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In today’s digital world, most consumers are accustomed to receiving some form of personalization during their online experiences. Whether it’s an Amazon recommendation based on past purchases or a Netflix suggestion based on previous viewing history, there is no denying that personalized content can be key to creating an engaging experience.
First-party data is the information that companies collect about their consumers, through interactions with their own products and services. This includes everything from basic identifying information like age, gender and location to customer behavior - likes, dislikes, search history, purchasing activity etc. Companies can also collect this information explicitly by asking the visitor to fill in a survey or provide questionnaires.
In today’s data-driven world, first-party data is essentially an online identity for a consumer of how a user interacts with your digital channels specifically. A first-party data profile can predict a person's interests based on their existing website activity and the context of those activities. It allows companies to target them more effectively with personalized content and ads that are relevant to their specific needs or interests.
News publishers have been slower to adopt this trend but it has become increasingly important as they seek ways to keep up with evolving consumer expectations around the quality of content delivery and personalized service. In fact, across industries, 78% of consumers expect their favorite brands will offer them personalized experiences - something which can only be achieved through better use of first-party data by publishers themselves.(source)
For publishers trying to engage readers with content they find relevant, personalization is the key. Rather than pushing out content in bulk, many publishers now use powerful algorithms to generate curated content feeds for different audience segments or even on a user by user basis. Though third party data has been used extensively across the digital marketing industry in recent years, it is becoming less reliable as an advertising and personalization tool due to the limitations being imposed on its usage by browsers and regulatory authorities.On top of these restrictions, because third party data is taking information about all user behavior across a variety of different channels, it can be hard to pinpoint which behavior is most relevant to your specific channel. As such, publishers are increasingly turning to first-party audience data as a means of generating actionable insights that help optimize user engagement and retention strategies and improve ad performance for advertisers.
As you can see, there is a rich source of data available to news organizations. But how can you use this data in a way that is meaningful to both your organization and your reader? Let’s explore some interesting use cases:
The world’s biggest news organizations are implementing personalization of some kind on the key pages of their website. For homepages,having personalization that incorporates known user interests in combination with diversity will help your reader find relevant content that may only be interesting to them. While on the article, using the article as a context item will allow for personalization that surfaces similar but relevant content to keep your reader engaged. One of many examples we have seen is De Telegraaf, who saw a 23% uplift in CTR on their homepage using personalized article recommendations compared to manually curated content that is the same for every visitor.
Newsletters are becoming more and more important for news organizations to bring readers back to their digital channels and also in providing value to readers that justifies their subscription. By personalizing these newsletters to show relevant articles on an individual basis, you increase the likelihood of the reader to click back to your website, while also reinforcing that this newsletter contains valuable content for the subscriber. Mediahuis was keen to test this on their own newsletters, and was able to consistently outperform the baseline CTR by at least 15% for popular brands and 19% for regional brands using personalization.
As we previously explored this topic in past INMA article, push notifications have proven to be an upcoming channel for publishers. As we saw with Mediahuis, by using personalization to define an audience of readers that will find your push notification interesting using the first party data you've already collected, you can drastically reduce the churn rate of notification subscribers while also achieving a CTR 10x higher compared to general push notification to everyone.
With subscription revenue becoming a more prevalent conversation, knowing how to use a paywall effectively is a key component to winning out over competition. When it comes to personalization, the recommender systems behind it can be used to not only enhance a paywall pop up by showing relevant articles the subscriber will get access to, but can also be used to calculate the absolute best moment to show a paywall for each user. Showing the paywall at the right time can be a make or break in the decision to subscribe, making this area of personalization all the more interesting to keep an eye on.
Another interesting area of revenue that is becoming more popular is branded content, where a news publisher charges a writer or company in order to have an article on their website. Typically, the more views of the article, the more money the publisher receives. Ensuring that you are using personalization that allows for this kind of boosting will not only give your team control over the recommendations, but can also ensure this kind of content is shown to those with the highest likelihood of interacting with it. Hello! Magazine saw the results first hand, with their CTR on this kind of content increasing x5 over a 40 day period.
As digital media evolves, there is an increased need for publishers to adopt new strategies in order to compete with other entities. This means utilizing first-party audience data as a way of understanding their readers better and serving them more personalized content in a variety of applications and across channels. This will help publishers not only retain existing readers but also attract new ones through relevant advertising offers that fit their profile and increase their reader’s subscriptions.
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