Until recently, a publishers’ power lived in the hands of institutions and libraries; but as transformational deals abound and scholarly publishers contend with new challenges posed by Open Access, that power is shifting. 

For industry leaders, the next five years are absolutely critical to developing a firm understanding and a connection with their end user - the readers. 

“Publishers are mostly strangers to their audience.”  - Tim Barton, President of Silverchair

The availability of content on the internet hasn’t just shifted the demographics and habits of your readers; it’s also made it harder than ever to win their attention and loyalty. Today’s readers have sky-high expectations for online experiences, influenced by the experiences they’ve had with entertainment & media corporations that have long lived on their screens and in their newsfeeds. 

The advent of Open Access has cemented the need to compete for the attention of readers in an increasingly crowded digital marketplace; and audience intelligence could mean the difference between building relationships with your audience and publishing into the void. 

1. Build more detailed audience segments

The first step to building a relationship with your readers is to dig into who, exactly, those readers are. 

Odds are, you’ve got a general idea of who is reading your publications. There are assumptions that can be made about the readers of journals that are tightly affiliated to individual industries or niche interests. 

But as Open Access content becomes available to a wider audience, and readers are less constrained by title or industry - discovering subsets and patterns in the types of readers accessing your journals and digital content will be crucial. 

For example, a medical journal might want to hone in on the behavior and interests of their millennial readers, by zeroing in on subsets that include:

  • Affinity for cancer research topics
  • Preference for a specific author
  • High engagement on video and webinar resources
  • High value readers that have been inactive for the last 30 days
  • Readers that originated from a successful marketing campaign

Hum’s Audience Explorer allows you to introduce behavioral activity and demographic filters, helping you uncover active segments of your full audience. 

2. Create the content that readers find valuable

Until recently, the publishing industry has largely been able to resist the role that reader-level insights should play in content development. 

In Hum & Silverchair’s Future of Publishing Technology report, Colleen Scollans of Clarke & Esposito predicted that as publishers learn to integrate data into their content strategies, we’ll see an “increase in the diversity of content formats (i.e., more multimedia) and the types of content produced (e.g., both core editorial content and content marketing).” 

Google Analytics and traditional session-based content analytics platforms often show an incomplete picture of true performance. Instead, publishers should be focusing on gaining a single-user view to track and use real-time insights on the pieces and categories of content that are driving results. 

For example:

  • Clearly see which topics or programs are most engaging for your high-value readers
  • Identify how engaging a piece of content is based on drop-off and read rates
  • Access article-level metrics that show authors how their content is performing 

The better you understand which pieces and categories of content are driving engagement and action, the more effective you can be at creating and delivering content that resonates with your readers.

3. Personalize

Where did your last book recommendation come from? 

It might have been a friend - but it’s just as likely in today’s age that it came from Goodreads, Amazon, or Audible, based on your recent picks and reading preferences. 

As the Spotify’s, Netflix’s, and Amazon’s of the world have honed in on audience intelligence to predict behavior and recommend what you should watch/read/buy next, they’ve also raised the bar on how consumers expect to be served content. 

Recognizing your readers and personalizing your messaging and content recommendations at an individual level is not only a marketing tactic. It’s one that directly influences a reader’s experience, and that drives engagement and reader retention for the long haul. 

Achieving this 1-to-1 personalization requires partnership between your existing data, audience intelligence, and marketing platforms. 

Consider how you might use personalization to:

  • Promote a journal article that might interest a reader based on their interest in similar topics
  • Deliver more effective emails promoting an upcoming event to new readers vs. seasoned attendees
  • Inform the timing of renewal or upsell communication based on engagement 

4. Enhance your digital marketing

As the publishing world shifts towards Open Access, advertising revenue has become a critical element to monetizing content; and the ads you show can also be a contributor or detractor to the total user experience. 

Segmentation and personalization aren’t just critical for promoting your own digital content. Scholarly publishers who are in touch with audience intelligence can use these same tactics to align their advertising programs with the unique interests of high-value reader segments. 

In fact, as advertising based on third-party cookies starts to crumble, building and protecting positive relationships with the highly-targeted audiences that advertisers want to reach can become very lucrative. 

The Best Time to Start Building Relationships with your Readers is Today

Earning the trust and ongoing attention of your audience is a constant and unending process - and for publishers that intend to stay relevant and grow through the new challenges and changes within the scholarly publishing landscape, it’s one of the most important initiatives.

Don’t wait until institutional deals vanish to invest in building relationships with your current readers.


Looking for more insights on how scholarly publishers are responding to technology and trends that are shaking up the industry? Grab a free copy of the State of Personalization Report for Publishers

Interested in seeing how Hum is helping scholarly publishers leverage their first-party data to grow their readership, deliver personalized experiences, and grow revenue? Learn more about Hum for Publishers or schedule a demo today.