Why we KPI our editors on engagement
This is not true. It’s still relatively easy to get someone’s attention. Bright colours, smiling models, airy rooms filled with devil’s ivy, graphic close ups of food – all of these things are charms that catch the eye. We’re still relatively base creatures, particularly when we’re scrolling through our phones, and easy tricks will do the trick.
The challenge isn’t getting attention – it’s keeping it. Persuading a reader that you’re a source worth clicking on is manageable. Once they’re with you, you have to live up to the shine you’ve sold them. Over promise and under-deliver, and you’ll lose the reader. That means you can’t offer ganache and deliver nutella: if you want your audience to stick, you need to ensure your headline is accurate.
You’ll also lose your audience if you’re not speaking to them in a tone they respect. Copy that’s dry, cliched or unclear will see your readers drifting straight back into their DMs. If you want an audience to stick with you, you have to reward them for it – by being entertaining, informative or ideally both at once.
That’s why at Time Out, we assess our editorial staff not just on the number of clicks they bring in, but on how long they keep those clicks reading. How long an audience stays with a story matters just as much as how many looked at it in the first place. To us, reading a feature to the end is a sign of trust.
We view 5,000 people reading an arts feature for five minutes each as far more valuable than 25,000 people reading a news blast about Harry Potter themed donuts for 20 seconds a piece.
Tracking how far down the page our readers scroll, and how long they stay with us, is something that’s baked into our editorial processes. In every editorial meeting we assess what makes readers stay with us, and try to deliver more of it. Right now, our readers are sticking to blockbuster visual arts shows, restaurant reviews and festival announcements.
This tactic is working – people spend more time reading Time Out than they do any other publication in our competitor set. (Source: Nielsen)
Of course, time spent on site isn’t a perfectly accurate measurement – people tend to open tabs and leave them that way. But even this behaviour tells us something. Leaving a tab open is a ‘note to self’, and we like it when people take note of our stories. Notes lead to action – something 95 per cent of Time Out readers take after looking at our content. (Source: Time Out Group)
When you were a kid, at some point, your mother probably told you there’s a difference between good attention and bad attention. The bad kind might lead to a short-term spike in eyeballs – but good attention is what builds relationships that last.