3 New Solutions to Meet Different Audience Engagement Challenges


The challenges are formidable, and the digital publishing industry is anxious for solutions. Social media channels are driving content discovery; mobile has the most eyes; and “content shock” is indeed a real phenomenon.

There are some major questions that we all need to be able to answer with our editorial, engagement and business strategies, including:

  • What’s the best way to monetize content that doesn’t detract from the audience’s consumption experience?
  • If everybody is a publisher, and if legacy publishers no longer command loyalty, then how can publishers acquire and hold people’s attention?
  • With social shares emerging as the best way to expand reach, how do publishers create experiences that people love to share?
  • Given the unparalleled authenticity of user-generated content and the power of social proof, how do publishers encourage participation with their content without being too demanding?

Pursuing Interactive Engagement Perfection

Here at Playbuzz, we don’t claim to have all of the answers, but we do offer a platform that addresses many of these challenges. The thousands of top-tier publishers that create and embed our content formats are seeing unparalleled performance when it comes to attention minutes, audience reach, social interactions and completion rates. But there’s no one metric that points to success for everyone, so there’s no one content format that takes care of every pain point that ails online publishers.

That’s why we’re constantly iterating, rolling out new types of content experiences that our partners can use to drive different types of engagement. Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, what form of interaction you want your audience to have with your content, there’s likely a format optimized for your needs.

This includes our newest format, Countdown, which we launched this week. Countdown enables the creation of a numbered list of items in descending order, culminating with number one, to build audience anticipation. Items created using the Countdown format can be displayed as either a list or slideshow, both of which compel users to engage with the content by actively scrolling or clicking to access the next item in the countdown.


To celebrate the release of Countdown, let’s take a look at three fresh formats, the mode of engagement that each drives best and some examples of items that demonstrate how top publishers are leveraging these formats accordingly.

1. Countdown as an Anticipation Builder

Audience attention hinges on suspense over what comes next. With Countdown, which is available to everyone who has a Playbuzz account (you can register for one here if you haven’t yet), the list becomes a page-long journey. As audience members wind their ways towards the number one item on the list, the story gradually unfolds. Anticipation builds, as we can almost hear a dramatic drumroll in the background.

Countdown can be set to appear as a slideshow or as a stack of items, with expandable and collapsible caption blurbs and the ability to upload custom images or use media published elsewhere on the web.

Here’s what Fox Sports, one of the exclusive launch partners of Countdown, has done with the format as part of our pre-release program:

More examples of top publishers building anticipation via the new Playbuzz-powered Countdown format:

2. Polling for Self-Verification

While consuming content pages, especially those that speak to divisive issues, audience members often wonder how their reactions to the topic compare with other audience members. Especially when reading about controversy, this is an implied aspect of the consumption experience.

The newly redesigned Playbuzz Poll is perfect for embedding on pages that have potential to harness the user experience. When people can see right on your page how their take compares with the feelings of the general public, it resolves the audience’s need for “self-verification.”

Here’s how Time magazine leveraged the gap between the impressions of Democratic debate viewers and commentators via a Playbuzz-powered Poll:

More examples of top publishers breaking down fourth walls via Playbuzz-powered Polls:

3. Swiping towards Quick Engagement

The more audience members invest in participating with media experiences, the more of themselves they’ll see in the content. That’s why UGC is all the rage nowadays. But only a tiny proportion of the people who see our content will want to put the time and effort into creating their own versions. Sometimes driving a high volume of interaction calls for minimizing engagement friction, which is exactly where the Playbuzz Swiper format comes in.

As you can see in the case of MTV’s use of our Swiper format for “second screen engagement” surrounding the 2015 Video Music Awards, the ability to quickly vote on images with familiar touchscreen gestures makes all the difference:

More examples of top publishers outwitting engagement friction with Swiper, powered by Playbuzz:

Emphasizing the Right Type of Interaction

Interactive content’s true power lies in its ability to keep people engaged and emotionally involved with the content they experience. By identifying and deploying the perfect format for the type of engagement you seek to encourage, your content performance will soar.

About the author

Tom Pachys

Tom co-founded Playbuzz back in 2012 and serves as the company's Chief Product Officer. A scholar of cognitive psychology, Tom is obsessed with leveraging science to create user-centric media experiences. A product, business operations and tech expert, Tom has been writing code for the web since the mid-1990s. You can email Tom at publisherscommunity@playbuzz.com.

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