Why are loyal and engaged readers important to advertisers?

March 3, 2021
SCMP Insights
In today’s competitive news market, finding and retaining loyal readers is essential for a news organisation’s long-term sustainability. After all, with so many different ways to consume news in a competitive information marketplace, reader loyalty is hard to achieve.  Here at the South China Morning Post (SCMP), we have data-driven initiatives to understand our readers better and develop loyalty strategies to nurture lasting relationships with our audience.

But how does that benefit marketers?

Loyal readers are habitually more engaged and tend to revisit your website more often. According to a study conducted by Smartocto, loyal and engaged readers are five times more likely to read than casual readers when they are on a website, and they are also more likely to visit the website four times more often than casual readers. In short, loyal readers consume more content, read deeper and visit more often, and audience loyalty translates to a list of supporting factors that help marketers to achieve success and impact. Committed readers make for a more valuable proposition to brands that can lead to more robust brand engagement and targeting for advertisers.

How has SCMP been optimising loyal reader acquisition?

SCMP has come a long way in building our data infrastructure, while also further enhancing methodologies that enable us to better understand our readers. We have employed machine learning to help enhance user profile definitions, introduced a customer data platform, as well as carried out surveys, quizzes and polls to deepen our understanding of reader preferences and their consumption behaviour.

We recently introduced a new digital subscription service in August 2020. Since then, we have been constantly evaluating and testing on how we can further enhance loyalty  by building our own ‘personas’ tool. Personas are representations of who our readers are – an archetypal description and humanistic story around an individual customer that not only illustrates what a reader does or how he or she consumes products, but also why. This provides context on who our readers are and enables teams to take action to improve engagement. For instance, what topics are readers more likely to interact with? Is it hard news—US/China trade war or soft news—the England Royal Family or K-pop stars? How long are readers spending on-site?

We have built six different personas based on these different behaviours, including the type of content consumed, the time spent on site, and actions such as creating a free account or signing up for newsletters. These big data elements have been translated into insights for our editorial team to produce more appealing content that keeps our loyal readers entertained and engaged.

Furthermore, we believe loyal readers are highly-valued by advertisers, a prospect that marketers can look forward to because of brand engagement and audience targeting with tools like SCMP Lighthouse and SCMP Signal.

SCMP Lighthouse, our proprietary first-party data insight and activation platform that drives greater campaign efficiencies, was launched in June 2020. The tool utilises first-party data in a combination of declared data from polls and quizzes with observed onsite user behaviours, Google Analytics, ad-log data and other content analytics to go beyond interest and intent to measure engagement and make available insights for targeting and reporting.

Another game-changer is SCMP Signal, our brand suitability tool that allows marketers to enhance campaign return-on-investment while ensuring their brand safety, was launched in May 2020. These two tools help marketers to be able to launch more cost-effective solutions with better campaign results that can target concentrated and loyal audiences.

Big data helps create win-win platforms for us as a publisher along with our advertisers and partners. The data helps generate ideas and topics that appeal to readers and turns casual readers into subscribers, while on the other hand, with our loyal readership base and our sophisticated tools that enhance brand safety and offer user insights, we can amplify our efforts and drive better ROI for our clients.