9 Strategies For Establishing Reader Loyalty

In this article, we will lay out some strategies that will help you earn reader loyalty. 

But first, why does a newsroom need it at all?

We’re sure that if you’re searching for info on reader loyalty, you certainly understand the value of recurring audiences. But anyway, just to brush up…

Reader Loyalty: A Pivot To Trust

It is happening: the global economy has gained new currency –a long-term relationship between business and customers. 

The established subscription economy is the result of changing customer behavior trends. The pace of changes, emerging technologies, and finally, the coronavirus pandemic contributed to an increase in demand for having everything we need at our fingerprints – here and now. 

It’s not a secret that more than 70% of ad spendings are now going to the biggest online platforms – Facebook, Google, Amazon. It means that the traditional ad-based business model for news has been disrupted. 

That’s why news and media companies are now starting to focus more and more on how they can leverage recurring business models. 

This encourages questions like: 

  • Can a newsroom keep pace with digital transformation?
  • How can we earn reader trust?
  • Should we revisit organizational structures?
  • How to keep readers engaged if the news cycle quiets?
  • What it takes to optimize content for long-term readership?

Some disclosures from major news chains

Tribune Publishing reported digital-only subscriber revenue increased 67.4% ($5,1 million).

The Los Angeles Times experienced a surge in paid subscriptions of 58% in 5 months.

A 41% increase in digital subscriptions saw The Boston Globe, that doubled the number they had before the hit of Covid-19 pandemic.

The New York Times shifted focus to subscriptions long ago. The company has been investing in high-quality content since 2011. 


Actually, in 2021, The NYT is throwing out some impressive numbers: 4,3 million digital subscriptions (including Cooking and Crosswords), and 3,42 million digital news subscribers.

Get Started With Building Reader Loyalty

Where to start? Is it engaging content? Do we need to restructure the whole organization? 

Success with the subscription model means news outlets have to evolve, shifting focus to marketing a bit to understand how acquisition and retention work. They also have to keep up with digital trends and engage expertise to make the whole transformation smooth and financially secure.

In addition, it’s impossible to gain audience retention without comprehensive and actionable insights into how paying readers behave once they become interested in content. It allows editorial teams to discover reader habits so they can retain them by meeting their needs.

We’ve put together some of the most prominent strategies that have proven effective in establishing reader loyalty.  

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 1. Make It Visual

What is Reader Loyalty
NYT’s articles about The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Photographers, videographers, and graphic designers are now the frontrunners of the whole content creation process. Yes, the word is still the sword, but it is now fatally lost among severe competition without a compelling visual part. 

Crafting a more visual daily report not only enforces your brand image and increases brand awareness; it also works well for building backlinks and boosting your rankings. 

Graphs, diagrams, charts, infographics also contribute greatly to social share. It is more preferable for people to use comprehensive visual materials to support their thoughts. 

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 2. Establish Brand Image

Brand positioning map

Brand. Identity. Design. Tone of voice.

All that marketing terms are now migrating to the media.  

Why is paying attention to brand identity important?

“How do you get people to care about important stuff amidst the avalanche of content we all face each day?”

– Peter Koechley, Upworthy co-founder

A brand is a promise. 

It’s not just empty words or theoretical marketing terms. Think about it.

When you come to Mcdonalds, you know what to expect – no more, no less. The brand image in your head has already pictured how is it going to be: mmmm… a chicken box and…yes, Mcflurry. You want just this experience in this period of your life. Because of the brand image, you’re sure you’ll get that experience. Nothing is going to change. 

Now imagine that tomorrow McDonalds is wearing blue colors due to some rebranding. They add beer and hotdogs to the menu. How would you feel? Crushed! Right, because the connection that we have with brands is real. Losing it seems like losing a real person. 

How does a news company differ? In no way. At a time when readers are feeling overwhelmed by an ever-growing amount of content, the best way to be heard is with the singular, powerful message of a well-known, well-developed brand.

How news companies build a brand name

There are two ways for new websites to establish a brand name: 

  • Adhering to strict standard journalism practices

If you look at Google News Homepage, you’ll notice that all stories are original content with trusted sources.

Google News Displaying Algorithm

To get into Google News, your site must have remarkable credibility. Google doesn’t want to post false stories and will do its best to ensure it’ll never happen. Note also that Google is also exclusive about authors.

Learn how a news website can get into Google News

It may sound like something unnecessary, especially if you’re a small organization. 

But think about it: why do we love these brands?

Building brand image and authority takes a news company to the next level: awesome content, good ranking in search engines are buttressed by making each online presence authoritative.

Lost World of the Maya (Full Episode) | National Geographic

They’ve managed to build strong emotional engagement with people all over the world. A well-thought-through brand strategy represents trust, which values loyalty the most in the news industry.

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 3. Optimize For Mobile

How to increase reader loyalty

68.1% of all website visits in 2020 drove mobile devices. Mobile e-learning, e-commerce transactions, social media navigations are gradually overtaking over desktop usage, which means you have to adapt your website navigation for mobile users, and this probably shouldn’t be kept on the back burner. 

It doesn’t mean that mobile users are more loyal, though. They have more chances to welcome your content in their life and get used to it, as mobile devices accompany us everywhere, as opposed to desktops. Mobile users also have more touchpoints with your content. 

Mobile-optimized frictionless sites make a subscription an enjoyable part of the whole reader journey. 

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 4. Build Recirculation Path

People subscribe out of loyalty. To actually achieve this point, they need to have a previous path laid out for them. 

Because attracting a new reader is 5 times more costly than retaining an existing one, a newsroom must think through how a reader is going to travel through the content path. 

If you create quality content, people will become hungry for more. Your task is to make sure that not a single piece of your content is a dead-end of their journey. 

It may strike at first: where should we begin? We always recommend starting with identifying your audience and crafting their needs. Once finished, you can come up with topics, find keywords, develop content, and then see which one of your stories is becoming a dead-end, meaning it occupies its place for no reason. 

There are various tools that may help you improve content performance by locating “dead areas” and giving enough insights to adapt your link strategy.

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 5. Create A Digital Ecosystem

You produce great content. Why losing the ground to more tech-savvy competitors? Mastering digital transformation boils down to just 2 things. 

  • Creating an effective digital team (while making the most of the talent you have)
  • Deciding on the optimal set of marketing tools needed for making your work more productive. Reader loyalty is an always moving target, and competition for it is increasing day by day. Engaging subscribers purely on guesswork is a Sisyphean story. 

Data Analytics Software For Publishers

If you create a significant amount of content on a daily basis, you should think about how you’re going to analyze its performance.

We know it can be quite difficult for publishers to tease out actionable intelligence in the whirlwind of numbers. However, understanding your readers to know where optimizations must be made – is vital to building a path to reader loyalty. 

Know Which Your Articles Convert Readers into Paying Subscribers

At IO, we’re working with more than 1200 media companies across the world to generate insights needed to establish reader loyalty. It goes much beyond pageviews and clicks.

  • You can quickly access data without the need to scrabbling around in Google Analytics
  • Real-time dashboards let you analyze reader engagement in real-time and make quick, informed decisions 
  • Historical data can help you benchmark current performance against previous to see what works and what is lagging behind
  • Headline testing feature allows increasing CTR by making adjustments around the clock

We work with editorial teams of various sizes to get a grasp on data literacy and start reaping the benefits of data-driven culture faster.

Ready to increase reader loyalty? Let’s chat!

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 7. Ensure Flexible Billing 

Put your best foot forward here. Scaling is a challenge. Your recurring billings must be clear, accurate, and branded. 

To manage the complexity of recurring billing is possible with the help of professional software engineers that will build your recurring system. 

Billing takes a central part of your loyal readers’ journey. The reader is ready to get committed: their purchase is going to repeat for months or years. The experience leading up to and following from this point is crucial for maintaining reader loyalty.  

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 8. Build Community

Once you capture the reader willing to pay for digital access, you have to secure the next step: how to make them stay. 

Engagement as a term is now far exceeding just the number of repeat readers. It’s also about feeling like a part of a community. 

Personalized newsletters, perks, access to virtual events, comment sections, newsroom tours, movie screenings, giveaways – newsrooms should constantly test innovative offerings to retain readers. Email automation can make it easier to stay connected with your loyal readers. 

To analyze how often members leave your platform, you should keep an eye on the churn rate.

How To Boost Reader Loyalty: 9. Embrace Social Media

Social media is now the source of news for more than 2,4 billion users. But creating an account and implementing Instant Articles is not enough. An article must be like and shared many times before more people can see it in their feed. That’s why you’ll probably need to:

  • Hiring young talents in the social media department who can translate the value of newer platforms more intrinsically than old strategists
  • Considering providing values for audiences in new ways
  • Learn how to adhere to Facebook Instant Articles’ policy to be in favor of the platform and reach a wider audience.


The pre-digital business model has crumbled. More than two-thirds of all digital ad spending take Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It means that to stay resilient, a news company should think outside the box. To stay competitive today, a shift must be made, and without marketing and powerful content analytics tools it’s just impossible. 

Furthermore, there is no doubt that the way individuals consume content has changed drastically. The agility of the subscription model requires companies to adapt to consumer needs quickly and provide high-quality content on a regular basis. On top of that, it should be done faster than competitors do it. Reader loyalty is a number one priority for any digital media: traffic to your website is only good if it causes engagement.

To attract audiences, a digital news team must know how to make content available for search engines and social media. And to make the reader return and subscribe, a strategy must be developed mapping out the way how the reader is going to arrive at the subscription point. 

We hope the listed tips will shed light on where to start with building reader loyalty and how to remain resilient during uncertain times.