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3 Audience Development Predictions for 2016

In the next year, publishers focused on audience development will double down on more dynamic content to engage readers on all platforms

3 Audience Development Predictions for 2016When I first started working with Mequoda a decade ago, not only were brands clueless about content marketing, but the kings of content—publishers—still had a long way to go in terms of understanding how free content turns into new paying subscribers. Now, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Portal of free content developed to attract, capture, engage and monetize website visitor.

That’s why for 2016 I’m predicting that in terms of audience development, publishers will double down on the quality of content they’re producing not only to attract new visitors, but also to convert them.

1. Publishers will embrace SEO to supplement fickle social traffic.

Traffic from social media is fleeting, so we’re finding that the publishers who generally do well in social come to us looking for advice are typically asking how they can create a steady stream of new traffic from new visitors, that doesn’t depend on hitting a few news articles out of the park every week. Publishers will hunker down and start developing evergreen content to supplement, basically, their salary, their steady stream of revenue, so that they’re not so dependent on gaining new eyes from luck in social.

2. Publishers will create more dynamic content.

Text on a page isn’t enough to entertain readers anymore. It’s not that they are coming out and asking for more videos and graphics, but their actions show that they expect it and spend more time on content that engages them beyond the written work. It doesn’t help that digitally-born news outlets like The Verge are out there creating entire guides to the prequels of Star Wars as their feature articles, but even native advertising has gone from good to great, with publisher’s like The New York Times creating some one of the best looking native advertisement styles we’ve seen.

In this example from Capital One, the content speaks to small business owners and their financing struggles, while using quotes from executives at Capital One to help and support their pain points. The native ad is beautiful, like reading a storybook. Maybe not this year, and maybe not next year, but in the future, readers will expect content to be both easy to read and easy on the eyes.

3. Publishers will test out new social networks to replace Facebook.

I don’t know a single publisher who’s happy with the visibility of their Facebook posts. Magazines that have ten or twenty thousand fans are getting their posts seen by one or two thousand people on a good day. Without allotting an ad budget to Facebook to increase reach, many are faced with what they consider to be an embarrassing wasteland of a social media page. Publishers are already testing their luck with Pinterest, SnapChat, and newer kid to the party, WhatsApp. “In order for WhatsApp to begin generating meaningful referrals for publishers, publishers need to think of WhatsApp as a platform for distribution and readers must regularly want to share things with their friends on WhatsApp,” Shareaholic’s Danny Wong told Digiday.

Facebook won’t go away though, so publishers are more likely to double down on custom social media graphics and campaigns to see what types of posts increase clicks and engagement, like Facebook Video. Engagement Editor Lainna Fader from New York Media says, “We are constantly collaborating with editorial to figure out the best way to package our stories on social. Each social media editor on our team works on specific verticals – as opposed to dividing up responsibilities by platform, like some media companies — so each social media editor is working very close with the editorial team of the site they work on. For magazine stories, we’re brought into the process fairly early on, before the reporting is even finished. We meet with our director of photography weekly to figure out how stories should be presented online to make them as shareable as possible, in addition to crafting custom content for each social media platform.”

What are your goals and milestones for 2016?

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