Five ways publishers can level-up personalization for engagement and revenue


By Jeff Kupietzky, CEO, PowerInbox

For years, brand marketers have known that targeted personalization is key to driving customer engagement, which is why a growing number are investing in personalized messaging. Even something as simple as email subject line personalization can generate 26 percent higher open rates, creating a valuable opportunity for continued engagement.

Publishers, however, have been a bit slower to adopt personalization strategies beyond localization. While it might sound odd to personalize the news — the news is the news, right? — the truth is consumers have developed increasingly high expectations for content personalization that has permeated their entire digital experience. Amazon was first to set the standard with just-for-me product recommendations, and Netflix and YouTube have now conditioned audiences to expect the same from digital media.

For publishers, there are actually quite a few lessons to be learned from the brand marketing approach, each empowering their teams to delight audiences with the personalized experience they’ve come to expect — and even generate more revenue in the process.

1. Dig into audience data 

One thing brand marketers do extremely well is gather and analyze data on their target consumer. By understanding their interests, preferences and behavior, 74 percent of marketers say they can improve customer engagement.

Publishers can do the same by diving into their audience and subscriber data. Beyond just page views, the analysis should include a look at how subscribers engage with what types of content and for how long. By tracking registered subscribers and building audience profiles around their behavior, publishers can formulate a basis for what content to serve up.

This insight can also be extremely valuable for ad targeting as well. Half of polled consumers say they want to see personalized ads. And so, matching the right ad with the right subscriber on both the web and in email newsletters will drive higher engagement and higher revenue.    

2. Adopt a retail-like strategy 

Retailers are masters at tailoring product recommendations based on consumers’ known data and preferences. And for e-commerce, personalized emails improve click-through by an average of 14 percent, spur conversions by 10 percent and drive 6-x higher transaction rates.

For publishers, content is the same as product, so adopting this retail-like strategy of tailoring content recommendations based on subscribers’ interests achieves similar results. This kind of customized content strategy has proven to drive a 25 percent lift in site traffic, 40 percent increase in page views and a 35 percent increase in revenue.

3. Diversify access with multichannel engagement 

Most publishers already have a Facebook and Twitter presence, and perhaps even Instagram for sharing striking visuals that tell the story. The problem with these platforms is that they own the user data; because social media traffic is a referral source, publishers don’t get the benefit of being able to analyze that information to create a more personalized experience.

However, when publishers engage audiences over channels such as email and push notifications — channels they control and that generate the data they need to better understand audience interests, they can give audiences a more personalized experience. And, by building a unique user persona for each subscriber based on their email address, publishers can then recognize the same user across all those channels, customizing the content accordingly to provide a consistent experience.

4. Get the timing right

Sending the right content to the right user at the right time is critical for driving engagement. And for years, when to send has been the million-dollar question. While many marketers analyze responses based on email open rates, what publishers really need is for subscribers to take action — to click through to the content on their site. Interestingly, while weekday mornings tend to be the most popular times for users to open messages, it turns out weekends are prime time for click-through. In fact, data shows that midday and early evenings on weekends boast some of the highest click through rates (CTR) — essentially the exact opposite of open-rate send-time analysis.

If CTR is a publisher’s priority, and it should be, figuring out when subscribers are most likely to act is critical. Again, by analyzing user data, it’s easy to spot these kinds of trends and then use them to maximize engagement. Publishers may find that different types of content generate differing responses at various times. For example, data shows that people want to receive breaking news via push notification because it’s timely and urgent. Figuring out the right time — and the right ways — to send content to each subscriber can drive big gains in engagement.

5. Leverage AI to achieve scale 

Publishers face a challenge when it comes to scale — how to personalize every email and every push for each subscriber. Of course, it can’t all happen manually — tight budgets, dwindling staff resources and time constraints are universal conditions for every publisher in every genre.

Publishers can, however, employ automation technology that brings together the right mix of artificial intelligence with curated content. By using AI to analyze subscriber data and an automated solution that matches that data with editorially curated content, publishers can deliver the personalized experience their audiences expect at the speed and scale that makes it feasible and efficient.

Giving subscribers a personalized experience is becoming table stakes for driving engagement. As consumer expectations increase, publishers must evolve their strategy to deliver the kind of customized, curated content recommendations audiences want in order to keep them coming back. By taking a page from the brand marketer’s playbook and viewing content as the product, publishers can level-up their personalization tactics, drive more traffic and generate higher revenue.

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