Sifted starts with content, uses tracking technology to encourage “one more click”

By Oliver Hajjar

CRUX Knowledge

London, United Kingdom


At INMA’s Product and Data for Media Summit, held in October, Sifted founder Caspar Woolley spoke to delegates about how the Web site uses customer data to offer a personalised and engaging experience.

Sifted, a Financial Times-backed media platform, works with CRUX to personalise and gamify the experience of its readers. Here are five things we learned from Woolley’s presentation.

1. Start with content

They say content is king, and Woolley reiterated that when talking about how Sifted approached its strategy as a young company.

If the aim is to grow an audience and prompt “one more click” from users, then a solid foundation made up of high-quality content is key. Woolley explained how Sifted used content to grow its reach and slowly build its reputation. Once solidified, it could then utilise this reach to build relationships and a deeper connection with users. It’s this relationship that can then be nurtured to encourage users to share their data, offering companies like Sifted invaluable insights and data which is used to provide readers with more data-informed content.

It’s a process that comes full circle, starting and ending with high-quality, fresh, and insightful content that’s led by data.

Sifted’s data-led strategy results in high-quality, insightful content.
Sifted’s data-led strategy results in high-quality, insightful content.

2. Meet deeper user needs

For many media companies in the digital age, the perennial engagement challenge comes down to encouraging two things: one more click and a faster journey to registration.

Everyone wants users to stick around for “just one more” piece of content. At a time when companies are turning to subscription-based models, the aim is to move users along the journey from discovery to registration as quickly as possible.

Woolley not only identified these as being Sifted’s two key challenges but also gave insight into how the platform was tackling them. The answer? By understanding and meeting deeper user needs.

The Sifted team went further than just identifying what content users were looking for in their selection stage, but also established their needs as they progressed through discovery and learning stages, too. These needs included requiring more help on the discovery of new content and what to read next as well as better understanding how well they were progressing during the learning phase: How is their knowledge improving as they consume more of Sifted’s content?

Identifying and meeting deeper user needs is, according to Woolley, the key to solving those two key engagement challenges.

3. Use innovative technology

Meeting those user needs is difficult. Sifted has two key audiences:

  • Professionally interested readers.
  • Generally interested readers.

How can the company ensure it’s meeting the needs of both? That’s where innovative technology comes in.

Sifted partnered with CRUX to integrate Knowledge Tracker on its Web site. The tracker gives each article a fully personalised knowledge score. As a reader progresses through Sifted’s content, their score will rise.

Gamifying Sifted’s Web site encourages readers to click on more content.
Gamifying Sifted’s Web site encourages readers to click on more content.

When more relevant content is added to Sifted’s site, readers’ scores can fluctuate down providing gentle but highly effective behavioural hooks to re-engage and read more.

CRUX’s Knowledge Tracker has helped Woolley and his team support users as they learn, giving readers a clear indication as to how well they are doing.

The tracker technology also provides readers with recommendations of what to read next to help improve their score, providing much needed guidance and direction in the content-rich environment.

4. Talk to your readers

It may seem like an obvious market research tool, but Woolley revealed that the success of Sifted is, in part, due to talking directly to their readers.

The team undertook both quantitative and qualitative research to understand user needs. Talking to them personally set their data apart.

According to Woolley, the key was to ask readers “why aren’t they reading more?” to discover what stops them from progressing through the Web site. But if you want your readers to talk to you, you’ll likely need some incentive. As a young company, Sifted aimed to create a product for passionate users who were willing to give their time and feedback.

It was this added value — a promise of an improved end product — that acted as an incentive. If you can create a product that your passionate users love, the more general-interest users will soon follow.

5. Create an engaging experience

As the Sifted team began to understand the needs of its users, it discovered that while readers want to be educated, they also want fun.

Dynamic and on-page elements take an article from being a simple piece of content with no clear end goal to an exciting and engaging experience that pushes them to learn more and broaden their understanding of key topics.

The on-page score system that the CRUX Knowledge Tracker provides transforms reading articles into an activity with clear goals and achievements. In a world with so many options readily available online, dynamic and engaging content features will stand out from the crowd.

The gamification element of encouraging readers to make it to the end of the article and continue to read more content is, Woolley revealed, a key part of meeting the platform’s “one more click” goal.

Final thoughts

Caspar Woolley’s talk at the INMA Product and Data for Media Summit was a master class in how tracking technology can help platforms meet the needs of their users, all while striving to offer an engaging and evolving user experience.

During his presentation, Woolley emphasised the importance of creating a personalised and innovative experience for readers. For publishers, adding a layer of gamification to the user experience can make a significant difference when optimising for engagement.

The future of publishing is in creating enticing experiences and standing out from the crowd. In just three years, Sifted have proven it is one of the most forward-thinking and innovative publishers in Europe.

About Oliver Hajjar

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