The Top 3 Reasons Media Executives Say Visitors Don’t Become Loyal Readers

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There is perhaps no group of companies more keenly aware of the value of repeat customers than digital media enterprises. Of course, in the case of media companies, repeat customers are often expressed as repeat visits, since visits drive pageviews and pageviews drive advertising dollars. But because each page view is worth pennies, it’s crucial that media companies entice their visitors to return again and again, to engage more deeply with their content each time. It’s the loyal and committed who drive media traffic and revenues.

In our work with digital media companies, we’ve found the value of those loyal committed visitors to be higher than we, or our clients, expected. Forget the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of revenues are generated by 20% of customers. In digital media, we’re finding that often 95% of revenues are driven by just 2-3% of visitors.

Yet media companies freely admit to internal barriers that still prevent interested readers from becoming loyal repeat visitors. Some of these barriers are relatively easy to dismantle–if publishers can leverage the immense value of cross-channel personalization, like many Sailthru customers have done.

Readers live in a multi-channel world. Why not publishers?

We studied how media executives approach customer retention and how they leverage it throughout their enterprises. It makes a lot more sense, and is a lot cheaper, for media companies to cultivate those loyal customers than it is to rely on waves of “one and done” visitors. But we also know that many companies, on both the retail and the media sides, aren’t doing as much as they could be with customer retention.

We asked media executives to choose the top two internal barriers that were preventing individuals from becoming loyal visitors to their sites. The top three answers had one thing in common: They’re not that hard to fix.

Yes, in some cases a shift in mindset will be required, and in others, there may need to be some changes in budget allocation. But unlike some of the answers further down the list, they’re totally doable.

45% of media executives said the number one barrier that prevented individuals from becoming loyal repeat visitors was the lack of a cross-channel reader experience. Given the terrific revenue and margin pressures facing the digital media industry, that’s just sad. These executives understand the importance of a cross-channel reader experience, and they seem to also understand that it’s something their readers want. But due to either inertia or a lack of political will, they’re not able to offer it.

The next two reasons are similarly frustrating. The second-most common barrier to better reader loyalty, as cited by 35% of media executives, was a lack of modern, enabling technologies. Number three, at 33%, was a lack of personalization.

Obviously, it’s possible for media companies to get the modern technologies they say they are lacking – it’s just that these particular organizations haven’t made it a priority. It’s a fair bet that at least some of those technologies are the ones that can enable true personalization, enabling readers to see the content and stories most relevant to them and increasing engagement.

It’s a lot less straightforward to fix some of the other challenges that media companies cite as inhibiting to customer loyalty.

Some 31% of media organizations said a lack of consistent marketing efforts and communications were at least partly to blame. Sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.

An equal number of publishers, 31%, said the quantity and quality of their content was at least partly to blame. That can be expensive to fix, and as every publisher knows, content that has traditionally been considered “high quality” is not necessarily the same content that drives traffic.

The last answer, at 24%, was that the website or mobile app experience wasn’t up to par. But changes at the Washingtonian, for example, show that sometimes a basic design actually drives more traffic, and loyalty, than one that is supposed to be cutting-edge.

The takeaway for publishers, then, should be to fix the sure things first. If you know that three of the top six barriers to developing more loyal customers can be fixed with better technology, then there’s no reason not to take action. If the last three reasons are more complicated, and it’s not clear that more investment really will improve things, it makes sense to put those changes on the back burner.

For publishers, there’s no reason to delay.