Commentary

How Publishers Can Gamify Content To Boost Engagement

The New York Timeshas cited its crossword puzzle app as an important source of paid subscription growth, but games can help to keep readers engaged in other ways. Publishers should consider how a gamification strategy fits with their goals of boosting reader revenue, urging repeat website visits and reducing churn.

>Gamification is creeping into every kind of digital content, and the trend is likely to continue as the market for video games expands. Publishers can participate in that expansion without trying to compete with game developers seeking a slice of the estimated $159 billionmarket for video games.

The more modest goal is to develop "habit-forming news products," as Mary-Katharine Phillips, media innovation analyst at digital publishing platform Twipe, discussed in a blog last week. Citing examples that include The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian and The Washington Post, she says puzzles can be a worthwhile investment.

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The WSJ has a reader on-boarding sequence that starts with a "thank you" letter from the editor, followed a few days later by a message that urges people to download its app. Before pointing out other content like podcasts, the newspaper sends a note urging new subscribers to play "WSJ Puzzles," according to a recent infographic shared with the International News Media Association (INMA).

Games can have pitfalls, with one publisher telling Phillips that it removed puzzles from its digital platform because readers said they could find better game play in a puzzle app. Further investigation determined the publisher's puzzle product was inferior, indicating a need for at least some modest investment to ensure that it worked properly.

There has been a lot of research into how to create addictive technology that hacks people's brains, which is morally objectionable.

However, there are some lessons for publishers in creating products that give readers another reason to subscribe and remain loyal customers.

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