What Is It And Why Do I Care?

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A group of very smart web executives and I were talking about content and how to present it to increase engagement.  The discussion centered around defining how we should be thinking about user engagement with content – is it just page views, is it time on a page, is greater time on fewer pages just as good as a lot of quick views, etc.  I tried to simplify it down to the basic question I think is in the user’s mind:  what is this and why should I care about it.  Let me explain.

Time is something we invest.  Unless you’re extremely rich, as with money we have a certain amount we can invest with the hope of gaining something.  We divide our time among an increasingly large number of things and media is one of them.  Within media, the number of offerings and entities trying to attract our attention grows by the hour.  So how do you decide where you’re going to invest your time?

I think it has to do with the expected reward.  When we watch a video on YouTube or some other video site, maybe we want a laugh or to learn something.  When we check sports scores or stock quotes we want a quick hit of information.  Whether it’s a blog or a news article, users come with some mission in mind – the web in particular and media in general is task-oriented for the most part.

To engage users we need to answer my basic question – what is it you’re presenting and why should I care about it?  Are you meeting the reason why I came to your site and if I invest more time will you increase the return on my investment?  This has implications in content presentation as well as ad integration – users understand the trade-off of watching ads for free content…up to a point.

This could be a 1,000 word post but that might be asking for too large an investment so I’ll end here.  While there may be tricks to increase engagement such as splitting content into multiple pages, etc., as with most things in business it comes down just to being better than your competition and more useful to your customers.  Keeping the user’s point of view in mind at all times can help to do that.


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