Community engagement, digital experiences help media companies boost ad performance

By Rebecca Alter


Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Not every media organisation can sustain itself on subscription revenue alone.

“Subscriptions are great, but they don’t pay all the bills,” said Mark Zohar, president and COO at Viafoura.

Instead, many successful publishers are focusing on developing their advertising revenue streams in addition to their subscription-based income.

Since advertising plays a major role in shaping the financial success of media companies, it’s essential that you work toward maximising your company’s ad performance and revenue.

But before you can do so, you’ll need to know how advertising best practices are changing throughout the media industry.

The quality of an online space and the community found there are increasingly more important than the number of readers quickly passing by.
The quality of an online space and the community found there are increasingly more important than the number of readers quickly passing by.

The rising role of community engagement in advertising

When it comes to winning over advertisers, getting a large number of anonymous visitors to view or click on your Web site won’t cut it anymore.

Now, successful audience-publisher relationships are centered around the quality, not just the size, of an online community. This means that an audience made up of extremely engaged and loyal users has become more valuable to advertisers than a large audience of inattentive, unloyal visitors.

“This shift from quantity to quality is largely because it is very easy and cheap to buy eyeballs now,” said Melanie Deziel, an expert on advertising in the media industry, during a conference for the World Association of News Publishers. “So, simply being able to reach a lot of people is something most brands can do on their own.”

With so many media companies already attracting large audiences to their Web sites, publishers need to find other ways to attract advertisers. And by showcasing impressive engagement-related metrics from your online community, you can give your company an edge over competitors — boosting your organisation’s appeal to advertisers.

Uncovering the secret to improving ad performance

While improving ad performance on your Web site or app may feel like a guessing game at times, there’s one foolproof way you can get better results with ease. All you need to do is give your community engaging experiences on your digital properties.

To accomplish this, you can offer users the chance to socialise with each other or even give them interactive, personalised experiences with content and authors.

These engaging experiences will encourage your company’s audience to spend more time online, positively impacting ad performance.

“When your audience is spending a lot of time on-page, scrolling, engaging, and reading … they have more time to view more ads,” said Zohar. “And [as for] their click-through rates, that ad performance is going to be higher because they’re more engaged on the page rather than just scrolling through an article.”

Viafoura data further supports the idea that audience engagement has the power to drive monetisation for publishers. More specifically, one Viafoura study found that digital visitors who read or write comments on publisher properties are significantly more interested in content and ads compared to unengaged anonymous users, offering:

  • 41 times the pageviews.
  • 88 times the time spent on-site.
  • 100 times the ad impressions.

So as long as your company engages its online community, maximising ad performance and related revenue on-site will be within arm’s reach.

Upgrade your ad strategies with first-party data

You can’t expect your digital audience to be interested in the ads you show them without understanding their likes and habits. And as third-party cookies disappear from the Internet forever, first-party data — the information you can gather about your audience directly on your Web site or app — is becoming critical for building high-performing ad and engagement strategies.

Keep in mind that it isn’t hard to collect this data. With the right tools, you can gather a trail of data that your users leave as they interact with each other and your content. From analysing your audience’s comments to monitoring any like buttons they press on your Web site, there are many opportunities for you to collect first-party data.

This information can then be used to identify the types of content and ads audience members will be more likely to engage with.

Your company’s first-party data can also help you sort like-minded users together into groups, which can be targeted with relevant ads for the best results.

“So now … through engagement, we can not only drive audience segments that are going to see more ads, [but we can also] create more engaging experiences where users spend more time clicking on ads that are more relevant to them,” Zohar said. “First-party data then [allows us to] create these highly targeted campaigns and ads based on user interests, preferences, and sentiments.”

The reality is that as the media industry advances, community engagement and first-party data can help to carry your organisation forward. After all, engaging, targeted audience experiences can feed directly into your ad strategy, raising click-through rates and associated revenue.

About Rebecca Alter

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