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Why Engagement is More Important Than Reach for Publishers in 2019

By Dan Willstrand Jan 17, 2019

Tags Publisher

Reading 2 min


Engagement has grown to become the most important currency for online publishers in the last few years. Especially after Facebook made it clear in 2018 that media publishers would not be given the same exposure as they used to in its network. And maybe that decision was for the best, at least in a long term perspective, because the value of Facebook traffic turned out to be quite low, with high bounce rates and few pages views. Or as Casey Newton, Silicon Valley editor at The Verge, nailed it:

“So many publishers think they have audiences, when what they really have is traffic. I think we’re about to find out who has an audience.”

The quest to move from low-involvement traffic to an engaged audience will continue in 2019. But in order to be successful, we need to agree on what engagement really means.

What is engagement?

Engagement means different things to different businesses. The KPI:s for a personal finance app might be logins per month, transactions, dashboard views etc. But for a media site typical engagement indicators include:

  • Average time spent
  • Visited pages per session
  • Bounce rate
  • Scroll depth in articles
  • Returning visitors
  • Shares in social media
  • Newsletter signups
  • Conversions to membership/subscription

User engagement is important because it’s highly correlated with publishers ability to generate revenue. Whereas half-hearted users will leave your site before they have been exposed to ads or reacted to any call-to-actions, engaged users will be the ones reading your native ads, signing up for subscriptions and buying your merch.

How to increase engagement

So, by increasing engagement, publishers can improve the site’s profitability. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 5 simple ways to make your site more engaging.


Providing very local or very narrow content is a challenge to large media outlets. Conversely, this is an opportunity for smaller publishers. By serving niche audiences their favorite content you can create deep loyalty. One innovative way to produce hyper-narrow content is robot journalism, or humanoid journalism as its originator Mittmedia (a Swedish local media house) prefers to call it.

Their ‘Homeowners Bot’ produces more than 100,000 automated articles in a year, about every single home purchase in the region, based on data. This content is highly popular, yet super cheap to produce.


Making it easy for readers to share their knowledge does not only help you find and produce more relevant stories, it also creates a positive feeling of involvement among your readers.


There is a very attractive position between completely free content and hard paywalls. Invite your readers to sign up for free, share some data about themselves, and give them added value services in return. This will not only help you serve much more targeted ads, it will also create a sense of community, where readers feel they are a part of something greater than themselves, and they will be more prone to comment and share stories.


Our lives are becoming ever more digital. But genuine relations benefit from meetings in real life. Find out what is important or fun to your audience and build around that. And industry conference if you are a trade publisher? Or an awards gala? Connect with your most popular local sports team if you are a local publisher, and build events around that.


Who, more than you, is interested in engaged media users? Other publishers of course! Eventually a visitor on your site will be finished with your articles and ready to move on. What if you could send that visitor to another media site, and get a new, engaged visitor in return? This is exactly what Strossle’s Accelerator allows you to do.

Since 2016 Strossle has successfully introduced audience sharing with a growing number of publishers throughout Europe, and the result speaks for itself. Visitors send to other media sites via the Accelerator spend 120% more time than users coming from Facebook, and visit 39% more pages per visit. That’s a very clear indicator of engagement!

Want to know that content that engages readers? Download this report. 

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