Publishers’ Most Trusted Engagement Tools: Newsletters, Podcasts & Mobile Apps | What’s New in Publishing

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

Editors are suckers for shiny, shiny things. But while innovation is key 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, most publishers’ acquisition, retention and engagement efforts would be in vain.

Take away food

It is often said that change is the only constant in digital publishing. But writing in The Fix, David Tvrdon reminds us that cutting-edge innovation isn’t necessarily something the public is 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 when it comes to mobile app development, can also determine which takes priority.
  • However, while each format is used independently as a tool to convert drive-through readers into paying supporters and to continue paying converts, they are increasingly being used together. TVdon says:

Interestingly, all three platforms together typically form the bedrock of audience engagement for news outlets of varying sizes.


Most media newsletters used to be simple collections of linked headlines, traffic engines designed to drive audiences to a website. Now, newsletters can be the primary, and sometimes only, point of contact with a publishing brand.

  • Forget click-through rates. Focus on open rates and keep newsletter subscribers engaged in their own inbox.
  • Start enticing newsletter readers to become paying subscribers as soon as they sign up.
  • Create exclusive content for paid subscribers.


Although advertising remains the primary source of revenue for podcasts, major podcast listening platforms are beginning to offer podcast producers the option to charge for their audio content. And given the very personal relationship podcast listeners have with their favorite shows, they’re great at acquiring, retaining, and engaging audiences.

  • Differentiate your podcast from those produced by competing 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 choose based on the investment you can make.
  • Create a podcast that complements your regular content; don’t underestimate the power of audio to help audiences connect with your brand.

Mobile app

While newsletters are the easiest engagement tool for publishers to access, mobile apps can be the most challenging. But costs come down, and apps offer the obvious advantage of streamlined content flow over websites.

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

This article originally appeared in Spiny Trends and is republished with permission. Spiny Trends provides the industry news updates and analysis you need to stay in the know if you run a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email digest here.

Harry L. Blanchard