Audience development for digital publishers

Audience development for digital publishers

Everything a digital publisher needs to know about audience development

Audience development isn’t a new concept. Publishers, both print and digital have taken their fair share of time to figure out an engagement plan. From selling the latest copies to longest subscription plans, there’s been a lot of discussion around audience development. According to the 2020 report from Reuters Institute for the study of journalism, 50% of leading digital publishers say that subscriptions are their main revenue focus. The New York Times for instance, just witnessed its digital revenue exceed print revenue.


This would mean that publishers need to look into how they can interact with their users better on the digital platform. Let’s try to understand what audience development is and how digital publishers can make better strategies around it.

What is audience development?

Audience development includes - audience building, community, collaboration, engagement, participation, user involvement, increasing subscribers, etc. Audience development includes everything that one needs to do to build and then nurture a loyal, long-term subscriber base.

The term audience development describes an activity that is undertaken specifically to meet the needs of existing and potential audiences to help organizations to develop ongoing relations with audiences.
Arts Council of England

Audience development for a publisher involves coming up with comprehensive strategies that aim to strengthen the audience relationships. The primary focus should be to increase awareness of the brand and to facilitate the participation of interested readers.

What is the difference between audience development and audience engagement?

Audience Development (AD) focuses on identifying new customers or members who might benefit from what you have to offer. Often Audience Development is a short-term strategy focused on acquisition or marketing that seeks to increase customers or prospects.


Audience Engagement (AE) is a long-term strategy to build relationships, build community, entice conversation and participation which leads to loyalty, retention, and customer identification with the brand.

3 Ways to approach Audience development

  1. Community

Audience development comes down to being active within your community. By interacting with your audience you can increase your brand awareness. Gradually investing time and resources for interacting with your audience helps remain consistent.

Creating online forums, social media pages, even linkedin groups can help you maintain and grow a strong community. Supporting your community and staying true to your brand image is important.

2. Connections :

Mentioning partnerships, guest authors, guest speakers, or even freelancers can help your audience get a more transparent view of your brand. This not only helps you increase your reach but also brings in more connections that could potentially help you grow.

3. Collaborations: Featured content - encourage your UGC. This helps the audience feel recognized and there’s also more room for interactions. You can push the content that is trending while encouraging more users to participate.

How digital publishers should focus on audience development

  1. Understand your audience

To create strategies, as a publisher, one needs a clear understanding of their audience. Having statistics about the demographics, profile behavior and subscription rates will help you understand the behavior of your existing audience. Audience behavior could give you details about your more favored stories, the trends, and the overall demands of your audience from your audience. You can also hold surveys if needed to understand what you’re doing right and where you can improve.

2. Increase engagement

As you try to increase your audience, it is important to make use of the audience you already have. A passive audience will not give you enough feedback to move forward. Encourage users to participate and involve with the stories. This could be facilitated through apps, interactive comment sections, or having a dynamic social media presence.

3. Optimize omnichannel audience development initiatives

Featuring user-generated content is a great way to initiate conversations amongst your users. This helps create a more interactive platform. If you have an active social media strategy working in your favor then channel those interactions and content into your parent site. This helps bring conversations to a singular point without hindering the user experience.

Tips for publishers

Let’s assume you’ve successfully established a loyal audience that is both participatory and interactive. How do you go about digital publishing after that? Here are a few tips

1. Focus on the bottom of your funnel

By building a resourceful list of user information, something as simple as emails, publishers can have a steady revenue flowing in.

This can be extended further by providing a personalized experience and ads for the users based on their behavior on your site.

2. Customer data is valuable

Asking for something as simple as a sign-up gives you information about the email address and name.

Keeping track of the clicks, conversions, stories that do better on mobile phones or desktops, these are the types of data you can use to your benefit.

Publishers can also ask their users for feedback. Rating your app/website, filling out a survey are all functional ways to get information with the consent of your users.

3. Diversify your monetization channels

One of the perks of digital publishing is the various forms of revenue streams you can make use of.

Are you sending newsletters to your users? Try to place an ad! Or build an app. Trying out all channels of revenue helps you in more ways than one. It helps you make sufficient income while also teaching you the audience behavior on your site.

4. Personalize the experience

As mentioned above, providing a personalized experience is crucial to the overall success of user interaction. Keeping track of your audience behavior through google’s tools can help you provide the best user experience.


Once you have an understanding of a user’s preference, present content that is relevant to the user. This helps increase the overall retention and it also makes the user comfortable on your site. Furthermore, place personalized ads. While this helps build revenue, it also increases the chance of better user and advertisement interactions.

Digital audience development is a gradual journey. As publishers across the globe figure out ways to increase user retention and loyalty, we urge you to put more effort into your audience strategies. By experimenting with models and gaining feedback, a publisher will be able to reach their potential in the digital publishing industry.

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