Two years into its Slate Plus loyalty program, the publisher has learned an important lesson: Smart digital media properties that focus on loyalty will thrive. Meanwhile Dutch import Blendle is showing the powerful appeal of micropayments to consumers. eBay is also digging into consumer engagement with plans to launch a personalized home page by mid-year.

How Slate Has Thrived as Mid-Scale Publisher

During 14 years at Slate, editor-in-chief Julia Turner has witnessed plenty of shifts in the digital media industry, providing her with a range of insights about how mid-scale publishers can thrive and survive online. Here’s what Turner had to tell DigiDay about loyalty, data and social media.

Slate doesn’t chase eyeballs, focusing instead on engagement and loyalty. “That monthly comScore, UV number, is not your audience,” she says. Instead, Slate looks at site visitors as leads that could be converted into engaged readers. Ecommerce companies have developed sophisticated techniques for watching consumer behavior and finding ways to convert them; publishers would do well to do follow their example. As Turner says, “Data science around user analysis is where publishers need to go.”

Turner says it’s critical for publications to be strategic about which social media platforms they use and how they use them. Slate’s platform of choice, for example, is Twitter. She notes that while it may be “terminally uncool,” Twitter is where Slate finds “smart, influential, news-hungry people”, offering another opportunity to increase its readership. For Slate’s core audience, the platform  acts as an RSS feed for Slate, helping to drive loyalty.

Micropayments Gain Traction As A Route To Digital Media Subscriber Growth

The U.S. arrival of Dutch online news platform Blendle, which charges between 15 cents and $2.50 for content from 56 publishers such as Time, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and more, is highlighting the potential of micropayments, according to Publishing Executive.

Already widely-used in the entertainment industry, micropayments could bring several benefits to publishing. For example, they allow subscribers to try out a publisher’s content before committing to a long-term subscription. Regular users of micropayments can also be enticed to subscribe with discounts and exclusive offers. And micropayments offer insight into which types of content leads to the best reader engagement. This data can be used to better personalize offerings for readers, further increasing engagement, and, eventually, subscriptions.

While Blendle has already seen some modest gains reports Business Insider, the full story of mircopayments has yet to be played out. The one North American paper that currently uses them, the Winnipeg Free Press, says that about 500 of its micropayment subscribers have converted to full subscribers.

“We’re still in our ballpark range of projected revenue from it, but we’re seeing this really effective funnel that we can take the highest value people in there and move them up the ladder,” said Christian Panson, the Free Press’ vice president for digital content to Niemen Labs.,

eBay Plans to Serve Up Personalized Home Page to Drive Engagement

By mid-2017, eBay shoppers will have access to a highly personalized experience from the shopping site’s home page. This latest revision of the shopping site is part of a “multi-year evolution” that started the summer of 2016 to “deliver relevant, persistent and personalized experiences,” says CTO Steve Fisher in company news.

The new homepage will use search and purchase history to reflect individual shoppers interests, enabling them to find a perfect fit among the site’s one billion new, nearly new and vintage items. Getting personalization right and making it easier for consumers to find relevant products is critical for eBay. If its competitive advantage over Amazon are rare items consumers can’t find anywhere else, they’d better be findable, notes Recode.

With some of the new shopping features already rolled out, eBay has already seen positive results. It reported a 3.1% uplift in revenues for the fourth quarter of 2016, reports RetailDive. Personalization is an important strategic tool for maintaining this growth and engaging consumers. “We’re moving forward with a bold vision for commerce, an intense focus on execution and a passion to delight our customers,” said CEO Devin Wenig at this year’s Shoptalk.