The product team must build assets and a CX that keeps bringing users back for more. The technology team needs to make sure the systems are in place. The marketing team needs to analyse the information and make data-driven decisions to accomplish goals.

However, over the long term, many of these responsibilities will be shifted to Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning software. This system will be able to ingest the data, segment the user, consider the various pathways, and design a user experience, paywall, and advertising strategy that will optimise revenue in milliseconds. This is what will enable publishers to manage the digital audience and drive them toward monetisation most efficiently and effectively.

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