There’s an optimization gap in digital publishing. While advertisers are using sophisticated targeting for ads, publishers are usually showing the same content to all readers, no matter who they are or where they came from.
Many, however, are slowly catching up. Publishers like Upworthy, BuzzFeed, and The Washington Post are realizing that success in digital publishing is a game of tiny optimizations. Most readers aren’t visiting sites via their front pages, making it key that publishers tweak reader experiences, headlines, and page layouts in an effort to make their content more palatable and sharable for specific audiences.
BuzzFeed offers a particularly good example. When a reader visits BuzzFeed via Pinterest, the site not only increases the size of the Pinterest “Pin It” button but also removes the Twitter share button entirely. That’s because only 8 percent of users who click BuzzFeed link on Pinterest end up sharing the story via Twitter. BuzzFeed also adds a “hot on Pinterest” module when readers visit the site via Pinterest. The result: Pinterest drives more referrals to BuzzFeed than Twitter.
Upworthy, which also gets most of its traffic through social channels, is also looking at how it can tweak user experience based on whether readers come to the site directly or through other means. The move is a sensible one considering that Upworthy is already well-known for giving its stories at least 25 possible headlines each. Extensive A/B testing is already a part of its core formula.
“We’re doing it in a way that looks at the net effect,” said Ed Urgola, Upworthy’s director of marketing. “Whether it means starting to personalize based on the source or show a new user something different from a returning one, everything is done by considering how it affects that one decision that the reader’s going to make when they’re finished reading a story.”