Publishers Invest in Voice Search

Should Local News Publishers Invest in Voice Search?

Voice search is poised to change the way people look up products and services online. Should local news publishers invest in voice search? The answer, as always, is more complicated than it seems.

Whether local news publishers should invest in voice search depends on a number of variables, like how much traffic they’re seeing each month and how visitors are finding their websites online.

BBC Good Food, a prominent food media brand in the United Kingdom, generates more than 90 million page views a month on its flagship food and drink website. In addition to that, the company also runs a magazine and a book business, and it hosts plenty of live events. Since acquiring Immediate Media last September, BBC Good Food has been investing in a handful of new technologies, and one of those is voice search.

What made BBC Good Food want to invest in voice search? For starters, the company already sees 80% of its traffic coming from Google. BBC Good Food’s website ranks above the fold for 96% of core recipe terms in the U.K. Those metrics make it an obvious fit for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, Google’s connected home assistant. BBC Good Food is already creating the type of content that’s popular with voice search—food recipes—and the company has enough name recognition to give it some authority when people search for recipes via voice.

Investing in Voice – Where to Begin

By some estimates, as many as 50% of all searches will be carried out via voice by 2020. That is a pretty aggressive estimate, even for insiders who’ve championed voice search as a tool for digital publishers. Nonetheless, many local publishers say that they want to invest in voice search, they’re just not sure how to start or where to begin.

The best place to start is with research. Local publishers who want to invest in voice search should look at their web analytics and review what their competitors are doing with voice. Reader opinions matter, too. Survey existing subscribers to see how frequently they’re using voice search and look at where people are using their mobile devices when they visit your website. Finally, make sure to ask which devices they’re using. You may find that readers are more inclined to use Google Home vs. Amazon’s Alexa, and that may impact your strategy, in terms of how you choose to invest in voice search.

If your closest competitor has an Alexa skill and you’re seeing significant traffic coming from Google each month, then those are both signs that an investment in voice is likely to pay off.

The most common way for news publishers to invest in voice search is by launching a skill on Amazon’s Alexa. The New York Times, for example, offers a free skill that gives listeners the news they need to know each day. The Washington Post has an Alexa skill, too. If you already have a daily or weekly podcast, then launching an Alexa skill is a no-brainer.

Food publishers, like BBC Good Food and others, have an obvious use for voice search, as well. Forty-one percent of smart speaker owners keep their devices in the kitchen, and recipes are one of the most frequently searches categories. However, it’s important to remember that cooking isn’t the only thing people do in their kitchens. People listen to the news while they cook, and with nearly 46% of smart speakers placed in people’s living rooms, there is even more opportunity for news publishers to find their way in this new search category.

Has your publication invested in voice search? If not, reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO for a website analysis and customized advice on how to maximize your return on an investment in voice search.

News Publishers Can Be More Inclusive

How News Publishers Can Be More Inclusive

Expanding audiences and bringing new readers into the fold of a digital news publication involves more than just social media marketing or discounts on subscription prices. When news publishers can be more inclusive, they open up the door to a larger readership and expand their opportunities for revenue generation.

What does inclusivity look like in the digital news industry?

For starters, inclusivity in news publishing means reporting on topics that are of interest to a wide variety of people from different socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. It also means getting information from subjects who might be outside the demographics of most newsroom employees.

Hispanic, black, and Asian women make up less than 5% of newsroom employees nationwide, according to data from the American Society of News Editors. The implications of this disparity can be felt throughout the media landscape. Reporters and editors should be looking outside their own social networks to find sources and generate story ideas.

Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. According to a new survey by Pew Research, just two-in-ten Americans say they have ever been interviewed by a local reporter. Overall, researchers from Pew found that white, older, educated Americans are more likely to be interviewed by local journalists than any other group.

Local publishers who want to be more inclusive can start by looking outside the newsroom for story ideas and subject matter experts to interview.

Reporters in local newsrooms rely heavily on the sources they’ve cultivated in government, professional associations, and trade unions, but expanding coverage to include voices from other diverse groups is one of the ways that news publishers can be more inclusive. When editors and publishers themselves reach out to the leaders of different cultural groups, it makes a real difference in how those groups view the publication and the reporters who work for it. To really make a change, everyone in the newsroom needs to be on board. That includes staff writers, editors, and even the sales reps who represent the publication out in the community.

The images that publishers promote on the front pages of their websites matter, as well. Take a look at a dozen or so of the most recent photographs to appear on your website. Do you notice a trend? Are the people in those photos mostly white, older, and educated? If so, you might have a diversity problem on your hands.

While every local news publication is different, there is a common goal within the industry to shine a light on voices that are often left out of traditional news coverage. Social diversity is something that publishers are paying more attention to.

The language that reporters use in their news coverage is just as important as the topics they cover and the people they choose to interview.

Publishers should provide reporters with resources that define what inclusive language looks like in the modern era and update their in-house style guides with bias-free language guidelines. (This guide, from Emerson College, offers an overview of the latest ethnic and racial designations, as well as gender-inclusive language.)

Inclusivity in local publishing is also tied to subscription pricing. How can you expect to have a diverse readership if the majority of people in your community can’t afford a basic subscription? Selecting on the optimal subscription pricing will always be difficult, of course, but publishers who truly care about expanding and diversifying their audiences should look at flexible pricing options for readers to make their content affordable for everyone.

6 Ways News Publishers Can Be More Inclusive

  1. Reach out to local groups and ask what topics they’d like to see covered.
  2. Look outside the newsroom for tips on who to interview about local stories.
  3. Search for interview subjects who haven’t been mentioned by name in the publication before.
  4. Use gender-inclusive language, and the latest ethnic and racial designations.
  5. Make an effort to hire employees from diverse backgrounds.
  6. Implement flexible subscription pricing options that everyone can afford.
social sharing plugins

Social Sharing Plugins for News Publishers

Think your website is optimized for social traffic? Not until you’ve added these social sharing plugins for news publishers.

In the digital age, word-of-mouth has evolved into social sharing. In the same way that friends once recommended news articles to their friends, they’re now sharing content on social media. The biggest difference? Rather than telling a single person about a great article, readers now have their own audiences of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of followers.

With the click of a button, someone can tell thousands of her best friends about a great story she read online. That can lead to major traffic bump, and it’s something web publisher can’t afford to ignore.

Roughly two-thirds of American adults say they at least occasionally get news from social media. With the way that Twitter and Facebook’s News Feed algorithm works, the majority of content people see on social media now comes from their friends. Successfully encouraging readers to share the content they like on social media can mean the difference between success and failure for a growing digital publication.

So how do publishers successfully get readers to share their content with friends and followers online? The easiest way is by adding social sharing plugins to their websites.

Here are our picks for the top social sharing plugins for news publishers with WordPress websites.

1. AddThis plugin

The AddThis plugin for WordPress is one of the most popular social sharing tools in the marketplace. Publishers can create share buttons that load alongside their articles and other content, connecting to more than 200 social channels, including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Pinterest. AddThis uses floating share buttons that follow readers as they scroll through articles, along with expanding share buttons that expand to reveal additional sharing options when a user hovers over the button or clicks on it. News publishers favor the AddThis plugin, at least in part, because it’s a social sharing plugin that’s compatible with the AMP plugin. AddThis is a free plugin.

2. Monarch plugin

Monarch is another WordPress plugin that’s popular among news publishers. Like AddThis, Monarch offers a way for publishers to display social sharing networks alongside content on their websites. Monarch’s tools allow for time-delayed pop-ups and fly-ins, which automatically appear when a reader reaches the end of an article. Monarch connects to more than 20 social networks, giving publishers the ability to create custom collections of sharing options for their website visitors.

3. Easy Social Share plugin

Easy Social Share was designed make it easy for people to share content. As the name implies, Easy Social Share was designed with simplicity in mind. Although the Easy Social Share plugin is actually a full-featured social media solution for publishers with WordPress websites, its social sharing button is still easy to configure with out-of-the-box setup and readymade styles. Easy Social Share’s sharing button connects to more than 50 social networks and the most popular mobile messenger applications. In addition to sharing links to articles, Easy Social Share supports sharable quotes and other types of media sharing.

4. MashShare plugin

Publishers who love Mashable.com’s style can use MashShare to add Mashable’s social sharing buttons to their own WordPress websites. The default option gives publishers a total share counter that’s placed alongside three large share buttons. Free add-ons are also available for specific social sharing features, like the ability to share images, titles, descriptions, and Twitter hashtags. Where MashShare really aims to differentiate itself is website speed, which can sometimes become an issue as publishers add too many social sharing buttons and tools. MashShare says its plugin doesn’t slow down users’ websites and it prevents publishers from dropping in the rankings by not using external scripts. Instead, MashShare’s code is loaded directly from the publisher’s website.

5. Sassy Social Share plugin

With Sassy Social Share, digital publishers can create buttons with links that readers follow to quickly share content on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Reddit. Sassy Social Share is GDPR compliant. Publishers have the option to prompt readers to share their content or to direct readers to their social media pages. Sassy Social Share is one of the social sharing plugins with free icon customization. Publishers can pick the shape, the size, and the background color of the icon that displays on their websites. Publishers also have the ability to disable the floating interface on mobile devices.

To learn more about using plugins on your WordPress website, check out our complete guide to the top WordPress plugins for publishers.

Comments Section

5 Reasons Your Website Needs a Comments Section

Print newspapers have letters to the editor, and digital publications have comments sections. Having a comments section is a sure-fire way to boost reader engagement and create stronger bonds between readers and reporters. Unfortunately, the number of publications with on-site comments sections has been decreasing as of late, and that’s pushing more conversations onto outside platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

Publishers should own the conversations happening about the stories they’re publishing, not letting those conversations happen on third-party sites.

In an ideal world, the conversations happening within publishers’ comments sections would be smart and lively. Just like the letters to the editor of yesteryear, the comments section is the ideal place for readers to publish their own thoughts about a variety of topics.

NPR.org is just one of many publishers to remove online commenting. After much experimentation, the publisher’s team decided that reader comments were not useful, and moderating those comments had become a burden. After NPR removed its comments section, many other publishers followed suit. Popular Science, Reuters, and Recode are just three of the hundreds of publishers to remove on-site commenting in the past few years.

Instead, many of these publishers are offering links to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and encouraging readers to interact on those platforms instead. We see this as a major mistake, and one that could be costing publishers significant advertising revenue and user engagement.

While there is a fair amount of work involved in managing a thriving comments section, this is a feature that adds real value to a publisher’s website.

Here are the five reasons publishers should be bringing back their comments sections.

1. Comments Keep Readers On-Site for Longer

One of the key metrics that advertisers track when deciding how to allocate their budgets is dwell time. Dwell time is the length of time that a website visitor spends on a page before returning to the search engine results page. Publishers should be tracking dwell times, too, since this metric can he helpful in determining which types of content readers prefer. Publishers that have a comments section underneath each article generally have longer dwell times.
If you’re looking for a way to improve dwell times and keep readers on your website for longer, a comments section can make that happen.

2. Comments Encourage Reader Engagement

One of the downsides to traditional news publishing has always been that it feels like a one-way street. Reporters and editors get to publish their opinions for the world to see, but what about the people reading those opinions? When do they get a say?

Offering an on-site comments section is one of the ways that news publishers can cater to their readers. Readers who feel like they are being given an opportunity to add their own two cents to an article are less likely to complain about unfair coverage, and they are more likely to return to an article to see what other people are saying.

3. Comments Bring Readers Back

Think about this from the reader’s perspective. A reader consumes a piece of content—an article or video, for example—then types up a comment for the world to see. Do you think that reader is going to leave the website and not return? Not likely.

People who take the time to leave comments are going to return to see if other people have responded to their comments, or to see if fellow commenters are taking them to task for a controversial opinion. These sorts of actions lead to more website traffic and impressions.

4. Publishers Can Learn From Comments

Most comments focus on the topic of the article, but if there is a trend among commenters—for example, complaints about news coverage or bias—then that’s something publishers can learn from. When publishers take the time to read the comments being left by their readers, and respond to certain comments with follow up information, they foster a better culture and promote loyalty among readers.

Publishers can also use the number of comments underneath stories to gauge reader interest in specific topics. For example, if every local sports story generates hundreds of comments, then that’s a sign that readers want to see more coverage in this arena.

5. Publishers Can Reward Subscribers

Publishers are always looking for new ways to reward their subscribers. One way to do this is by giving subscribers a boost in the comments section. Some publishers put stars next to their subscribers’ handles. Others bump the comments left by subscribers to the top of the comments section. In both scenarios, publishers can reward subscribers, and encourage other commenters to subscribe, without it costing them a dime.

If you would like to implement a comments section, but you’re not sure how to do it, check out our guide to the top WordPress comments plugins for news publishers.

Publishers Generate Revenue Through Amazon

How Digital Publishers Generate Revenue Through Amazon

Have you seen the headlines? Top media publishers, like the New York Times and Buzzfeed, are being encouraged by Amazon to launch consumer-oriented shopping websites overseas in exchange for a greater share of upfront revenue. Back in the U.S., digital publishers generate revenue through Amazon every day, usually without drawing any attention to their monetization strategies.

As Amazon embarks on its next chapter—one as a technology company that pays publishers in advance to create certain types of content, à la Facebook and Google—let’s take a look at some of the strategy that digital publishers are already using to generate revenue through Amazon.

How Publishers Use Amazon Affiliate Links

Local news publishers, international publishers, and even fashion bloggers are all using the same strategy to generate revenue through Amazon. That strategy revolves around affiliate links. Affiliate links have become a powerful tool as publishers search for new ways to make up the ad revenue they’re losing as they compete against Facebook and Google.

Buzzfeed is one of the most well known publishers to generate revenue through Amazon. At Buzzfeed, a team of writers has been hired to create “shopping-friendly content” that includes ample links to Amazon and other online retailers. The New York Times and New York Magazine generate revenue through Amazon, as well, with separate shopping sections on their websites that include informative reviews and plenty of product recommendations written by authoritative sources like editors and journalists.

Affiliate links are also common among Instagram influencers. A number of technology companies have popped up in an effort to capitalize on the revenue that can be generated through affiliate links, including LikeToKnowIt and ShopStyle. Both of these companies help publishers link to the products they showcase in their social media feeds and earn a commission from the items their followers buy.

What Are Affiliate Links?

Affiliate links are embedded links that take people from a publisher’s website to a product on Amazon, or another retailer’s website. If a local news publisher mentions a book in a book review, for example, then the title of the book might include a link to the product on Amazon’s website. When readers click on the link, they’re sent to Amazon. If they buy something during that virtual shopping trip—the book or another item—the publisher makes a small percentage of that sale.

Most people think that publishers only earn a commission on the products they link to, but that’s not entirely true. If a shopper arrives at Amazon through an affiliate link on the publisher’s website, then the publisher is entitled to a percentage of all the items the customer purchases during that shopping trip. That can add up to major revenue for publishers.

E-commerce websites are notoriously tight-lipped about the commissions they offer to publishers who use affiliate links, although we know that the percentages vary depending on the publication’s size and influence. On Amazon, the average rate is around 10% per transaction for publishers that generate volume. So, if a large publisher includes an affiliate link to a flat screen television, that publisher would earn a 10% commission each time a reader clicks on the link and purchases the television directly through Amazon.

The downside here is that affiliate links can be tricky, and some publishers are unsure of how to navigate this new world of online content monetization. For example, while it’s relatively easy for an editor to add a link to Amazon in a book review or a feature article about a new product, the ethics get tricky when affiliate links are being added to serious news stories.

How Does Amazon Benefit From Affiliate Links?

Yes, Amazon is an e-commerce giant. In fact, it’s easily the largest online retailer in the world. But Amazon, and other online retailers, still need help getting shoppers to their websites. Affiliate links, like the kind news publishers and bloggers post on their websites, drive consumers to shop for items they might not know exist, or items they didn’t know they could buy on Amazon. Amazon is willing to share a small percentage of these purchases, as a “thank you” to the publishers who send shoppers their way.

Does your publication use affiliate links to generate revenue through Amazon? We’d love to hear what your experiences have been, and whether this has been a profitable strategy.

Paywalls and Subscriptions

Report: Paywalls Rising, But Free News Still Reigns

The Reuters Institute has released its 2019 report on the state of pay models in online news, and the findings paint a bright picture for today’s digital-first publishers. It turns out, more publishers are putting up paywalls and making subscription revenue a key priority, even as digital advertising holds steady as a reliable source of revenue for news organizations around the globe.

In surveying more than 200 leading news organizations in seven markets in the U.S. and Europe, researchers found that usage of paywalls is increasing among online publishers, but the use of digital advertising also remains high. Despite the bulk of digital advertising revenue now being claimed by large technology companies, like Facebook and Twitter, 81% of news organizations still say digital advertising is a key source of income, followed by subscriptions (78%), and native advertising (75%).

Of all the revenue models tracked in the report, subscriptions seem to be growing the fastest. More than half of the executives surveyed in the Reuters Institute (52%) expect subscriptions to be their main revenue focus in 2019.

Looking more directly at major newspapers, Reuters Institute found that 69% of those organizations have paywalls of some kind, which is a slight increase since 2017.

The past 12 months have been a difficult time for legacy news companies, particular newspapers, as advertising revenue has continued to decline. Although fears about the potential of paywalls to limit access to quality journalism are widespread, the report found that those fears are not quite borne out. Hard paywalls are still rare, with just 3% of the organizations surveyed by Reuters Institute having hard paywalls on their websites, which prevent non-paying subscribers from accessing any content at all. What’s more common are porous paywalls or dynamic paywalls, which only go into effect once a visitor has read a certain number of articles each month.

For the study, Reuters Institute looked at the business practices of 212 news outlets, including newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, and digital-born news outlets.

Other key findings in the report include:
• 69% of the newspapers in the sample operated some kind of a pay model, which is a slight increase from 64.5% in 2017.
• Almost all digital-born news outlets (94%) in the survey say they offer free access to the news.
• Of those news organizations that operate some form of paywall, fees range from $2.25 to $46 per month. The average subscription price is $15.80 per month.
• Top newspapers and news weeklies in the U.S., Finland, France, Germany, and Poland were more likely to have adopted pay models than those in Italy and the U.K.

Key Takeaways for Digital Publishers

Digital publishers are asking what these findings mean for them, and how they can use the data from the Reuters Institute report to improve their own business practices.
For starters, the report’s analysis of average subscription prices lays a framework for publishers who struggle with deciding what to charge their readers for access. Given that the average subscription price in the survey is $15.80 per month, digital news outlets should be able to comfortably price their subscriptions at anywhere from $10 to $20 per month, depending on the volume of content they publish online.

With a growing number of publishers now charging readers to access digital news, publishers should feel even more comfortable launching their subscription programs and putting up paywalls. Just be sure not to put up a paywall without first cultivating a wider range of revenue sources. For example, selling native advertising, e-commerce products, and hosting live events. These were all cited as profitable strategies in the Reuters Institute survey.

If one thing from the report is clear, it’s that paywalls aren’t going anywhere. The strategy of locking down online content and requiring readers to pay for access is one that more and more publishers are adopting. The strategy is seeing particular growth in the U.S., where paywalls are far more common than in Europe.

To read the full report, Pay Models for Online News in the US and Europe: 2019 Update, click here.

How Digital Publishers Can Make Money from E-Commerce

How Digital Publishers Can Make Money from E-Commerce

Wondering how digital publishers can make money from e-commerce? Keep reading to find out.

E-commerce has become the fastest growing segment of consumer spending, making up more than 10% of total retail sales worldwide. Global retailers like Amazon and Walmart are bringing in the bulk of those sales, but digital publishers are finding that they have a competitive advantage that gives them a high chance of success when it comes to selling products and services online. This realization is creating a new demand among digital publishers to enter the world of e-commerce, selling not just branded merchandise and tchotchkes, but also physical goods and services related to the industries and people they cover.

In a recent report, The E-Commerce in Digital Media Report, Business Insider Intelligence looked at how digital media organizations are taking advantage of e-commerce and found that the three most popular strategies are affiliate links, social commerce, and video commerce. Business Insider Intelligence found that affiliate programs, in particular, are lucrative for digital publishers with large audiences. By the year 2022, affiliate marketing is expected to generate a whopping $8.2 billion in revenue in the U.S. alone.

Why Are Publishers Moving to E-Commerce?

With subscription and membership programs beginning to stall, and digital advertising rates dropping gradually over time, digital publishers are in search of new revenue streams. E-commerce has become a viable option, not just because it’s lucrative, but also because it is sustainable and because digital publishers are coming into this field with a competitive advantage.

One of the hardest parts of starting a traditional e-commerce business is setting up and launching a website. For digital publishers, this step is already done. With robust websites already live and operational, most digital publishers don’t have to worry about creating a website before they can start selling products and services online. Digital publishers don’t have to worry about getting eyeballs on their sites, either. With SEO strategies already firmly in place, digital publishers have the built-in audience that’s necessary to generate traction in the world of online commerce. That’s two major advantages right out of the starting gates.

E-commerce represents an opportunity for digital publishers to generate revenue in a way that incurs very few upfront costs. The real question is, why isn’t every digital publisher adopting this strategy?

How Digital Publishers Can Make Money from E-Commerce

Now that we understand what e-commerce is, and why digital publishers are particularly well positioned to take advantage of this trend in retail sales, let’s dig into the fun stuff — how digital publishers can make money from e-commerce.

Digital publishers can make money from e-commerce in three main ways — affiliate links, social commerce, and video commerce.

Affiliate marketing is common among online publishers. Simply put, the strategy involves embedding retail product links in stories and other website content. When visitors click on those links, they’re taken to the item on another retailer’s website, and the publisher gets a small commission with every sale that’s made. Affiliate links are one of the easiest and safest ways for digital publishers to dip their toes into e-commerce, since there is zero cost and publishers themselves aren’t handling any of the messy work that goes along with running a retail website.

Next up is social commerce. Social commerce uses social media to encourage online transactions. For example, a fashion publisher might post images of a new handbag on Instagram and Facebook, with links to buy the bag online. Social commerce takes advantage of the built-in social networks that digital publishers have created and grown organically.

Finally, we have video commerce. Video commerce is the latest entrant here, but it is growing to become a real force in the online retail space. Video commerce has moved beyond YouTube. Both Amazon and Walmart have added shoppable video content on Prime Video and Vudu, as well. Digital publishers can make money from e-commerce by using video to demonstrate how certain products work to their visitors, and then selling those products through links in the captions or embedded into the videos themselves.

Once again, digital publishers have a competitive advantage when it comes to video commerce because they already have the built-in SEO, they already have the trust of their audience, and in many cases, they already have the means for producing high-quality video content on a regular basis.

What do you think about publishers entering the world of e-commerce sales?

Local Publishers Invest Resources into Facebook

Should Local Publishers Invest Resources into Facebook?

Facebook says it’s investing $300 million into local news, but should local publishers invest resources into Facebook?

When it comes to audience engagement, there is no questioning Facebook’s influence. With more than 2.3 billion monthly active users, Facebook now accounts for roughly 24% of all referral traffic to content publishers. Those figures are particularly impressive when looked at in comparison to other social networks, like Twitter, which accounts for just 3% of all referral traffic to content publishers

Facebook is a powerful resource for publishers looking to bring new readers into the fold. Decoding the best tactics and strategies for using Facebook to build an audience and increase reader engagement is a field unto itself. Still, the question remains, should local publishers invest resources into Facebook?

From a local publisher’s perspective, investing resources into Facebook can mean a few different things. It can mean spending the time it takes to fully utilize all of Facebook’s audience engagement tools, and implementing the best strategies for post promotion. It can also mean investing financial resources, including running paid advertising campaigns on the platform, and even hiring an in-house social media editor to create and publish posts on the platform.

From where we stand here at Web Publisher PRO, the answer is clear. Local publishers should absolutely be investing resources into Facebook. The platform’s size and power make it an obvious choice for publications looking to boost outreach. Although there is some debate over just how much power Facebook has over the local news industry, we believe that publishers are leaving money on the table when they ignore social media entirely.

Certain parts of Facebook’s platform may be more beneficial for publishers than others. For example, publishers seem to be having particular success with Facebook Video as of late. Facebook’s video tools are easy to access, and publishers that regularly publish video on Facebook (either pre-recorded or live) tend to have higher levels of engagement on their pages than those that do not.

Best Practices for Local Publishers on Facebook

While the decision to invest resources into Facebook is an obvious one for local publishers, questions still remain over how best to take advantage of social media for the purpose of improving audience engagement.

Facebook publishes its own set of best practices for publishers, but frequent changes to the platform’s News Feed algorithm that de-prioritize local publishers’ content are forcing publishers to take it up a notch.

Local publishers have two primary goals when it comes to Facebook. First, they want to get people seeing their content. Second, they want the people who see their content to click through to their websites.

Attracting views on Facebook alone isn’t enough for publishers looking for sustainable revenue. Whether the publisher’s business model is based on subscriptions or digital advertising, loyal on-site readers are still a requirement for success.

With that in mind, we recommend that publisher’s post excerpts of recent articles on Facebook, but still require readers to click-through to read the content of those article in their entireties. Headlines should be written in a way that leaves readers wanting more, not telling the complete story.

The savviest local publishers are finding creative ways to keep the readers who’ve found their publications through Facebook coming back for more. For example, local publishers are adding sign-up boxes on their Facebook pages, where people can sign-up to receive email newsletters. Regular email newsletters keep visitors in the loop, regardless of what future algorithm changes might have in store.

Publishers who are using Facebook as a way to foster loyalty should be encouraging readers to leave more comments and otherwise contribute to their publications through the social media platform, as well. For example, publishers could promote the top comment of the week in a separate post, or publicly thank frequent commenters on their social media profiles.

Because sharing is such an integral part of Facebook’s platform, publishers should consider rewarding readers who “share” their content by entering them into drawings or giving away a certain number of free subscriptions each month.

Investing in Facebook means coming up with a comprehensive strategy for deciding which types of content to publish on the platform. Rather than posting every article on Facebook, and inundating people’s News Feeds, we recommend that publishers post only their best work. By only creating Facebook posts for articles that are likely to get shared, publishers boost their position in Facebook’s algorithm. Facebook takes into account a publisher’s level of engagement across all posts when deciding how to distribute content, which means publishers who post indiscriminately, and get very few reactions, could be hurting their brands in the long run.

Questions to ask before investing resources into Facebook:

  • Why are you using Facebook?
  • What are you hoping to get from the platform?
  • Is paid advertising required to achieve your goals?
  • What is the absolute maximum you are willing to spend for reader acquisition?
Intelligent Paywalls

What Are Intelligent Paywalls?

The latest trend in digital publishing involves using artificial intelligence technology to create intelligent paywalls that adapt based on reader behaviors and interests. Are you ready to give this strategy a try?

It’s hard to believe that nearly a decade has passed since publishers first started implementing paywalls on their websites. Originally, paywalls were created as a way to promote subscription sales and increase digital news revenue, after signs that ad rates would soon be shrinking.

Publishers believed that by preventing readers from accessing content on their websites for free, they would push those readers into becoming paying subscribers. The fault in that logic, however, was that visitors can’t see for themselves how great the content actually is behind paywalls. Without knowing what kind of quality content is hiding behind a paywall, website visitors aren’t effectively persuaded to subscribe. These challenges led digital publishers to explore different paywall strategies.

We’ve covered the latest paywall strategies extensively here at Web Publisher PRO. Porous paywalls, metered paywalls, hard paywalls, dynamic paywalls—we have seen publishers have great successes, and failures, with each of these strategies.

Now, a report from FIPP and Innovation Media Consulting, looks at an entirely new paywall strategy that could shape the next wave of digital media startups. So-called intelligent paywalls are being used by publishers who are interested in developing multiple revenue streams, and they have the potential to change online publishing as we know it.

What are intelligent paywalls?

Publishers with intelligent paywalls are relying on artificial intelligence (AI) to create paywalls that adapt to visitor behaviors. Intelligent paywalls can be setup to restrict access to content for certain website visitors, even while giving other visitors unrestricted access to the same articles or website sections.

Intelligent paywalls are really a response to the one-size-fits-all approach that digital publishers have been using, with mixed success. Intelligent paywalls are also called adaptive paywalls, hybrid paywalls, or flexible paywalls.

One of the best examples of a large news organization that’s utilizing intelligent paywalls is the Wall Street Journal. The publisher spent years refining its machine-learning algorithm to track visitor activity and adjust its paywall flexibility based on variables like visit frequency, depth of read, preferred devices, and preferred types of content.
In an article in The Drum, WSJ Analytics Manager John Wiley said these variables contribute to a “propensity score” that relates to a website visitor’s likelihood of subscribing. Certain website visitors get more free articles than others, usually within the topics they’re most likely to care about. The WSJ’s algorithm is capable of predicting when certain readers are most likely to convert, and its intelligent paywall is designed to capitalize on that information.

Other publishers use variables such as reading histories, website visit times, and number of email newsletter subscriptions to personalize their intelligent paywalls.

Intelligent paywalls take all of these variables into account in an instant, as they time their calls-to-action and set unique prices or discounts to incentivize users to take action at the precise moments they’re most likely to convert. Website visitors might also see unique messaging on the creatives they’re being shown as they hit the paywall each time.

Being able to understand which website visitors should be shown which marketing messages, and what the right combination of tactics is at any given time, is at the heart of data-driven audience acquisition, and it’s really what intelligent paywalls are all about.

Are intelligent paywalls hard to implement?

The answer to this question depends on the publisher that’s asking. Unlike traditional hard paywalls, which block out any visitors who haven’t input their subscription credentials, intelligent paywalls have to be developed using AI technology. That technology is expensive, especially for a publisher that needs customization. Because of that cost, it’s unlikely that intelligent paywalls will become mainstream among the smallest local publishers, at least in the immediate future.

What we’re more likely to see is intelligent paywalls taking off among larger digital news organizations and among the most tech-savvy publishers. Large media organizations are more likely to have the manpower necessary to implement intelligent paywalls, while tech-savvy publishers have the technical expertise necessary to design their own flexible paywalls using similar techniques.

Have you thought about implementing an intelligent paywall on your own website? If you’d like to learn more, reach out to our team at Web Publisher PRO for a one-on-one consultation.

WordPress comments plugins

Top WordPress Comments Plugins for News Publishers

Reader comments can sometimes be the best part of local news articles, particularly when it comes to hot button issues. With these WordPress comments plugins, you can add value to your news website and show readers that you value their opinions.

While the use of comments sections on national media websites is declining, the comments sections on local news websites have never been more active. People care what’s happening in their own communities, and within certain niche topics. Comments sections give readers a way to share their knowledge (and opinions) with a broader audience.

Local news websites with engaged readers almost universally offer some type of comments section. Unfortunately, WordPress’ default commenting system is often too bare bones to work for many news publishers, particularly those publishers who hope to capitalize on their loyal readers and monetize their comments sections at some point in the future.

Thankfully, the top WordPress comments plugins are all created in a way that makes them incredibly simple to set up, with enough features to support both small and mid-size digital news publishers. Most of the top WordPress comments plugins also offer moderation features and tools for improving engagement.

Let’s take a look at six of the top WordPress comments plugins for news publishers.

WordPress Comments Plugins for News Publishers

  1. Disqus
    By far the most popular WordPress comments plugin among news publishers, Disqus aims to help publishers engage directly with their readers to generate loyalty and promote stronger online communities. The Disqus commenting system replaces WordPress’ default commenting system. It installs quickly and automatically imports all existing comments, so publishers aren’t starting from scratch when they make the switch to Disqus. The Disqus system engages users and brings back commenters by sending web and email notifications, along with personalized digests. Disqus also says it can help publishers improve their SEO by getting user generated content ranking on Google.
  2. wpDiscuz
    Like its competitor Disqus, wpDiscuz bills itself as a native WordPress commenting tool that’s ideal for publishers who want to keep comments in their own databases. An AJAX realtime comment system, wpDiscuz adds interactive comment boxes to articles and nested comment threads with a maximum levels depth setting option for publishers. Publishers can allow or disallow comments on specific articles, and they can set up a notifier button to find out immediately when new comments have been posted. wpDiscuz offers full integration with social network login plugins.
  3. Thrive Comments
    Thrive Comments takes many of the most addictive parts of social media and adds them to publishers’ commenting sections. For example, readers can “like” each other’s comments, and publishers can “feature” particularly helpful or though-provoking comments. Rather than leaving first-time commenters hanging while they wait for their comments to be approved by a moderator, Thrive Comments offers post-comment actions that redirect commenters to a URL with a “welcome to the community” page or a related article. Frequent commenters can be directed to URLs with social sharing prompts, as a way to encourage them to cross-post their comments on Facebook. Thrive Comments also provides publishers with plenty of analytics that they can review to learn more about their commenters and the content that’s generating the most attention.
  4. Commentluv
    Commentluv says its plugin can bring more traffic to websites by giving publishers a way to fight spam and add keywords to the comments left by their readers. The Commentluv plugin includes plenty of “social enticements” designed to encourage readers to engage by leaving comments alongside hot button articles. The plugin gives commenters an easy way to include links to their own blog posts at the bottom of their comments, which in addition to promoting a community spirit, also helps fellow readers find new blogs they might enjoy. Publishers and moderators can use Commentluv to delete spam comments and prevent online abuse, as well.
  5. Jetpack
    An all-in-one plugin for design, marketing, and security, Jetpack makes improvements to WordPress’ default commenting system. The plugin improves WordPress’ commenting system by automatically integrating social media accounts, which expedites the user registration process. Jetpack gives commenters the option of being notified of follow up comments. Publishers themselves can receive notifications when readers comment on articles, even if those articles are months or weeks old, allowing them to respond to comments, or answer questions, in a timely fashion.
  6. Replyable
    Replyable isn’t trying to completely replace WordPress’ default commenting system, like Disqus and wpDiscuz, it’s just making the system smarter. Built by Postmatic, the Replyable plugin is basically a reimagining of what comment subscriptions could be. Engaged users who want to be kept updated on what people are saying about certain articles can subscribe to receive notifications. Replyable uses machine learning technology to rate comments based on relevance, and it only notifies users when relevant comments have been added to the conversation. The plugin also combines the comments being posted in popular threads into a daily digest. For publishers who are finding comment moderation to be a chore, Replyable offers tools they can use to moderate comments with email commands.

Unsure about which of these WordPress comments plugins is right for your publication? Reach out to our team at Web Publisher PRO for personalized recommendations.