Publishers have lost their grip on audiences. The content they produce is circulated on platforms they don’t control. The ads they sell are priced by market places they don’t control. The business models and rules by which they play are no longer in their favor.
I believe there are two “modes” of content consumption that users go through: discovery-mode and engagement-mode. The discovery stage is when users are browsing email, looking at link-aggregators, scrolling through social feeds, etc. They are combing through the bulk of content available and looking for signals. This is not the time for people to engage heavily with content. For publishers, this type of user activity is filled with high bounce rates and low time-on-site.
The engagement stage is when users are ready to read and watch. This is when they are prepared to allocate time to focus. This can be before work, during a lunch break, in the evening or weekend. During these moments, people are more likely to finish content they are interested in and less likely to get distracted. The goal is to help users cultivate this mode of content consumption.
Most people who save content, use a bookmarking tool that eventually becomes unmanageable. People in the discovery mode save a bulk of links to read later, but never come back. Eventually people develop a ritual of finding all the good content they want to bookmark without ever allocating time to return. After a tipping point, tools like Pocket and Instapaper eventually become a bucket of links that are never read or visited.
Publishers should be providing more outlets for engaging the user who expresses interest, but doesn’t have time to stay.