An Insanely Fun Approach To Audience Development Strategies


Shweiki Media teams up with Linda Ruth—CEO and president of PSCS Consulting and authority on marketing and audience development—to present content publishers with a webinar on the importance of gamification and games in media today.

PSCS Consulting helps publishers develop and optimize audiences in print and online. PSCS has pioneered the areas of print audience optimization (PAO) and online audience optimization (OAO). One part of understanding audience optimization is understanding the new needs for audience engagement in today’s convergent media. For example, a magazine is no longer only available in print. It now lives in an online and digital format, apps, and also in gaming.

Today, games and gamification are an important part of media.  It is especially important for publishers to understand gamification as it becomes increasingly important for them to engage audiences in an interactive way that connects along many different points.

What is Gamification?

The main goal of gamification is to take the elements that make gaming a rich, immersive, sticky and, in some cases, addictive experience and apply them to something like, say, a website. Applying principles of gaming to the product and websites is a great way to encourage loyalty engagement and repeat visitors and build an audience.

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There are three drivers of human behavior, and they all play an incredibly important role in optimizing an audience:

  1. Desire to build confidence
  2. Desire for autonomy/agency
  3. Desire for relatedness

Game elements are designed to appeal to all three. Through gaming, one can master certain competencies that occur as one moves forward. Autonomy plays an important part because one can create and structure, to some degree, his or her own path. Relatedness is also important in gaming technologies because it engages the player in a community.

Today, content publishers are struggling to find ways to encourage their audiences to consume their products. Gaming publishers have mastered that challenge.

Gaming: An Immersive Experience

What is it that makes gaming so immersive? Games designer, James Portnow explains operant conditioning as the reason why some people would choose to spend the day at a slot machine pushing a button to get $100 rather than spend that same day pushing a button in a factory for the same amount of money. This is because the human brain loves a surprise. Variable rewards unlock little kicks of dopamine, which is one reason audience members will stay longer. They will stay on a page or site, continue consuming one’s content longer, engage in desired behaviors more often, and return more frequently if gaming elements are added.

Is Gamification Trivial?

Gamification isn’t trivial. After all, is it trivial to create an environment that allows a publisher to drive, measure and reward high-value behaviors? Is there value in increasing engagement and adding motivation? Of course there is. There are many non-trivial aspects of gamification as well.

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Today, the USA has 183 million active gamers. It is a bigger audience than Hollywood’s box office and, in terms of revenue, it’s larger than publishing. Over half of these 183 million gamers are women and believe it or not, a quarter of them are over 50.  If one takes a closer look at the demographics, it shows that 61% are CEOs, CFOs and senior executives. These top-level executives take daily game breaks.

The games business is $66 billion dollars in the United States alone, which is twice what the Hollywood box office makes. In the United States, $2 billion dollars is spent on virtual goods. According to technology analysts at Gardner Inc., by 2014, more than 70% of global 200o organizations will have at least one gamification app.

Gamification and Audience Development

Gaming is media that is interactive, experiential, active, and engaging.

A cornerstone of successful publishing both online and offline is audience development. SEO can only take a person so far. Publishers are beginning to realize that what they need is an Internet-wide approach to building target audience and branding.  They are finding these audiences through online audience optimization (OAO). OAO’s umbrella includes a broad use of social media, branding, content sharing, on- and off-page optimization and gamification.

Simply bringing people to a site is not enough anymore. There are several things that can be detrimental for a business, such as one’s audience dropping off the page too quickly or only taking a peek and moving on. The trick to getting people to stay on a site is to rely partly on the social component. In fact, of the top ten search elements, seven are social.

People who have liked a business’s page on Facebook are 80% more likely to buy their product or subscribe to their publication. So, how does one get his or her audience to engage on a more social level?

The Social Component of Gamification

One answer to this question is gamification. According to the gamification company Badgeville, 54% of users are inactive in loyalty programs and 69% don’t use their online communities.

As publishers build out their convergent media presence, they need to overcome a crippling lack of engagement. Sample data suggests a gamified site can lead to a 500% increase in user content and a 540% increase in time spent on the site.

With gamification, one has to make sure to avoid the traps of making one’s motivation extrinsic instead of intrinsic. Gamification is best done as part of content and branding strategies. When gamification is done correctly, it can build loyalty, direct activity, guide a user coming onto the site to do the most valuable things, and create an audience that comes back for more.

Additional Resources: 

PSCS consulting

Exceptional  Women in Publishing;

Women in Digital Media:

Magazine Dojo:



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