Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
2 mins read

Publishers’ most trusted engagement tools: Newsletters, podcasts and mobile apps

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Innovation is a constant, but publishers can still rely on traditional audience engagement tools

Publishers are suckers for bright shiny things. But while innovation is essential in the rapidly changing digital space, publishers shouldn’t forget what David Tvrdon calls the three pillars of audience engagement: newsletters, podcasts and mobile apps. He says that without these traditional audience engagement tools, acquisition, retention and engagement efforts at most publishers would be unsuccessful.


It’s often said that change is the only constant in digital publishing. But writing in the Fix, David Tvrdon offers a reminder that leading-edge innovation is not necessarily something audiences are looking for.

  • Tvrdon’s three pillars of audience engagement  – newsletters, podcasts, and mobile apps – have been around for a long time. But where previously they might have been considered separately, they have recently claimed their place as key elements of audience development strategy.
  • Different publishers use each of these established audience engagement tools in different ways depending on the specific information needs and preferences of their audiences. Resources, especially in relation to the development of mobile apps, can also determine which gets priority.
  • However, while each format is used independently as a tool to convert drive-by readers into paying supporters and to keep converts paying, increasingly they are used together. Tvrdon says:

The interesting thing is usually all three platforms put together, form a bedrock of audience engagement for news outlets of different sizes.


Most media newsletters used to be simple collections of linked headlines, traffic drivers designed to funnel audiences back to a website. Now, newsletters can be the primary, sometimes sole, touchpoint with a publishing brand.

  • Forget click through rates. Focus on open rates and keeping newsletter subscribers engaged inside their own inbox.
  • Start to nudge newsletter readers towards becoming paying subscribers from the moment they register.
  • Create exclusive content for paying subscribers.


Although advertising is still the biggest revenue stream for podcasts, the key podcast listening platforms are starting to offer podcast producers the option to charge for their audio content. And given the very personal relationship podcast listeners have with their favourite shows, they are excellent for acquiring, retaining and engaging audiences.

  • Differentiate your podcast from those produced by competitive publishers in your market. Building an audience will be difficult otherwise.
  • Consider the resources you can commit to a podcast and adjust the format and frequency you settle on against the investment you can make.
  • Create a podcast that compliments your regular content output; don’t underestimate the power of audio to help audiences build a relationship with your brand.

Mobile apps

If newsletters are the easiest engagement tool for publishers to access, mobile apps may be the hardest. But costs are dropping and apps offer the clear advantage of a streamlined content feed when compared with websites.

  • It isn’t easy to convince people to download yet another app, so it is crucial that publishers make the value proposition very clear.
  • Once a reader has your app on their phone, deliver a regular content refresh to reward their loyalty.
  • Consider integrating your newsletter and podcast content under one icon to build value, habit and loyalty.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.