mediaXchange 2017: Proven Strategies for Reader Engagement

By Cam Ellis, Special to the Alliance

When it comes to consumer engagement, there’s arguably no more important statistic to track than consumer retention. With every publisher applying a different and unique strategy in hopes of good retainment numbers, it can be hard to establish what techniques make the most sense for you.

That’s where Rich Handloff, Melody Nelson, and Heather Williams come in. Handloff, Director of Consumer Marketing at the Washington Post; Nelson, Regional Vice President of Retention at McClatchy and Williams, Regional Vice President of Audience Development at McClatchy all offered their own expertise in helping establish an intelligent strategy using proven techniques, they’ve picked up from years of field work.

Handloff began the discussion by dispelling the notion that home-delivery subscribers are no longer a sustainable source of revenue. “We know they love newspapers,” he said, “but what we also recognize is that digital is a big part of their day. We want to incorporate more digital into their lives. Newspaper alone subscription is a thing of the past, so how do we keep them engaged?”

The key? To Handloff, at least, the secret lies in personalization.
“At the Washington Post, we ask them to tell us what they’re interested,” he said. “What they tell you, you will then be able to serve them up worthwhile content. Every Friday, our print subscribers get an email about what’s coming up over the weekend. We want them to know about it ahead of time. This gives a snapshot of the Sunday paper.”

He also mentioned the Washington Post’s Afternoon Buzz, which is an email that goes out every Monday through Friday, letting subscribers know what has happened in the news since the morning’s paper went to press.

Next, Heather Williams took a look at how to best take digital practices to next level using data that publishers collect. “It’s important to ask for the information,” she said. “How many times have you gone and put something in your cart and never checked out? Make those first fields count.

“Asking for too much information seems intrusive, but you can be a little intrusive if you’re offering them something in return.”
She also mentioned response rate, target offers, and dynamic pricing as easy ways to build a favorable reputation among your consumers.

Lastly, Melody Nelson took the podium to elaborate on the best practices in ensuring a favorable reputation, especially when it comes to the actual delivery of a physical newspaper. “ The relationship with consumers starts at the moment of purchase. You need to communicate value. The most important thing is to establish that a delivery service has start. First impressions go a long way.

“Fix an issue before it comes a problem, build trust. A complaint follow up shouldn’t end after the first day, or week, or month, or year. You should pull complaint reports on a daily basis, and follow up with customers.”

She ended the session with a powerful and insightful look at the relationship between consumers and producers. “People want to be heard” she said. “Give your customers a voice.”


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