5 new ways to engage your audience in the post-platform era (+ examples)

    Last updated: April 2, 2024

    A short decade ago, we thought social media would serve up a sustainable, loyal audience on a silver platter. But in the transition from a single print paper to infinite digital channels, we created platform-specific strategies to capture traffic, rather than engaging our audience more holistically through relevant, personalized, and meaningful content. 

    That severed our connection with our audiences: According to the 2023 Reuters Digital News Report, just 22% of news consumers go directly to a news site or app, down from 32% five years ago.

    For a while, that was the cost of doing business. But now that the tech giants have deprioritized news, that’s a problem. Millions of impressions disappeared from Google News and Discover overnight following the company’s updates last fall — and now publishers are scrambling to make Apple News work. Referral traffic from Facebook and Twitter/X has also plummeted in the past two years due to regulatory pressure, free speech concerns and platform changes

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    This has already had devastating effects on publishers: In an extreme example, some Canadian publishers lost 20% of their revenue overnight in summer 2023 after Meta blocked all news from Facebook and Instagram due to legislation mandating that the company compensate papers for any news links shared on their platforms. We could see this effect stateside as US states advance similar legislation (most recently in Illinois). 

    The post-platform era: threat or opportunity?

    Some publishers see the death of platforms as an existential threat. We think it’s an opportunity. Once they lost control over distribution, publishers needed to produce content not just for their audience, but for the needs of the algorithms. As platforms become less dominant, publishers will be able to recreate direct, meaningful relationships with their audiences and discover new ways to drive engagement and revenue. 

    The post-platform era has brought about a power shift from generalists to specialists. Today’s winners are the ones who can identify a niche audience, speak to what they care about, and connect with each other more successfully than anyone else. 

    We’re seeing this pop up throughout the industry, from niche industry-centric newsletters like A Media Operator and The Rebooting (disclaimer: we sponsor both of these newsletters); artisanal independent publishers like 404 Media and Defector; hyper-local community-focused publications like Sahan Journal and the LA Public Press; and enthusiast magazines like Active Interest Media (disclaimer: AIM is one of our clients). 

    What does engagement look like the post-platform era? 

    Every media company says they improve “engagement.” That’s a given. But they’re operating with different definitions of engagement. Some are still optimizing solely for breadth metrics like email clicks and page views, even as social and search become less reliable referral sources. Others are prioritizing depth metrics like time on site, subscriber renewal times and social shares/comments. 

    Those differences will impact your engagement strategy and ultimately, your relationship with your audience. 

    So we’ll settle on a standard definition of engagement: What we find in our work with media companies is that engagement basically measures the strength of your relationship with your audience. Are you talking at your audience? Or are you listening to them, communicating with them, and producing content that answers their questions and helps them improve their work and lives? 

    Ideally, you’d use a combination of depth and breath metrics to measure your impact here. But whatever metric you use, there’s always room to improve. So it’s worth monitoring — and continually revisiting — your relationship with your audience. In this post, we’ll present new ways to engage your audience — and provide examples from our favorite podcasts, publications and media to spark your own big ideas. 

    5 ways to engage your audience in the post-platform era (+ examples)

    Crowdsourced content 

    The benefits of crowdsourcing seem pretty self-evident: If someone tells you what they want to hear about, you’re well served covering it at some point. So we’ll spare you the lecture here and skip straight to an example of someone doing it right: PJ Vogt of the Search Engine podcast. 

    Named a best podcast of 2023 by Vulture, Time, The Economist, and Vogue, Search Engine tackles audience questions ranging from shower thoughts (“How sad are monkeys in the zoo?”) to serious societal issues (“Why are drug dealers putting fentanyl in everything?”). 

    The show works on a variety of dimensions — the host effortlessly balances humor and rigor, the reporting is thorough, and top-notch production and editing keep the focus on the topic. 

    But the real secret sauce is the audience participation. Without it, the show’s topical coverage would be biased by the 30-something Brooklyn male host’s perspective — and it’d have “just another white guy with a podcast” vibes. 

    Instead, the premise of the podcast creates a natural dialogue between host and audience. And that lends itself to some one-of-a-kind moments — In one memorable instance, a preschooler innocently asking his mother about why cannibalism is wrong inspires an exploration of the history of cannibalism (Don’t worry, they do say it’s wrong.). 

    Regional dinners

    If you’ve got budget, consider hosting a series of regional roundtable dinners for your audience. One example is Inbox Collective’s Dine and Deliver, an application-only dinner series for leading newsletter operators. In a smaller setting, email leaders are able to connect, discuss tactics and consult on an informal basis (Disclaimer: Omeda is sponsoring this series – if you’re in the newsletter game, apply for a spot here!) 

    These dinners serve multiple purposes. It puts a face to your name and earns trust among your audience. But beyond, they connect individuals within your community, sparks more dialogue and gives you a more 3D, rich view of your audience and their problems. And most importantly, your audience will leave with tangible value and connections — and associate all those benefits with you. 

    Content recommendations 

    Personalization is the key to engaging, retaining and monetizing your audience in the post-traffic era. But how can you personalize quickly and effectively enough to actually connect with your audience?

    That’s where content recommendations come in. 

    Content recommendations use your first-party data to recommend articles to each individual audience member, based on their past interests, behaviors and purchases, as well as content engagement data from similar audience members. This way, you can turn your one-time readers into repeat visitors and subscribers, all while driving useful insights and revenue for your advertisers. 

    BTW: On Omeda, content recommendations are now available for website and email. Learn more about that here.  

    Online courses

    There’s a reason every LinkedIn influencer pumps out courses. They get you in front of a self-selecting audience that isn’t just passionate, but committed to regularly visiting, consuming and interacting with your content. (Your audience development manager’s wish list.)

    Done well, your courses prove that you know what you’re talking about — and that you can deliver on it week after week. That, more than anyone else, is the key to gaining and maintaining your audience’s trust. That’s how you become sticky to your audience. (And as a bonus, repurposing your course content helps you attract more of that highly engaged, self-selecting audience.)  

    But a 6-week course from a random LinkedIn growth hacker isn’t going to get you as far as, say, the Economist’s series of courses, which are written by their finance and data journalism teams.  Here’s how to build courses that engage audiences and create value. 

    How should I develop my courses? 

    1. Use your first-party data to see what topics resonate most with your audience. 
    2. Identify more specific knowledge gaps within your audience using in-article surveys and quizzes, or the Q&A section of your webinars and podcasts.  
    3. If you host industry conferences or regional events, add in-person courses to your program (pst: we offer a half-day bootcamp before our annual conference). 

    How do I promote my course? 

    1. Qualify your audience. Include a “job title” or “seniority level” field on your sign-up forms, then segment your audience by seniority. Use this to create lessons for different knowledge levels and promote to each list accordingly (i.e., a skill-building course for coordinator roles and strategic courses for senior leaders). 
    2. If you host events and webinars, use your registration data to further qualify your audience. Create interest-based segments for each workshop and breakout session (i.e, if you host a breakout on content monetization, create a segment called “content monetization interest” with those attendees). Consider organizing deeper courses around those topics and invite people from those segments to register. 
    3. Segment your audience by engagement level, then promote your course to your superfans via email, website personalizations and ads. 

    How do I monetize my courses? 

    1. Extend the ROI of your course by repurposing course content into podcasts, interviews, white papers, eBooks, blog posts, event sessions, etc.
    2. Create a strategy for converting course participants into website readers and eventually paid subscribers  
    3. Offer ad spots:  If you’re an Omeda user, you can segment your audience by engagement level and interest. That’ll help you create more contextual, predictive ad packages targeting those groups. Get that in front of your advertisers and they’ll be knocking the doors down. Or you can always offer ad space before each video or module of your course. 

    Community boards 

    Consider building out a private community through Discord or a Slack group, where readers can engage with and learn from one another. We’ve seen a lot of legacy publishers add community elements to their premium subscriptions, like Architecture Digest’s members-only job board, Vogue’s member-exclusive and perk-laden Vogue Club.

    In a time when everyone’s craving connection, a community element is a huge value add. But a dead Slack board isn’t going to drive business. Here’s how to create communities that connect your audience with each other and foster engagement with your brand.

    1. Designate engagement champions: Assign team members to regularly ask questions or spark conversations. 
    2. Offer community-exclusive resources, like AMAs with team members and/or industry influencers, a job board, networking circles or regional dinners.  
    3. Prioritize content moderation. Keep your community safe by regularly moderating your boards for unsafe, hateful, off-topic or low-value comments. Pin a content policy to the top of each thread to make your expectations clear and keep your audience accountable to civil, respectful and productive dialogue. 


    Everyone likes a little competition. That’s true in media as well: According to the Journal of Business Research, gamification with mobile apps and websites — like scoring systems, progress bars and levels, leaderboards and feedback — has been shown to improve motivation and engagement.  

    But for many companies, the issue isn’t desire, but execution. So let’s look at an example from DN Media Group, Norway’s leading business publication. Going through their audience data, they knew they needed to attract younger audiences. They rolled out more affordable subscription packages, but that didn’t address the real issue: Younger audiences weren’t seeing the value in DN’s credible yet serious coverage. They needed to teach younger readers about savings and investments in a more interactive, fun way. 

    The solution: Fantasy Funds, a stock market investment game that helps players gain investment skills and compete against their friends in a low-risk setting. 

    The results: Over five game seasons, a total of 64,568 players engaged with the game, averaging between 13,861 to 25,366 players per season. More than half were entirely new DN users.

    Here’s how they succeeded — and what you can apply to your own strategy: 

    The barriers to entry are low. The game is simple and easy to start: It takes two minutes to get set up. 

    There’s a clear conversion funnel. If your game peaks at 10 million daily players, but none of them subscribe to your publication, or even know who’s hosting it, it’ll still be a enormous waste of time and resources. 

    But here, DN aligns their incentives with their audience’s — and everyone wins. The game is directly tied to a business need and provides educational content. There’s a direct connection between the game and DN’s coverage. So DN thoughtfully uses its educational content to help players master the game — and continue engaging with their brand afterward. 

    They drive audience first-party data through registration. This helps DN provide relevant educational resources for each person during the experience and after.

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