Times are changing, and publishers now have to get creative in the ways they seek out and engage longtime readers. Increasingly, local publishers are using chatbots to foster deeper connections and streamline their behind-the-scenes operations.
Although Facebook is the dominant player in the chatbot space—Facebook Messenger already has more than 100,000 bots—other technology companies like Amazon, Google, WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook), Kik, and WeChat are not far behind. According to a survey by Reuters Institute, more than half of publishers (56%) cite Facebook Messenger as an important or very important part of their offsite initiatives, followed by 53% for WhatsApp and 49% for Snapchat.
Chatbots are internet-based computer programs that simulate conversations with humans. They sometimes rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to make interactions even more seamless. Rather than having very limited functionalities, chatbots with AI can actually understand reader queries and answer basic questions in a realistic way.
According to a 2018 survey of internet users, 62% said they enjoy using messenger chatbots and email for customer support. That statistic should be encouraging for brands, and it’s particularly relevant for local publishers that already use chatbots for reader support, but it doesn’t reflect the full spectrum of ways that local publishers are using chatbots in today’s digital environment.
Here are four examples of innovative ways that local publishers are using chatbots to improve the relationships they have with their readers.
1. Engaging with audiences
Sure, readers can use the search feature on a local publisher’s website to find a specific article, but interacting with a chatbot is a lot more fun. Local publishers are using chatbots to help readers find the stories they’re looking for, similar to the way a librarian might help people find books at the library.
Already, the pop culture magazine Paste has partnered with Gushup to provide personalized content to readers via Facebook Messenger. Using AI, Paste’s chatbot uses online interactions to learn about reader preferences. Those types of interactions lead to higher levels of engagement for Paste and ensure that readers get access to the information they need, right when they need it.
2. Monitoring reader engagement
Local publishers are using chatbots to monitor reader engagement and collect information about which topics their subscribers are interested in learning more about. At its most basic level, that might mean combing through communication logs between chatbots and readers and tracking which topics or questions come up most frequently. Of course, more sophisticated platforms are also available. These platforms remove the hassles associated with this type of data analysis and provide greater insights to publishers about their readers using information collected from messenger services.
3. Responding to reader inquiries
The number of local publishers with subscription programs is on the rise, and chatbots are one tool that can make managing subscriptions easier.
Local publishers are using chatbots to provide services to subscribers. For example, readers can use a chatbot to ask how long until their subscriptions renew or what the rate for a six-month subscription is currently.
Local publishers are also using chatbots to handle basic service tasks, like cancelling subscriptions and signing readers up for email newsletters. The greater the level of artificial intelligence, the more sophisticated and realistic the chatbot will be when handling these types of jobs.
4. Driving content to readers
Rather than downloading apps or seeking out new content on their own, readers can rely on chatbots to bring them articles on the topics they’re most interested in. We all know that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for small publishers to gain traction with their own mobile apps. Chatbots offer a way for publishers to connect with their readers without asking them to download anything new, since most consumers already have messaging apps on their smartphones.
One of the most well known examples of this strategy involved the technology website TechCrunch, which launched a personalized news recommendation chatbot on Facebook Messenger. The chatbot was designed to help readers stay updated on the topics they care about, with the ability to subscribe to different topics, authors, and website sections.
If you’d like to learn more about integrating chatbot technology into your own publication, please reach out to our team of experts at Web Publisher PRO.