Key metrics for publishers to keep an eye on

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Metrics isn’t a new word in the publishing industry; Much has been talked about how to measuring results can help publishers to evaluate their content and audiences. Acronyms like KPI, ROI, CPC, CPM and CTR are just a few of many terms that have been used during meetings across departments.


With publishers starting to realise it is engagement, not reach or impressions, that will help them to survive, brands are shifting their attention to the reader. In an effort to downplaying pageviews and volume metrics in favour of users experience and lifetime value we will give you 3 key metrics publishers should keep an eye to calculate reader value.




With the brand-safety crisis in the past year, where 54% of display ads are not seen, the unique pageview metric decreases its importance in the long run. But don’t jump to conclusion and completely disregard the metric, growth and scale still matter. However, publishers are focusing on analysing their success and stickiness with their readers through time spent. How many readers are returning? Who is a loyal reader and to what? What convinces them to sign up for emails and show up for discussions? Who is sharing our content and where? These questions bring publishers to a phase where meaningful viewership and depth engagements are what matters most.


As a result, Digiday reports almost half of all publishers to use time spent with content and social actions for their clients’ campaign reports. Guaranteed unique pageviews were replaced by reads and time spent to increase the number of branded content deals. Following this approach, Reuters is measuring their success using total time spent on the app per month rather than pageviews. Focusing entirely on reader-experience, allowing each individual customize their feed by topic, curating Reuters 5,500 daily pieces of news. This reader-centric approach has already started to pay off, with Reuters reportedly doubling their user sessions and growing weekly engagement to 18 minutes.


Reuters News App focused on reader-experience and time spent

Reuters News App focused on reader-experience and time spent


Using a similar mindset, Hearst UK has developed their own mix of metrics to calculate the reader’s engagement with their branded content. Combining dwell time and scroll depth, the audience is scored with a minimum of 30 seconds spent on the page and a scroll depth of 75%. Using this formula, the publisher has grown their branded content production by 200% generating 60% more revenue. The same path is followed by Purch, a network of 15 tech sites, who in 2016 implemented as a core part of its business measuring reader engagement based on scroll depth.




Whether generating visits on the website or sharing on social media, publishers want readers to spend as much time as they can interacting with their brand’s channels. By using the lifetime value formula, digital brands are designing their strategies and spend with the entire future relationship with a reader in mind. As a result, Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends Report shows 27% of Media Buyers and Advertisers in the US consider Lifetime Value as the most important metric when considering ad spending optimization.


What metrics publishers consider to be important when they plan their ad spending

Mary Meeker’s Report: What metrics publishers consider to be important when they plan their ad spending


Focusing on the interaction with readers, The Dallas Morning News concentrate their attention on returning visitors and the amount of time its readers spend on site. Since 2016, the newspaper stopped using pageviews as a metric for growth and channeled their efforts to growing subscriptions. Using Facebook Groups and giving readers direct access to journalists and editors, they also offer exclusive benefits such as tickets to events. This one of a few strategies more prominent publishers are using to interact with readers and grow their membership.


Edging away from social media The Seattle Times concluded that it takes 25x more visits to convert a reader to a subscriber in comparison to its newsletter.  They are smartly adjusting their editorial strategy based on user preferences and behaviour, identifying which content is working best to drive reader subscriptions. Paying attention to frequency is a practice that also appears to be replicated across newsrooms outside the US. Two big brands at Hearst Newspapers, SFGate and, are focusing their efforts on readers that visit their websites at least 10 times per month.




It’s no longer enough for publishers to spend a significant part of their budgets in an acquisition that won’t generate a long-lasting return. Having a sustainable approach became the critical element for the publishing industry, and recirculation becomes a valuable ally. Since publishers are willing to keep readers in their sites as long as possible by using this metric makes it easy to determine what makes an article succeed and which pages your readers are likely to visit next.


On one side of the fence, thinking about the reader’s journey and encouraging them to visit further pages using personalized recommendations will provide a better user experience and help to develop a closer relationship. On the other side, thinking from a publisher’s perspective, it means a steady stream of revenue and cost-effective traffic. Another key point of recirculation: traffic from direct sources generates higher rates than those ones acquired from social channels.


Wired's page optimised for recirculation and conversion

Wired’s page optimised for recirculation and conversion


But it’s not only personalization that feeds the recirculation bug. Outside Magazine has grown their pageviews per visit by 13% after removing Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (a.k.a Google AMP). On the other hand, using a different approach Wired’s recirculation strategy is a combination of design and high-quality content. Rethinking their distribution strategy, the success is a perfect balance between content focused on affiliate fees and content monetized through advertising.




Though all the tips above can be handy, there will still be upcoming new metrics and different combinations promising to bring your strategy to the next level. Learning what works for your brand and exploring new ways to engage with your reader is the key to a brighter future.


While using the Reuters approach of giving readers total autonomy to customize their feed might not work for you, limiting the use of pageviews as the primary metric to evaluate success is a small change in your strategy with little side effect. If the outcome of all this engagement oriented approach will generate a better relationship between publishers and readers, providing better experiences and transparency, it will be a good win-win for everyone. For assistance on personalization, and building reader relationships you can reach out to the team here at any time for help.

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