We all know the importance of being part of your readers’ daily routines, but how exactly can you develop such a habit-forming product?
Nir Eyal’s hook canvas from his book “Hooked” is crucial for understanding what can trigger certain behaviour to make return consumption more likely. This methodology can help publishers grasp why Facebook, Google, and the like are so much better at building addictive audience behaviour in this digital age.
For a habit to be created, first the reader must be triggered, either internally through their own desire or externally by an action you take. To make this framework more actionable, here are examples from leading publishers on how they create such triggers.
Meet your readers where they are
To internally trigger your readers, you need to meet them where they are. That can take many forms; one great example comes from The Guardian. Their new temporary edition specifically for underground commuters makes sure commuters with a spotty connection always have something to read. The app “LabRdr” allows readers to set when and for how long their morning and evening commutes are, then they receive a notification when their content package is ready. Knowing when the commute will take place allows LabRdr to automatically update its content at the right time twice a day so that all the stories are pre-downloaded. Knowing how long the commute is allows for enough stories to be included to fill the commute, so readers can enjoy the finishability aspect of edition-based publishing.
We’re looking to gauge readers’ reactions to the utility of having a short package of news defined for them for a set period of time. Without the option to read a full spectrum of articles on many topics, will they feel better informed with those they do read, or have a sense of achievement at completing a few articles in a set? Sasha Koren, Editor at The Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab
This new edition connects with the internal trigger of checking your phone during your commute. The app also works to learn the reader’s interests, keeping track of what categories of stories are clicked on in order to offer more relevant content during the next commute.
Publishing at the convenience of your audience, not the deadline’s
One of the key essentials for newsrooms is the need to publish at the convenience of your audience, not of the deadline’s. Ouest-France identified a change in reader behaviour with new moments of consumption, so they created a whole new product to fit into their readers’ daily routines.
We saw that there was a developing market for news at the end of the day. The usage of tablets and smartphones indicated that people were willing to read things after work. We decided to create a 100% digital newspaper, with news, magazines and games.
Edouard Reis Carona, Digital Editor for L’édition du Soir
To target these readers who are looking for something to read during their commute from work or while relaxing at home, Ouest-France created L’édition du Soir, published each weeknight at 6 PM. The edition is also optimised for the interests of readers during this time period, so there are more games and puzzles. By offering readers a new edition with what they wanted in the evening, L’édition du Soir has been able to become an important part of their readers’ routines. To increase the habit forming strength of your ePaper, it may be worthwhile to take a deeper look at your audience to find any needs that your current editions are not addressing.
(L’édition du Soir is one of the case studies in Twipe’s research report “Reinventing digital-only editions” — download the report here)
Calendar apps: the next platform to be on?
An external trigger can also help create habit-forming products. Some publishers have attempted to activate such loyalty in readers through editorial newsletters or push notifications. But with so many publishers going this route, it can be difficult to stand out. That’s why some publishers have turned to calendar apps–a novel way to trigger your readers. The New York Times has taken this approach, with calendar integrations both alerting readers when new content is published as well as being more topical. Their calendar integration that alerts readers when there will be a new space-related event has over 80,000 subscribers.
Calendars are interesting to explore not only because they offer a new channel for reaching readers, but also because the content we place there lives in an inherent context. We can place dozens of events well off into the future, and the calendar will do the hard work of introducing this to you in the right moment, in the context of time and everything else going on in your day.
Ben Koski, Director of Interactive News at The New York Times
This is is a great example of melding an external trigger with an internal trigger: we’ve all found ourselves mindlessly checking our calendar throughout the day. With this calendar integration, New York Times subscribers are then triggered to read the linked stories.
Traditionally news alerts have been more in the category of news flash apps, but edition-based publishers can also enter this space with such calendar integrations–putting events on readers’ calendars in advance is the opposite of breaking news. With a calendar integration alerting readers to a particular story in the day’s edition, publishers can rise above the noise.
This article was written by Mary-Katharine Phillips, Media Innovation Analyst at Twipe from 2017 – 2021.