No Better Time to Talk to Your User

More often than not, my role on a panel is that of moderator and it’s my job to ask the questions and create the narrative.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I got invited to be on a panel hosted by Admiral and the Local Media Consortium. The topic was: “What Publishers Can Do Now to Drive Revenue Continuity.”

To access the recording, register here.

It was a really good conversation and definitely worth a listen if you have time. Admiral wrote up a recap, which I think covers the discussion extremely well. I just wanted to expand on some of the things I’ve been thinking about that came out of the roundtable.

Now Is When You Find Out Who Really Matters to Who

Pre-COVID, many a publisher tried to push users through a paywall or collect their email address for access to content. Yes, some have been successful—The New York Times comes to mind—but on the whole, I would categorize the attempts to make such gatings work as failing to take hold.

Why? I think a significant factor is a commitment to making it work. If all a publisher is doing is throwing up a “get our newsletter” box over content, as a user, I only get two benefits:

  • Since the content is blocked by the box, I get to take a moment to decide if I really want to read this content. Sometimes it serves as a reminder that I should get back to work. Thanks publisher!
  • I get a mini-workout, as I have to move my cursor to the X to close the box. I’m not sure if a “close box” motion is the same as a step to my fitbit, but I do it often enough through the day that they help get me closer to my daily exercise goal.

The other factor for failure: the request for my email address for a newsletter may seem like you’re offering me a benefit. But as the user, I’m not so sure I agree. If I get your newsletter and it is delivered to my inbox, I have to mentally process whether I want to read it along with all of my work emails. If I have a filtered inbox, you end up in the bulk email bin to never be seen again. 

But all of that changes, if you really matter to me. Newsletters I need—I read. You’ve truly converted me to your brand if I search my bulk emails to find you and move you into my inbox. 

This is where the COVID crisis comes into play. For both businesses and individuals, we’ve had to take stock of what matters to us. For a publisher, it’s a moment in time where IF you have a value proposition to a user, you should be able to articulate it. If you’re a local newspaper site that depends on advertising, you can tell users and they should understand that your future depends on their support. Even when it comes to collecting an email or putting up a paywall, explain why you’re doing it and what the benefit is to the user. Start that conversation.

For all publishers, this may not work or work at scale. Some sites are really designed for drive-by visitors and no brand affinity is going to be created. The publishers that are going to come out of this stronger are the ones that have always respected their users and the user experience and who can now articulate that it’s time to band together: publishers, their advertisers and users.