The essential guide to personalisation in publishing

The UK publishing industry is one of the largest in the world. It generates over £6billion per year.  Accounts for almost 10% of UK creative industry employment.  And supplies two thirds of the UK population with digital and print news.  Every week.

However, in recent years it has been through a process of significant change.

Digital disruption has transformed the way that content is created. No longer dominated by newspapers and large publications, content is being consumed in many different forms, both online and offline. And is being created at a rapid rate, by small businesses, influencers, bloggers and vloggers.


And of course we can’t forget the all-important consumer. Fast-changing demands mean that customers are consuming more content than ever. Faster than ever. 

The rise of digital and changing customer demands has meant that the publishing industry has had to adapt. Quickly. It also means it has had to expand the number of channels it uses to reach and engage with these audiences. 

At Pure360 we believe that personalisation is the key to creating content and marketing that really grabs attention. And for the publishing industry, there is a great opportunity to offer hyper-personalised experiences for their readers.  

This guide takes you through the challenges and objectives that the UK publishing industry should be focusing on today. And introduces the strategies and tactics that can help publishers smash them. 

For the publishing industry. Better starts here.



It’s clear that there are some significant challenges facing the publishing industry. Before publishers can tackle these, it’s important that they fully understand what they are facing. 

Increasing competition

Even before the influx of influencers, the world of online content had been saturated for years. The increasing amount of ways to share content and information online continues to make the publishing industry increasingly competitive.

This poses the challenge of not only generating new readers, but retaining current ones.  

Publishers need to develop a distinctive tone of voice. Learning from their readers and addressing their wants and needs to stand out from the crowd. 

Managing data

For publishers, accessing demographic data can be a challenge. However it’s evident that this type of data plays a key part in the success of the industry. Particularly when tailoring content.

Users expect content that is personalised to them as the norm. So the more demographic data available to publishers, the better.

Additionally, for many publishers, advertising is an essential revenue source. And one thing advertisers require is data. Whether it be to identify the best publishers to work with, or for lead generation purposes.

Multiple consumption channels

Publishers today are more than news and books. They are creating a whole host of new and exciting content. In new and exciting forms. 

We’re talking about digital, video, audio, online and offline training, events and awards. To name just a few. Publishers now need to think of their product offering in ways that go beyond the content and format. And determining how people enjoy consuming content is essential to do that.

New and emerging technology

Simply keeping up with the new technologies available to publishers is difficult enough. But actually implementing them can be even more problematic. 

However, new and emerging technology can provide significant benefits to readers, a competitive edge for publishers, and increased monetisation opportunities.

It’s important for publishers to adopt and embrace the latest options available to them. Implementing the technology that best supports their business and their readers. 


To overcome these challenges publishers need to take a fresh look at their objectives. Updating them for the new and ever-changing landscape.

Here are some of our suggestions.

Consolidate data

With readers’ requirements rapidly changing, and competition ever-increasing. Publishers need to set a solid data strategy to support personalisation and advertising opportunities. 

Consolidating various data systems, from CRM to ESP, spreadsheets to hard copies, is essential to this process. 

And according to 37% of marketers, successful personalisation needs to draw from a single data source. One that is developed with data across the entire business. 

Engage new readers

With increased competition from both publishers and individual content providers, acquiring new readers can be a challenge.

Therefore, publishers need to review their tactics for engaging new readers and customers, and locking in those all-important subscribers. 

Content opportunities are now vast, so publishers need to ensure they are creating a hyper-personalised experience to engage their new readers. Showcasing the content that they want. When they want it. And where they want it. 

Boost reader and subscriber loyalty

Loyal customers have a huge financial impact on publishers.

70% of businesses say it’s cheaper to retain customers than to bring on new ones. They cost less to serve, spend more, and will remain in the relationship longer. 

High competition and changing behaviour means that publishers need to regularly check in with their readership to ensure they remain engaged, and aren’t looking elsewhere. 

Embrace new technology and channels

In a period of rapid technological change, it’s essential that publishers embrace the latest digital trends. The alternative is being left behind in the wake of digital-savvy content providers and influencers. 

Publishers need to get creative with the channels they offer content through. Merging online and offline channels offers multiple ways of providing readers with both an immediate and personalised experience.

Email and web personalisation

We are in an age of rapid change for the publishing industry. It is both an incredibly exciting, but incredibly challenging time. 

But these challenges also create the opportunity for publishers to enhance their relevance and value by engaging more frequently, with more personalised content.

And it’s not as difficult as it might sound.

Data insight

Increased data enables publishers to build a better, holistic view of their readers. Which can be utilised across multiple departments and channels, both online and offline. 

  • Combine data sources

Separate business systems are a thing of the past. By combining all readership data into one accessible place, publishers can offer the right content. To the right reader. In the right format. 

  • Data analytics

Once all data is collated, publishers can really start to understand what their audience looks like. This will help them to identify their ideal reader and those who are most likely to subscribe to their offering. 

Additionally, publishers can use this information to create specific segments to automate highly targeted and personalised campaigns and content suggestions based on behaviour, preferences and previous activity. 

  • RFM modelling and reporting

With all of their data in one place, publishers can also conduct RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) modelling and analysis. This helps them to identify the readers they are most likely to lose. With this segment they can use different tactics to drive engagement and deliver highly tailored content. 

Email automation

The success of email automation for publishers is very much a fact. Not fiction.

For example, publishing giant HarperCollins has estimated that email marketing drove an impressive 90% revenue and sign-ups for their conferences, awards and subscriptions.

  • Form and cart abandonment

Roughly 70% of website visitors abandon forms, meaning publishers could be losing valuable subscriptions and purchases at the very first stage.

Abandonment can be tackled with an email abandonment series, personalised with content according to customers’ specific taste profiles. Publishers can also personalise abandonment emails with both behavioural and demographic data, for that extra nudge to buy or sign up.

  • Welcome emails

As soon as a new reader subscribes or makes a purchase, publishers need to land in their inbox. 

Research shows that subscribers are at their most engaged within 48 hours of signing up. However 41% of businesses miss this time window. And 27% don’t even send a welcome email.

Publishers who don’t send welcome emails are really missing a trick. It’s an opportunity to make the recipient feel special, introduce their brand, and offer useful content and information. 

  • Content recommendations

As a content provider, personalisation should be at the heart of any publisher’s marketing strategy. 

Publishers can use the data they collect on readers to send out highly targeted emails, whether that be a tailored content digest, content and book recommendations, or invites to events, training and awards. 

  • Subscription renewal reminders

The subscription model is key for many publishers. But with such intense and ever-increasing competition, it’s easy for subscription renewals to slip through the net.  

Publishers can make the renewal process quick and easy for customers through reminder emails that include all the necessary and relevant information the customer requires. 

Website personalisation

Every website visitor is different. Yet most businesses offer the same, one-size-fits-all website experience. Publishers are in a great position to offer each unique visitor the unique experience that they not only deserve, but they now expect. 

  • Machine learning

Systems which use machine-learning can analyse and predict what makes consumers read, subscribe and buy. This allows publishers to automatically optimise their website experience, in real-time, to offer a hyper-personalised experience for every reader.

  • Content recommendations

Recommendation engines will analyse browse and purchase history, real-time behaviour, and purchase intent to ensure the right content, products and subscriptions are shown to each customer. At the right time. 

Publishers can even segment their recommendations based on customer life cycle stage, for added relevancy. 

  • Dynamic content

Dynamic content should be essential within every publisher’s website.

Publishers can greet each customer with personalised website content based on the data they hold on them. This can include previously read content, topic interests, demographics, location, purchase history, and lifecycle stage.

The possibilities for tailored content are endless!

Personalisation- The Publishing examples

Following expert advice, like within this guide, is the first step in implementing a successful personalisation strategy. But sometimes it helps to see it in action.

Here are some of our top picks of publishers that are doing personalisation well. 


Everyone knows Buzzfeed. One of the most popular online publishers today, generating over 2.5million website visits per year.

They also do email and web personalisation incredibly well. 

Buzzfeed heavily segments their readership to offer them publications based on specific brands: Buzzfeed News, Buzzfeed Buzz, Buzzfeed Quizzes and Buzzfeed Life. They use these brands to personalise both their email and website experiences. Ensuring the content is highly relevant to the readers’ interests. 

Buzzfeed also uses the simple tactic of suggested content, or “More Like This”, to guide readers  to new articles, quizzes and videos that are relevant to their previous activity. 


UK institution, The BBC, generates over 10million visits to their website per year. Impressive.

The BBC gathers user preferences so that they can offer a highly tailored experience. As soon as a user signs in. 

Users are able to add topics they are interested in to their account. As well as set their location and demographics for local news, weather and personalised content.

This enables the BBC to offer a unique and personalised homepage to readers. And send relevant newsletters, full of personalised news, content, video and audio channels. 


Penguin excels in tailored content. All while keeping their data capture process simple.

Instead of asking lots of questions at sign-up, they simply ask readers to select a bookshelf that has inspired them. This makes the process both engaging and fun, instead of a chore. 

The data captured enables Penguin to segment their readers to personalise future emails and communications. Their strategy is far more tailored, as it profiles based on specific interests, instead of rigid genres such as non-fiction, history or travel. 

Checklist – 10 steps to Personalisation for Publishers

High competition, new content creators and changing customer demands are making the UK publishing industry an increasingly difficult market to navigate. 

To help publishers succeed, we have put together a checklist of our 10 steps to personalisation. Tailored specifically to the publishing industry.

Consolidate data. Engage new readers. Boost loyalty. And embrace new technology.

Step 1. Combine data sources

Multiple data sources are a thing of the past. Start by combining all of your readership data sources into one, accessible place.

Step 2: Understand your data 

Build a view of your audience through data analytics and RFM modelling. Identify those who are most likely to buy, subscribe, or churn.

Step 3: Implement an AI marketing platform

By implementing an industry-leading AI marketing platform you can make the most out of your data to automate highly targeted and personalised campaigns.

Step 4: Improve acquisition through email

Automate content recommendations and abandonment emails to keep your readers interested and give them that final ‘nudge’ to subscribe or buy.  

Step 5: Improve retention through email

For current readers and subscribers, automate welcome emails, nurturing campaigns and renewal reminders to keep them engaged and ensure you’re at the front of their mind come renewal-time.

Step 6: Utilise website personalisation tools

Every good AI marketing platform comes with a host of website personalisation tools. Use your data to offer a highly personalised website experience to your readers. 

Step 7: Improve acquisition through your website

Offer personalised content recommendations directly on your website to engage readers and encourage them to read, subscribe, or buy. 

Step 8: Improve retention through your website

For current readers, keep them engaged and make them feel like a VIP with personalised, dynamic website content that serves the content and information they really want to see.

Step 9: Analyse results

Dive into the insight offered in your AI marketing platform to review engagement levels and ROI. Identify what is working. And what isn’t.

Step 10: Rinse. Repeat. 

Personalisation isn’t a one off campaign or singular automation series. To keep readers engaged, learn from your results and continue to tweak, build and innovate your most successful personalisation campaigns and tactics. 


Become a better marketer

With our free learning resource! Sign up now for access to the UK's best strategy advice, industry innovations, best practice and tons of actionable insights. #betterstartshere