Four ways to increase audience engagement during the pandemic

Due to the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, publishers have been turning to new methods for generating loyalty and engagement in audiences. One of these methods is attempting to increase loyalty and subscriptions by deepening the experience of their users. What’s New in Publishing has compiled a list of four ways that publishers are improving their customer experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first way is by encouraging e-commerce. With the world on lockdown, shopping habits have changed, and e-commerce has flourished as a result of this. In Canada, e-commerce sales had increased 102.3% year-over-year in the second quarter of this year, which is twice the e-commerce sales in 2019. Given this, publishers have tried to capitalize on these behaviours by focusing on special events, as a way to drive online sales. For example, the publication The Strategist held a two-day sale, offering deals on a wide range of products.

The second way publishers have set out to increase customer experience has been by highlighting non-COVID content. The reason for this is that COVID-fatigue has set in and audiences have adjusted to the “new normal”, thereby increasing the need for “feel good” content. Data from Totum Research, conducted on behalf of News Media Canada, suggests that Canadians engage with local newspapers because their content is reliable, impartial, and believable, as well as coming from informed and well-trained journalists. Newspaper readers also know that their newspaper is the best source for local information.

The third tactic is answering questions. While audiences do not want to only hear about COVID-19, they do have many questions about what is happening and how to stay safe. By addressing concerns head-on, this helps with customer loyalty. An example of successfully addressing concerns comes from The Washington Post, where a visual piece entitled “Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve’ became their most viewed story of all time. In a Canadian context, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, The Hamilton Spectator, Winnipeg Free Press, and other publications dropped their paywall on coronavirus stories, to ensure that Canadians had access to up-to-date information.

The fourth and final tactic is opening up, and making an effort to communicate with audiences. For example, the LA Times created a ‘Coronavirus Today’ newsletter. Locally, The Watrous Manitou encouraged their readers to shop locally by reimbursing every $10 spent in the community to go towards $10 off a new subscription or renewal to their newspaper. The Revelstoke Review donated half of the money from subscriptions in October to a local food bank. Additionally, many newspapers have been asking Canadians to pledge their support, to ensure that they are able to continue providing local updates and keeping Canadians safe. With advertising revenues at stake, increasing reader revenue is another way to help news organizations survive.