How puzzles play an essential role in reader engagement

What's New in Publishing 26 Jun 2020 07:42

Over the past few months, we have seen puzzles and games grow in importance for many publishers. On our platform, Ouest-France’s L’Edition du Soir has seen a significant portion of its page views come from their puzzle and game section recently. Publishers are leaning into this, using puzzles as a strategic tool in habit formation, so join us as we dig further into this trend.

History repeats itself

The crossword puzzle might be synonymous with newspapers today, but that hasn’t always been the case. Dating back to just before World War I, Arthur Wynne, editor at The New York World, is credited with creating the crossword. It grew in popularity, with more and more newspapers creating their own. However throughout the 1920s and 1930s, The New York Times famously refused to publish a crossword, even running several editorials dismissing the crossword as a passing fad. Eventually they were the only major metropolitan newspaper in the US without a crossword puzzle. It was not until 1942 that they published a crossword. Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger was finally convinced by an editor who pointed out that the crossword would provide their readers with something to occupy their time during the upcoming blackout days of World War II.

With this new marketing push focused on puzzles, The Wall Street Journal was able to see engagement rates grow across the whole product suite. This is a key point to clarify; encouraging users to try out puzzles and games doesn’t just increase their engagement with those features but also their engagement with the news product as well. As former editor John Temple wrote for Nieman Lab:

Byinvesting in your puzzle experience, you can even build out your subscription funnel. The New York Times has been very successful with their standalone crossword subscription offer, with more 500k crossword subscribers. To convert subscribers for this product, they offer a miniature puzzle for free so that readers develop a habit and ultimately decide to upgrade to the full, paid-for puzzle.

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du SoirArthur Wynne
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