How publishers make the best of casual visitors

Publishers have an engagement problem. As more and more people come to them through the side doors of search and social, their time spent on site goes down. Thus begins a self-fulfilling cycle of mining search and social for more visitors, which leads to still more casual visits.

With that in mind, some publishers have decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It is time to start maximizing the drive-by session.

At Glamour, where 52 percent of site traffic is coming through mobile devices, which often are synonymous with casual or on-the-go readers, it’s an issue executive digital director Mike Hofman has to think about a lot.

“In some ways, there’s a bias to equate great editorial and great long-form with how great the metrics can be around long-form,” he said. “But it’s not the only kind of journalism, and it’s not the only type that can succeed online. The way we all consume media now is in all different kinds of scenarios and all different periods of time. So it’s about building a site that’s three-dimensional.”

Here are four ways Glamour and others are trying to better serve the drive-by visitor:

Video-watching is becoming a big traffic driver on mobile devices. Aware of that, Glamour is prioritizing its homegrown video series at the top of its mobile site so visitors see it right away. “We see it as a good way to draw in that type of reader,” Hofman said. Glamour is going to try to encourage binge-watching, too, by posting all the episodes in one of its series, “The Single Life,” when they become available. “We’ll see if that has the effect of getting a mobile user to spend more time on the site,” he said.

People who are regular visitors are the closest to becoming subscribers, if they aren’t already. Glamour makes it a point to target subscription offers to those readers. But it can still leverage the casual visitor, though, by hitting them up with an invitation to sign up for an email newsletter or follow the brand on Facebook, which comes with a lower commitment. Motley Fool does this, too, offering white paper signups to people who come through social media.

As Chartbeat has documented, people don’t have to read something to share it. Publishers are wise to this. BuzzFeed plays around with different designs and placements of share buttons to entice readers to recommend posts to others. Time spent is a limited measure of success because a lot depends on how long a story is and what device the user is on, but shares and clicks are important, said Dao Nguyen, BuzzFeed’s vp of growth and data. Similarly, the Huffington Post has social share buttons that float along the left rail as readers scroll through a story or complete a quiz to take advantage of their propensity to share, said Kiki Von Glinow, deputy managing editor at the Huff Post.

Traffic buys
Some publishers will buy traffic in recommendation engines for their photo galleries or other types of content that people tend to linger longer on, said Ira Silberstein, svp of publisher operations for Taboola. That way, if they’re just going to visit one piece of content, at least there’s a chance of stretching out their time spent on the site.

“Everyone has different goals,” Silberstein said. “I think it would be smart to recognize not everyone is having the same engagement tendencies you would like them to have.”

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