Why Is Time Engaged More Important Than Ever?

Matt Berringer Headshot

Written by Matt Berringer

January 16, 2018

We all know the stats about how distracted our audiences are. They now, supposedly, have an attention span of fewer than eight seconds. A reader will spend, on average, only 37 seconds on an online article. Top websites aim for two minutes of engagement per visit. Even the trusty white paper engages for two minutes on average. If you are like me, it seems truly connecting becomes more difficult by the day.

The big question we have to ask is this, is this lack of engagement time hurting our brands or the consistent viewing of our content? Research would suggest it is.

Chartbeat, a leading content intelligence company, completed a research study that analyzed 100,000 page visits over a week in order to find key audience engagement metrics. One of the key correlations that came about through the study is more time engaged equates with a higher probability to return:

A graph of engagement and propensity to return

But what does returning to a content platform do? It begins to form the foundations for brand lift. In a recent Virgin Mobile case study, surveys showed a 278.2% increase in brand lift, here indicated by likelihood to investigate, once individuals had 5 to 9 exposures with Virgin Media’s branded content (in comparison to 0 to 5 exposures):

a graph of an audience poll for Virgin Mobile

This case study associates well with other research projects, which indicate it takes anywhere from 7 to 11 touches before a new prospect begins to exhibit pre-purchase or pre-subscription behavior.

Not only does time engaged lead to brand lift, it also positively correlates to brand recall. Chartbeat completed a separate study looking at how much time was spent engaging with an ad and ability to recall the brand. You can see the positive relationship below:

brand recall and engaged time graph

With stats such as these relating brand lift and recall to time engaged, it’s more important than ever to hold the attention of your audience for substantial amounts of time. In fact, over the past couple of years, many successful publishers and brands have made engaged time their primary or “north star” metric for grading the success of their content or branded advertising.  This list includes, but it is not limited to:

Looking at the flip side, and taking into account the research, it can easily be surmised that the “flash in the pan” experiences that constitute our current advertising and content delivery systems have played a part, if not a major part, in a lack of brand loyalty. In fact, AdAge in a recent study indicated that over 50% of millennials have no preference when it comes to brand. This number is only expected to climb unless the way we engage changes. Forbes also completed a study which shows that brand loyalty is dying, with one of the major findings being that 90 percent of common household goods brands, the stalwarts of the industry, are losing market share in certain low-growth categories.

So this all begs the question, how do we engage for long periods of time so that our audiences return and in turn purchase or subscribe to our content? While great content and well-targeted advertising play a role, may we suggest the content delivery platform plays a large part as well. Looking at the two foundational delivery platforms that almost everyone uses, print and website, are we sure those mediums are truly grabbing attention and holding it? Are they creating the brand lift we are looking for?

Print is a bit of a shot in the dark. The unfortunate truth is that we really don’t know if or how our content is being engaged with. The lingering question in all of our minds is “Are people even reading this?”.  In a time where every content and marketing dollar needs to be accounted for, print feels like a gamble. Turning to websites, as we previously mentioned online articles on average gain 37 seconds of engagement and the most engaging websites hold readers for a couple of minutes. While these numbers are decent, are they enough to get that high return rate that Chartbeat points to? The answer for the vast majority of your website visitors or online article readers is no.

Is there a more engaging content management system out there where we can engage for minutes upon end? We hold to the theory that a guided digital reading experience, especially one that is responsive across all devices, can meet the need. The numbers that we pull day in and day out show this to be the case. Aggregating our data for all of last year, millions upon millions of unique visitors engaged on average for 7 minutes and 29 seconds per visit on our platforms. Holding those numbers up to what research says stimulates brand lift and awareness, as well as return readers, it seems a necessity to have digital content experiences such as our PageRaft platform as an audience engagement tool, and a primary one at that.
Feel free to reach out to our team if you would like to discuss how we can leverage your brand and content to deeply engage with your target audiences at www.nxtbookmedia.com/schedule-a-demo/.

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