It wasn’t long ago that media organizations began to take an interest in chatbots.
For some companies, embracing bots was second nature. Publishers like CNN and Business Insider were ready with chatbot launches directly following Facebook’s bot announcement at the F8 developer conference in 2016.
Since then, media companies worldwide have worked their way towards becoming a part of this platform evolution. Quartz, a business news startup, recently announced the release of the Quartz Facebook Messenger chatbot at their 2018 SXSW event, despite having their own in-app chatbot since 2016.
This brings us to the big question: What are the benefits that these and other publishers are gaining from building chatbots on messaging platforms, and why should media adopt this content distribution practice? These are our insights.
Reach a wider, more engaged audience
Connecting with readers on a messaging app has some distinct advantages, and is one of the reasons behind the huge potential of chatbots for media companies. By sending content over a messaging app, publishers can achieve better reach and greater engagement than they do via traditional social media channels or native company apps.
During a talk at Mobile World Congress, Zach Seward, chief product officer and executive editor of Quartz, explained why a well-placed bot might pay off more long-term than repeated article engagements on Facebook. “Publishers are paying to advertise on Facebook to get readers to engage on their websites, but pointing to a website is a battle you have to keep winning over and over again. Pointing to a messenger experience solves that problem and keeps the users engaged.”
Messaging bots constitute a paradigm shift in technology, allowing publishers to build apps within the messenger interface. This means that consumers don’t have to download or install an organization’s app in order to engage with a publisher’s content. For publishers, this means being able to interact with the millions – or even billions – of active users that are already on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger.
Messaging apps have a 6-times higher retention rate than the typical app and are launched nearly nine times per day, as opposed to the typical app which is launched only twice. Chat apps also keep users engaged for more than 30 minutes per session. Facebook Messenger engages users for an average of 37 minutes at a time, while Twitter’s social media platform engages users for just around 25 minutes per session.
From an editorial perspective, this brings about a tremendous opportunity for media to engage with their current audience, while growing their user base. Jarrod Dicker, ad product and engineering head at the Washington Post, is excited by this potential. “We’re seeing the next phase of communication today; it blasts away anything we’ve ever seen before,” says Dicker. “The opt-in from all companies to be a part of it and have a one-stop shop through Messenger will change how everyone uses the internet from commerce to publishing.”
Deliver engaging content, packaged for today
The conversational format of messaging and chatbots provides a content delivery experience that meets the needs – and fits the content consumption habits – of today’s readers. Social media and technology have changed the way that consumers interact with information. A study by Microsoft found that our increasingly digital lifestyle makes it hard to stay focused, and that the average human attention span has shortened to only about 8 seconds.
Chatbots enable publishers to quickly provide fresh, relevant content that is packaged in a more attractive way. When engaging with a media chatbot, users receive stories composed of messages, photos, videos, documents, GIFs and links. This makes the content more visually engaging, and easier for the reader to digest quickly. If the user is interested in learning more about a given topic, they can simply tap to respond to the chatbot. In response, the chatbot will tell them more about the story, or link them to the full article.
Bots are dynamic, and they use direct language, which is attractive to users. Chatbots also fit the busy lifestyle of modern consumers. Typically, a chat session lasts only a few minutes, making messaging chatbots the perfect tool to catch up on the news when users have a moment to spare – whether that’s on the train, in the elevator, or even between meetings.
Establish a one-on-one connection with readers
Despite the automated nature of chatbots, they open the door to a more intimate, direct communication with readers. Consumers understand that chatbots offer content through simulated dialogue. However, the dialogue between the chatbot and the user harkens back to other, more personal forms of media distribution.
John Keefe, bot developer at Quartz, reflects on this aspect of the chatbot user experience: “I spent many years in public radio in the U.S. The talk show hosts and newscasters are people that you hear every day whether it’s in your co-ride home from work or in your kitchen while you’re making dinner. You almost develop this kind of one-on-one relationship with them. In the U.S., public radio really thrives from this level of intimacy, as the business model is people donating money to a service that they are getting for free.
“At the same time, there is no illusion that the newscaster or talk show host is talking to just you. You know it’s a broadcast, you know that it’s news that’s going across the entire country. But you feel that it’s personal.
“It’s the same for chatbots. While the user knows that the CNN or The Guardian chatbot weren’t exclusively made for them and anybody can chat to them on Facebook, it still takes place within the medium that might normally be reserved for family members and friends.”
Tap into the power of dark social
Messaging apps are a powerful force for content sharing. Yet, for years they have kept publishers in the dark. The term “dark social” was coined in an article written in 2012 by former deputy editor of the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal. Despite its ominous name, dark social is actually quite simple: it refers to social sharing through private channels, such as messaging apps, SMS messaging, email, and private browsing.
Marketers like web traffic that comes from known sources, such as a social network or a Google search. This sort of traffic gives them insight into how their marketing strategies are working, and what could be done to improve. Unfortunately for businesses, website analytics tools can’t track the origin of visitors who reach the site via dark social, making it hard for marketers to see where their traffic is coming from.
According to RadiumOne, 84% of outbound sharing takes place on dark social. Even so, most publishers spend over 90% of their social marketing budgets on public platforms such as social networks. This can prove problematic for companies who want to connect with more members of their audience and accurately track engagement.
Messaging chatbots are finally enabling companies to shed light on dark social. Bots function like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems on messaging apps, helping companies build user profiles and gather valuable data that would not have been accessible otherwise.
With messaging chatbots, publishers can measure what content users have read based on their engagement with the bot. Chatbots also enable companies to track peak usage time, allowing them to send content when users are most active. Information about user language preferences can help publishers deliver content to users in the correct language, and can help companies effectively expand their content offerings to different countries and user bases. Other information such as chatbot retention can also help publishers fine-tune their content delivery strategy and improve the overall chatbot experience.
Embrace new mechanisms for monetization
Dark social isn’t just a problem for companies because it is difficult to track – it is also difficult to monetize. Conversational content delivered via messaging apps offers publishers new and innovative ways to generate revenue.
Here are some of the ways that publishers can monetize chatbots:
One of the main ways that chatbots can help media companies grow income is through advertising initiatives. By automatically sending appropriate branded or sponsored content over messaging platforms, chatbots can achieve better cost-per-mille, or CPM (otherwise known as “cost-per-thousand impressions”), than traditional advertising mechanisms.
For an example of a company that is doing this right, we can look to Quartz. Quartz’s 2016 app based on conversational content boasts attractive levels of engagement and a solid ROI (return on investment). How did Quartz achieve this? Company data shows that advertising sales have been doing a good job of monetizing Quartz’s 300,000 active users.
According to Politico, “Quartz says that single display unit within the app – which has featured BMW and SoFi recently – generates more than six times the industry average. Further, it says the click-through rate for the sponsor message is well above the standard – at 7.5%. Those ads fetch $60+ cost-per-thousand rates, parallel to Quartz overall, given the company’s success at selling its audience of ‘influentials.’”
Paid subscription and membership models
Another way that companies can monetize chatbots is by offering paid subscriptions. According to The Reuters Institute’s 2018 Digital Report, paid subscriptions are on the rise in countries such as the United States. Once media companies have specific information about the interests of their chatbot users, they can offer readers access to premium content including articles, studies, cases, books, and/or content by top journalists. This high-quality content can function as an added value service that media companies can use to drive additional revenue.
Paid memberships may also be requested as voluntary contributions from users, a strategy that is gaining popularity in Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. One example of a company that successfully uses this payment model is the team behind Spanish chatbot, Politibot.
Politibot’s chatbot was created for Telegram in 2016 to cover the Spanish elections. Since its creation, Politibot has grown to adopt a global membership model where users can contribute anywhere between $1 and $100 for a monthly membership. Each payment option gives users fun quips about how the money will be used, and what the user can expect to receive in return.
Chatbots support online payments, which means that media companies can use them to sell products to their readers. This might include event tickets, merchandise, entertainment sets, and books. Because many messaging platforms offer in-app payments, customers can purchase products directly with the chatbot, without ever having to leave the app.
Since chatbots are the latest media channel, opportunities for monetization are great, and new revenue ideas are constantly being introduced.
Messaging apps and chatbots both have a lot to offer publishers in terms of content distribution. When combined, they become a powerful force for boosting engagement, increasing revenue, collecting data, and cultivating intimate relationships.
To learn more about what different messaging platforms can offer media organizations, check out our blog post, What Is the Best Messaging App for Publishers?
This blog post can be found in our eBook, Streamlining Content Delivery with Messaging Bots. For a free download of this eBook, click here.