Israeli Publisher Mako Uses Emotions to Boost Engagement, Ad Revenue

VicomiIf you read an article that infuriates you, how will that affect what you click next?

Comments and voting platform Vicomi hopes to find out – and make money in the process.

Its “feelbacks” module, which officially rolled out in January, requests that readers choose one of five emotional states after reading an article. The module surfaces article suggestions based on that selection.

Israel’s third-largest publisher, Mako, implemented the modules first in the fashion section five months ago. “I look for ways to increase engagement with our users and make my content more valuable for my customers,” explained Asi Arbel, Maki’s product manager.

After seeing the module drive a 70% increase in CTR to other areas of the site, the feature expanded to more content sections.

The articles surfaced based on a reader’s emotional input had a 20% CTR or higher.

After the success driving internal traffic, Mako started using data from the “feelbacks” to segment users and offer them up to advertisers. With elections in Israel coming up, political campaigns have experimented with taking a user’s response to an article and using that information to target content.

Arbel sees possibilities for other types of advertisers. A clothing retailer could group users who deemed an article about its spring collection “fabulous,” for example, and serve ads to a group with a demonstrated high interest in its wares.

The combination of advertising and engagement possibilities for Vicomi attracted German publishing house Axel Springer as an investor. Its holdings include Sport Bild, which has found particular success with Vicomi because of the high emotional investment readers have with their sports teams.

Just because someone clicked “happy” after reading an article doesn’t mean the user wants to keep smiling, said Vicomi founder and CEO Eli Ken-Dror.

“An amazing thing we found is that a happy reader looks for not happy articles to read afterward,” he said.

Other insights based on analysis of the 12,000 sites on the platform? “Happy readers click on more ads, but angry people read more articles,” Ken-Dror said.

Differences even emerge by device. “People using mobile phones are happier than people reading on desktop,” he added.

Vicomi plans to keep creating widgets centered on emotional engagement in the year ahead. Besides the content recommendation module, Vicomi recently added a gallery that lets readers browse by emotional reactions: A reader could find trending articles or only look at pieces that have prompted an angry reaction, for example.

It’s setting the groundwork in analytics, creating an analytics platform where publishers can peek into the emotional landscape created by their site’s pieces and use the data to inform ad sales.

Publisher add-on tools have sometimes earned the ire of sites because of their ability to eavesdrop on data, but Vicomi says it’s eager to protect the data of readers on site, especially given its European customer base. Individual-level information isn’t collected across Vicomi’s network, only across a publisher’s owned-and-operated network. “A publisher owns the data, but we can use it” for personalization and optimization, Ken-Dror said.

 

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