12 ways for online publishers to attract readers and retain their attention

Last updated -
Reading time - 11 min

12 ways for online publishers to attract readers and retain their attention

Last updated -
11 min Read

In 2020, digital publishers saw an increase in the number of readers, their engagement and even online subscriptions (16% growth according to Zuora). Such publishers as Bloomberg Media, The New York Times, Dennis Publishing, and Condé Nast claimed the rise of digital subscribers. At PushPushGo, we also noticed a spike in readers' engagement and average CTR of web push campaigns in the publishing sector at the beginning of lockdown. All of that doesn't mean, though, that online publishers don't need to attract and retain more readers. They surely do! And that's what we're going to talk about today.

With the end of the pandemic, people go back to their ordinary lives, with no masks, restrictions and lockdowns. As a result, a significant part of them won’t need to get more subscriptions or prolong the existing ones. Here’s a good example: In Q2 2020, The New York Times had 669,000 subscribers. Not that much later, in Q2 2021, the number of new digital subscribers was 142,000. Although it is still a significant number, online publishers need to answer several important questions:

  • How can we maintain the high growth rate of digital subscribers?
  • How can we attract new readers?
  • How should we keep existing subscribers and readers that we acquired during the pandemic and make them return?
  • What can we do to keep them engaged?

Thankfully, you don’t have to guess the answers to these questions. We’ve got you covered. We’ve made a list of over 10 different ways of attracting and retaining readers. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Attract more readers to your website

What can you do to attract more people to visit your website if you are an online publisher? Here are your options:


According to SmartInsights.com, 58.4% of the world's population uses social media. The average daily usage is 2 hours and 27 minutes. The most important social media platforms are Facebook and Instagram. You can use their potential to bring more readers to your website. How? For starters, create attractive profiles on these platforms.

Of course, that’s just a starting point. You need to promote your profiles so that people know you exist. Here, performance marketing is your best bet. This technique is quick and efficient. Plus, you only pay for the result, so you don't end up wasting your marketing budget. Two of the most popular and efficient performance marketing channels are Google Ads and Facebook Ads. With just these two channels, you can reach almost all internet users worldwide!

With Facebook Ads, you can very carefully select all the characteristics of people that will see your ads. For instance, if you are a B2B publisher, you can decide to target only entrepreneurs and experts in top management. You can determine what their interests and education should be, where they live, etc.

On the other hand, with Google Ads, you can target people who type a specific query in the search engine. Remember that Google comes with a vast ecosystem comprising many different channels, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps:


In our recent article about trends in the publishing industry, we described how digital publishers are using modern social media such as Tik Tok in order to reach a younger group of readers. 


To be relevant and engaging, you shouldn’t limit yourself just to written content. Today’s online environment offers a lot of different options for online publishers. You can create, publish, and share content in the form of:

  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Reports

It all depends on your niche and possibilities. Try to mix things up a bit. If you publish an article, add a good-looking infographic to make it more attractive. If you want to present a large piece of content, deliver it in different forms so that each user can decide how to get acquainted with it. Some users will prefer to read it, and some – listen to it when driving a car. That's where podcasts come in and save the day.

According to InfluencerMarketingHub, there are over 2 million podcasts, and almost 60% of US consumers listen to podcasts. That’s because they are convenient and enable listeners to do other things at the same time. Maybe you could think about introducing new forms of content to your offer?


A lot of people will find you through the search engine. Some of them will find you via Google Ads, but others – through organic search. In order to appear in the top results in Google (or any other search engine, for that matter), you need an SEO strategy that will comprise such elements as:

  • Website and code optimization
  • Link building (for example, you could link to all of your authors and their social media profiles and websites)
  • Keywords and keyphrases

If all of that works properly, you will be able to improve your visibility on Google and thus, get more visitors to your website. Here, it’s immensely important to focus on subject matter-related keywords. If you run a website about winter sports, concentrate on keywords like “skiing”, “snowboarding”, “mountains”, “outdoor activity”, etc. Keywords like “magazine”, “website”, and “portal” should be in the background.


Here, in short, it’s all about getting and managing influencers and affiliates. Both these groups play the same role – they use their communities to promote your online business for a commission. How can you find the first affiliates for your website? You can turn your current readers into affiliates. All you need is a well-thought-out affiliate program that offers real benefits both for you and your affiliates. Don't expect people to promote your website for free. Think about what they can find useful and give it to them. When it comes to influencers, there are platforms such as Whitepress and ReachaBlogger that will help you start cooperation with the first online creators.


Image source: Whitepress.com

Thanks to their developed communities, these internet personalities will be able to bring a lot of new and regular readers to your business. But for the whole plan to succeed, you need exceptional content first. People won’t come and spend their time reading mediocre texts. You ought to start there.


One way to get more traffic is by showing them content that's interesting for a particular group or even individual readers. Intelligent suggestions can help you with that. Many engines and services aid website owners in creating intelligent recommendations, just like it works in the e-commerce world. Gather as much information as you can about your target audience and use it to provide individual readers with smart suggestions. When people find what they need on your website, they will more eagerly return to it in the future.


Many niches and sectors organize regular events, both offline and online. You could host some of them or become a media patron. This way, you get quick and easy access to the desired target group. Find out what happens in your niche and contact organizers with a cooperation proposal. There's never enough good PR, so the vast majority of these companies should be interested in working with you.

Keep your readers longer

In general, there are two boxes that you need to tick if you want to retain readers on your website:

  • Provide them with the content they need
  • Keep them engaged

Intelligent suggestions that we mentioned earlier are perfect for showing readers texts and posts that they might be interested in. Just think about streaming platforms such as Netflix or Spotify. They use intelligent suggestions to retain customers and keep them longer with great success. For example, Netflix’s recommendation algorithm is responsible for 80% of what people watch on this platform! Take a look at this video explaining how Netflix recommendations work:


That's the second element you need to consider. If your content is mediocre, boring or plagiarized, people will quickly quit your website and go elsewhere. Make sure you produce unique, high-quality content. Rely on experienced writers with broad knowledge in specific areas and work with them to produce relevant and interesting content for your target audience.


How can you engage users? There are a few ways to achieve this goal. For starters, you need an easy-to-use comment section. People usually like to share their thoughts and opinions (so-called user-generated content). All you have to do is provide them with a way to do just that. Create a comment section where people could post comments, reply to them, and share them via social media. Secondly, you could let users vote for specific articles and share their ideas for texts that they would like to read on your website. Lastly, you can use advanced technologies such as augmented reality to create a brand new user experience. With AR, you can add 3D models and interactive images to your texts, thus making them more engaging.

See how augmented reality works with a physics book:

Again, maybe you could use a similar idea?

Encourage your customers to return frequently

Even if you do everything we talked about up to this point accurately, you still have some work to do. You can’t assume that people will remember you after just one interaction with your brand. That’s why you need additional means that will help you remind customers about your website and offer.


That’s where we step into the game. With web notifications (displayed in internet browsers) and mobile notifications (displayed in mobile apps), you can remind your readers and visitors about what’s happening on your website. For example, you could send such a quick notification every time there is:

  • A new article or post
  • A new comment

Of course, you can’t overdo that, but such quick reminders can be very effective. See our use cases in the publishing industry. At PushPushGo, we can help you with:

  • Optimizing conversions of paid subscriptions
  • Building and developing a subscriber base
  • Retargeting users that visited your website in the past
  • Targeting users based on their current location

Let’s take a quick look at how it works concerning retargeting (which, by the way, is one of the most effective marketing strategies):



If you have a base of subscribers with email addresses, you can use it to send regular newsletters. What should be in such a newsletter? Publishers frequently mention the most interesting/newest posts and articles, share industry news, and inform about special offers. Such a newsletter should be sent regularly but not too often (you don’t want to tire your subscribers with these messages). Once a week seems like an optimal frequency. Of course, provided that you have something to write about. Sending a boring and repetitive newsletter just because you feel that it’s time is not a good strategy.


It’s yet another technique adopted from the e-commerce world. You can create a VIP club only for selected users where you offer additional content and materials (e.g., market research, ebooks, and whitepapers). Many large publishers offer such programs – some parts of their texts are available on their websites for free, and some require special access that can be granted only to the members of a given loyalty program/club.

Such programs also create a sense of exclusiveness, which is another added benefit.


It’s an excellent solution that allows users to get updates (e.g., about new articles) in a quick and convenient way, for example, via email or an internet browser. This way, readers can keep track of many websites simultaneously in a single dashboard. Add your website to RSS Feed and encourage readers to add it to their dashboards. This way, they will always see what’s new on your website, just like that:

rss in the publishing industry

Image source: Chrome web store - RSS Feed Reader


As you can see, there are a lot of ways for you to reach and retain readers on your website. Of course, you don’t have to do everything simultaneously. Test different ideas and stick to those that work best. We sincerely encourage you to try web and mobile push. This technique works brilliantly in the publishing sector. Take a look at our use cases and register your account today.

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