Christian Science Monitor's site overhaul targets engaged readers with calls to action

The Christian Science Monitor wants to keep its readers engaged — not only with the site, but with the international issues the site covers and with the communities affected by them.

“Our readers care very deeply about world issues, but they also often feel like they’d like to take some kind of path to action," Susan Hackney, the Monitor's chief marketing and strategy officer, told Poynter. "They’d like to contribute toward change. They want to get involved and do something."

That's why the newly redesigned Monitor site will include a "Take Action" button under many stories, offering resources to readers who want to volunteer, join or contribute to organizations, write to their member of Congress, or just learn more about an issue and access conversation starters related to it:

The idea was partially inspired by this November commentary by Olympia Snowe. It included a link to this post, "ACTION STEPS: 8 ways you can help define a political center". One resource linked to by Monitor editors, Campaign to Fix the Debt, reported that visitors referred by the Monitor were three times more engaged with the site in terms of page views and time on site than average visitors were.

That clued the Monitor in to the site's potential to serve readers by connecting them to outside resources. And the feedback meshed with past audience research indicating Monitor readers are more engaged in various ways, Hackney said, like donating to political candidates or blogging about issues themselves.

Another way the new site aims to keep readers engaged is by asking them what they want to read about and soliciting feedback about individual stories:

Of course, the reader leaving feedback is also asked to leave his or her email address, allowing the Monitor to reach out directly later. Simply asking readers what they're interested in reading more about has helped with engagement, Hackney said: sending targeted emails based on answers to a poll on the DC Decoder page led to a 20 percent improvement in open rate and a 17-percent improvement in click-through rate over the Monitor's more generalized newsletters.

  • Sam Kirkland

    Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor, where he helped launch digital magazines and ebooks in addition to other web duties.


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