By Dexter Lin

Marla, the company’s Customer Success Manager, spoke about content in the shifting landscape of the pandemic, of readership in 2021 thus far, how newsrooms might pivot their strategies, and trends across Asia and beyond.

Chartbeat is a content, intelligence and media analytics platform, working with The New York Times, the BBC and SCMP to help these outlets understand how they can create more relevant stories using data.

Marla discussed three main points during his talk: User consumption and engagement patterns, how users discover platforms, and how to attract loyal users.

Total page views have been in steady decline – down 17 percent – since the turn of the year. But there is a regional outlier.

“Asia Pacific is the only region that saw a 7 percent growth,” says Marla, who is Customer Success Manager.

Despite the growth in page views, the Asia Pacific region still lags behind in engagement, or the time a user spends on the website consuming content (tabs open in the background do not count), at 29.3 seconds on average. That’s 4.3 seconds less than its counterparts in North America.

Search engines remain the number one driver of traffic to news sites, with more than 80 billion page views coming from sites such as Google. Page views from search engines also led to the highest engagement time at 42 seconds.

Google remains the largest driver of traffic among search engines, though it saw large declines in January, dropping by almost 15 percent in just four weeks.

Push alerts, apps and loyal users

Push alerts, though they only drive about 11 percent of the search engines’ traffic, is an important tool.

“These are the users that have already downloaded your app … and app users are nine times more likely to convert into subscribers as opposed to search and social users,” Marla said. “A strong loyal audience is the only way to drive more subscriptions.”

Loyal users are procured in three steps. First, platforms have to get users onto the site. Then, platforms have to retain the users they have acquired by keeping them engaged. Finally, get them to explore other content on the platform’s site.

“Find ways to discover more content, so that next time [users] come directly to your site,” Marla said, “that’s how you build more loyal audiences.”

What does it mean to have a loyal audience member?

“Loyal visitors are those who visit your site eight out of sixteen days, or every other day – at least 50 percent of the days over a period of time,” says Marla about Chartbeat’s definition of loyal customers.

Asia Pacific has the lowest portion of their customers being classified as loyal at only 32 percent. Europe/Middle East/Africa, Latin America, and North America lead with 43 percent, 39 percent and 34 percent of their user bases being loyal respectively.

Marla noted that each publisher has different objectives which necessitates different strategies, so there is no panacea for growth.

“If a publisher’s objective is to acquire users, then spending more time on Facebook or running more campaigns makes sense. But if your focus is to acquire, retain and engage, then all of these elements are very important,” he said.

‘Email is a great consumption channel’

He lists out dark social (messaging apps, direct messaging and push notifications) as an overlooked tool – especially email.

“Email is a great consumption channel. A lot of users consume news via email, and it’s cost-effective too,” Marla said.

There are categorical trends to consider when pushing news too. But the type of news a publication pushes is ultimately still down to what kind of outlet they are.

“COVID-19 will always be a trending topic for now. Entertainment news is big. Political news is big. Sports is huge. It depends on what kind of publisher you are,” he said.

The kind of stories a publisher pushes, regardless of category, depends on data insights as well.

“Gone are the days where you are writing stories based on instinct and gut. Every newsroom editor needs to get used to understanding data and use that to put up content,” Marla said.

About the writer: Dexter Lin is a third-year undergraduate student at Yale-NUS, Singapore. His interests lie in the effects of Orientalism in media and wider culture. In 2018, he camped outside the Shangri-La hotel during the historic Trump-Kim Summit in an attempt to find a story. Outside of school and work, Dexter also represents the Singaporean national team as a 100m sprinter. 

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