Why reader engagement matters (the most)

Sovrn Publisher Advocate // January 29, 2020

Publishers know how important reader engagement is. Engaging content—in written, video, or any other format—drives the growth of both audience and business. Without engaging content, readers disappear. Without readers, a publisher collapses. Brands, agencies, and buyers depend on engagement with their content for the same reasons. The revenue impacts of attentive readers and attention-generating content, at least, are clear. That’s why attention is such a valuable commodity.

But reader engagement data also tells you more about your audience and your business. By understanding that data—whether it’s content engagement, ad unit engagement, or more esoteric data like on-page events—you can inform your content, your monetization strategy, and your marketing efforts. 

The problem is that the majority of ad buyers don’t consider reader engagement in their bids. The impression, the basis of display advertising, is a blunt instrument. Meaning that no matter how much effort you, the publisher, put into improving your engagement, you’re not directly moving the needle that produces revenue. And, while the advertising industry has MRC standards for viewability (50% of the pixels in an ad unit in-view for at least 1 second), we’re a long way off from similar standards for engagement. That’s one of the reasons that ad refresh technology has reemerged in industry conversation. With publisher revenue under constant threat, it’s no wonder that content creators are always looking for ways to maximize the value of their inventory—just as buyers are always looking for ways to maximize the value of their spend. 

It’s also why it’s so important that both publishers and buyers understand the difference between legacy ad refresh and intelligent reload products. Our solution, //Signal, tracks 45 reader engagement markers along with ad viewability and dwell time to produce an engaged-time counter. Once that counter hits a customizable threshold, it can trigger ad reloads, prompts, and other actions. This model ensures that 1) publishers are being compensated fairly for the reader attention they capture, and 2) advertisers are able to reach engaged audiences through always-viewable ad units. It also gives publishers valuable information they can use to guide content, advertising, and business decisions. 

Ultimately, monitoring and actioning off of reader engagement gives publishers more tools to both monetize and strategize, and gives advertisers better access to quality audiences. Until there are defined, industry-wide engagement standards for both sellers and buyers, it’s important that publishers understand that there are logical ways to leverage the engagement they create.

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