5 Audience Engagement Tips From ESPN, Bloomberg, and Purch

In 2014, audience engagement is the name of the game no matter what type of publisher you are, and tricks for building a loyal audience are becoming a prized commodity. At the OPA Content All-Stars conference last week, Paul Marcum, global head of digital video for Bloomberg Media; Patrick Stiegman, VP and editorial director of digital and print for ESPN; and Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer of Purch, spoke about how best to capture and retain an audience. Here are five key tips they dished to the publisher-heavy group in attendance:

1. Test Your UX and embrace personalization

If page navigation is difficult, viewers are less likely to click on other areas of the page or return to the website later. Making sure your website is intuitive and easy to use is sure to keep them coming back.

“The format of the page is important and we do a lot of A/B testing on page format to see what works,” Kisseberth said. “We look at what retail sites do and test how people approach buying in different ways.”

Personalization is an exciting option as well. Stiegman said is redesigning its website to customize the homepage based on the visitor’s favorite teams and sports.

2. Experiment with multiple measurement tools

Steigman said that ESPN has different measurement tools for each device in order to track audience movement. “We look at real-time traffic and what’s trending on social, and look at our broadcast networks and audience movement across platforms,” said Steigman. ESPN then uses that data to make sure that it’s serving the most relevant content to its audience depending on the device.

Bloomberg tests different tools for video that offer multiple ways to view and interpret data—and ultimately understand the audience better. “We’ve been involved in no less than four tool pilots in four months,” Marcum said. “But we’re unique at Bloomberg—we need to build an array of tools to look at how each metric impacts a traditional brand.”

3. Be timely

“Part of it is having the right data and having the fastest and best scores and a live experience around games,” Steigman said of ESPN’s approach to real-time content. “Our audience follows us in-game. If we constantly have the game screen online, people check back at a regular basis.”

By capitalizing on the way audiences behave and being timely about it, ESPN has generated 10 times more engagement from social media visitors than from those who come from search.

4. Stay true to your core mission

Trying to push content on your audience that doesn’t resonate is a recipe for disaster. You can chase growth to the point that it becomes unnatural,” Kisseberth said. Steigman echoed this sentiment: “At ESPN we have a simple mission statement that we live by sports fans everywhere. The key is to serve the fan first—if we build a loyal audience, the rest will follow.”

Marcum also recommended using loyalty as a measurement: “If you’re not looking at loyalty over time, you’re too short-term-minded.”

5. Prioritize quality over revenue

“We’ll occasionally do things to sacrifice revenue for quality,” said Marcum. “I was contemplating adding a video tool for streaming, and we found a platform and it was great. Users loved it, but it wouldn’t restart the video each time it was played. Without the restarts, we weren’t getting preroll. So we saw the preroll revenue go down as the loyalty went up. We could have found a different tool, but we decided to stick with building loyalty.”

“Stick with building loyalty”—now that’s a mantra to live by.

Image by Monkey Business Images
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