In the quest to solve the problem of low audience engagement, one company has developed what it believes is the solution to keeping readers on the page longer.
Arkadium, known for creating interactive web content for publishers, has developed a machine learning tool that inserts relevant interactive content – called “factives” – into news stories.
Interactive content is one tool publishers use to keep readers engaged, but creating that content can be a big undertaking that involves tech teams as well as editorial staff, Arkadium CEO and Co-Founder Jessica Rovello said.
“It’s not that these publishers don’t want to do this stuff,” she said. “They do, and they’ve found it to be a huge additive. But they’ve found they can only do it with these major tentpole events that are months away. But the desire is to do it everywhere all the time.”
The purpose of InHabit is to provide that content automatically for Arkadium’s partner publishers. The content, which comes in the form of polls, quizzes or games, is designed to keep readers on the page longer.
So far, Arkadium has only developed content for sports stories. Rovello said InHabit’s next vertical, finance, will likely launch in May or June. In the future, there will also be content created for entertainment and political news.
How a Factive Works
The factives are created by an in-house team of journalists who design them from an editorial perspective, rather than a data perspective.
“It’s not enough to have scattered plots, not enough to just have data,” Rovello said. “The real reason it’s additive is that these are conceived by human editors who really understand how people are covering sports.”
Factives use information from data providers, such as Fantasy Data and Sportsradar. The InHabit technology, which took a year and a half to develop, evaluates the taxonomy, emotion and sentiment of a written story, and then searches its library for a factive that is relevant to the article and inserts it.
A recent factive, featured on Sports Illustrated, presents a graphic of four football players and asks readers who among them “delivered the most bang for the buck last season.”
Users can vote in the poll and see the results. They can also click “Show More” and answer more questions.
So far more than 20 percent of readers have been interacting with the factives, Rovello said. Many hit the “Show More” button and continue to interact. Readers are now doubling the time they spend on a page.
“People are staying engaged,” she said. “That’s really important for partners trying to build brand engagement and loyalty.”
However, Arkadium doesn’t capture data that indicates whether readers actually scroll down to finish reading a story.
InHabit, which launched in early March, is available to any publisher for free. Arkadium and the publisher share revenue generated from advertising. The company was unable to disclose specific information about how it splits revenues.
InHabit is currently being rolled out to the more than 450 publishers with whom Arkadium already works.
WTOP.com, a Washington, D.C. radio station, is one of the publishers that is using InHabit.
Julia Ziegler, News Director, WTOP’s news director, said InHabit is a great tool for engaging readers.
“And that’s really what it’s all about – how to give our readers a more enriching experience when they come to our site,” she said. “The InHabit content is visually appealing, and the topics are interesting and appropriate. This leads to longer site visits while simultaneously allowing us to optimize our potential revenue stream from the product.”
Ultimately, Arkadium wants to solve the needs of the publishers it already works with, which is the idea that drives InHabit.
“The problem we’re solving is innovating in the newsrooms,” Rovello said. “Publishers want stories to be more visual.”
While InHabit clients do have some control capabilities about how and when to use the factives, the factives are designed to be inserted into a story automatically, without needing a web editor or other journalist to insert any kind of code. Arkadium doesn’t want to provide more work for journalists, Rovello said.
If any changes are needed, such as for specific wording or tone, Arkadium will make those changes.
And if there are no factives in InHabit’s library that are relevant, or if adding one would be inappropriate – if the story is about a professional athlete who was arrested, for example – no factive will populate.
And if a factive does show that is determined to be irrelevant, the product has a built-in kill switch that publishers can engage that will disable it.
Bianca Fortis is the associate editor at MediaShift, a founding member of the Transborder Media storytelling collective and a social media consultant. Follow her on Twitter @biancafortis.