Publishing is a tough industry in today’s world. Print is slowly dying out to make room for a Wild West of online publishers. Among these publishers, the competition is fierce to keep readers' attention.
To stay in the game, publishers are trying different tactics to inspire readers to click internal links rather than moving on to another site. The methods vary, but all have a common goal: keeping readers on-site for the longest amount of time possible in order to impress advertisers.
Read on for three clever maneuvers publishers are using in the battle to retain readers.
1. Build a Contributor Platform
The tactic of building a network of contributors all within the same platform is one of the more tested tactics to inspire internal clicks, but new publishers are jumping on board in different ways, inspired by the success of Huffington Post and Medium.
One such example is millennial-targeted StackStreet, a publication that Digiday described as “Mic meets Forbes.” StackStreet is hoping to draw on fans of popular contributing writers by building them into its platform. The idea is attract these readers to StackStreet with a particular writer and then offer related articles within the publication as incentive to stick around a bit longer. So far, StackStreet has recruited Syd Finkelstein of Dartmouth’s Tuck School and career adviser J.T. O’Donnell. The publication is also enlisting users to generate content on the site as contributors, hoping that millennials want to read writing from other millennials.
2. Infinite Scrolling
The practice of designing a publishing site to infinitely scroll eliminates the problem of inspiring clicks, as it automatically presents the reader with another article as they scroll. It creates a near-seamless reading experience for a person to go from one article to the next – resulting in long time spent on the page.
Several big publishers are employing this tactic with great results. Quartz, Time, and Mashable have done away with homepages and opted for the infinite scroll design for their articles. According to Quartz, when readers choose to read a new article after they have finished one, 80% do so by scrolling rather than clicking. The publisher estimates that its readers view about 50% more articles per visit with infinite scrolling than they would without the feature. Mashable saw its pageviews go up around 26% in the first six months after switching to an infinite scroll format. Overall, the homepage that needs clicks might be on the way out for publishers.
3. Provide Context
Ever read a new article and wish you could have the main topic explained in more detail? That’s what some publishers are trying to do by providing context with each article in the form of links to past articles on the subject.
Take Vox Media, for example. The publisher of The Verge, SB Nation, and Polygon launched the general news site Vox.com this spring, and in order to help bring context to complex issues, like Obamacare, it came up with the idea for what it calls “Card Stacks.” These Card Stacks appear next to articles and on specific Wikipedia-like subject pages encouraging readers to click to learn more about a topic. The swipeable stacks link to past articles on the subject that can help paint a more complete picture. It’s easy to see how a reader could get caught up learning more about a particular topic, thus spending more time on the site.