HuffPost, the news and opinion site, has successfully boosted engagement with its readers after careful analysis of the time they spend with content and by developing a readership ‘loyalty funnel’.

Jennifer Kho, HuffPost’s director of strategic innovation, told AdExchanger that the publisher wanted new ways of driving traffic and engagement because it was hard to rely on the likes of Facebook and Google.

“It had grown harder and less lucrative to pursue undifferentiated scale,” she said. “We don’t control those platforms or their algorithms. What we can control are our relationships with our readers.”

To that end, HuffPost spent the first half of this year concentrating on the page views generated by loyal readers, coupled with time spent with the content, to create the sort of content that would keep them returning.

In addition, it created a ‘readership funnel’, known as FLAOT, an acronym used to describe five reader groups – fanatics (nearly every day), loyals (most days), actives (close to twice a week), occasionals (weekly) and tourists (a few days a month).

HuffPost also conducted readership surveys and focus groups to better understand how to increase engagement and to convert engaged readers into subscribers.

And the results over the past three months have proven encouraging. For example, its engaged reader group – defined as fanatics, loyals and actives – increased by 10%, with actives growing 13% in a sign that HuffPost had won over more casual readers.

Meanwhile, HuffPost’s most engaged readers consumed 5% more content over the same period, which matters because its top 6% of readers generate 60% of its page views.

“The people who were highly engaged are also more likely to come regardless of the news cycle,” Kho said. “They’re already contributing more to our advertising revenue because they are engaged and loyal.”

HuffPost’s successful experiment reflects a growing trend among news organisations, which are exploring an engagement-focused membership model to drive other sources of revenue opportunities.

A good example is the Financial Times, the UK business newspaper, which reported earlier this year that it had reached the landmark figure of one million subscribers, with more than 800,000 of them digital-only.

Engagement, membership and readership measurement were key to the FT’s success, according to Cait O’Riordan, chief product and innovation officer, who outlined the company’s strategy at the Digital Transformation Conference in London in May.

Sourced from AdExchanger; additional content by WARC staff