The concept of a “loyal reader” has always been an important metric for magazines and newspapers. However, what actually constitutes a loyal reader, and how many loyal readers are really normal for a publication?
There are several different definitions for a loyal reader, most of which focus around the idea of a reader that comes back for more content, and is presumably consuming content due to the consistent exposure. The issue with these types of definitions is that it relegates a publication’s readership to a statistic; the loyalty of the audience is based solely on web traffic events or purchase consistency.
In more recent years, a particular metric has become easier to track, and it is much more telling of loyalty: engagement. Engagement is still a complicated thing to measure, as it involves tracking a lot of different outlets and types of connection with content, but it is a more accurate measure of a reader’s loyalty.
With this new, more realistic definition of a loyal reader in mind, it brings up an important question for publishers: are your subscribers loyal to your brand? In order to measure that, it is important to understand more about engagement and what it means in regards to subscription.
First, exposure to content does not mean that content is being consumed, so a subscriber is not inherently a loyal reader. However, subscribers do have more exposure to content due to their higher grade of access, and they have opted in. That is why measuring who engages, whether they are a subscriber or not, is important.
Second, habitual engagement, where a reader engages with new content as it is released, shows consistent connection to the publisher, and actually confirms that their frequent exposure results in something. If that reader is a subscriber, then they would qualify as loyal. If they are not yet subscribed, then they are a representation of who that publisher should be targeting.
Tracking engagement is a process that takes time and effort, and sometimes additional support or costs to do properly. With that kind of spend, what does a publisher get in return for being able to measure the percentage of loyal readers amongst their subscriber base?
Content Insights, a professional organization specializing in data collection and analysis, recently aggregated data on readership loyalty based on engagement as part of a study, which was a first in the content analytics industry. Their research covered data from 10 different publications over the course of a month, and the data was quite surprising.
- Only 3.8% of readers qualified as “loyal” based on the habitual engagement definition.
- In comparison to “ordinary” readers, “loyal” readers consumed an average of 5x more content.
- “Loyal” readers averaged 4x the web visits of “ordinary” readers, and in each visit consumed 29% more content in general, and read an average of 14% more text on singular articles.
The Content Insights study also elaborates on this data with some real-world scenarios that show the major impact that loyal readers have in comparison to ordinary readers. For example, the ratio of articles read per visit (loyal: ordinary readers) is approximately 5.5:1 and the ratio of visits per month is 3.5:1.
When you take all of this data into account, loyal readers are shown to consume and engage with up to 19 articles for every 1 article by an ordinary reader.
Take this back to a publisher’s subscriber base. If a publisher can find out what drives higher loyalty from their subscribers, that will translate into knowing what content has better engagement, what topics generate more interest, and what outlets garner the highest amount of engagement. In general, knowing what drives loyalty greatly impacts the ability to drive revenue.
Also, as a last note, literal revenue generation can come from better understanding loyalty. If a publisher can find unsubscribed readers who have the potential to become loyal, based on their engagement, there is a great opportunity to increase subscriptions and also increase the percentage of loyal readers amongst the subscriber base.
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