Au­di­ence Is So Much More Than Eye­balls

The Insider - - CONTENT - By Maria Ter­rell

As we know in the pub­lish­ing busi­ness, au­di­ence is key. We sell more ad­ver­tis­ing be­cause of it, we beat our chests when we reach a cer­tain num­ber, and we be­lieve what we are do­ing is ul­ti­mately for “our au­di­ence.” Look­ing at the quick on­line def­i­ni­tion of “au­di­ence” – I think it’s a good eye opener for us as we’re not quite get­ting it, yet.

First: the group of spec­ta­tors or lis­ten­ers at a pub­lic event; lis­ten­ers or view­ers… and the per­sons reached by a book, ra­dio or tele­vi­sion broad­cast, etc. This is what we are call­ing our au­di­ence, rightly so. How­ever, as we dig fur­ther into the ques­tion of au­di­ence, many of us are still blindly count­ing a pair of eye­balls as au­di­ence, with­out iden­ti­fy­ing who that au­di­ence re­ally is. Due to cum­ber­some legacy sys­tems that leave our com­pa­nies silo-ed, many of us only know one side of this au­di­ence.

Ac­cord­ing to INMA’s News Me­dia Out­look 2015, we need to be re­plac­ing Mad Men with Math Men – dig­ging into the data and un­der­stand­ing who is your ba­sic au­di­ence.

Un­til you un­der­stand the “who” of your au­di­ence, you can’t (and likely won’t) do a good job of en­gag­ing with them fur­ther or cre­at­ing/cu­rat­ing con­tent and prod­ucts for them. You’ll be throw­ing spaghetti to the wall, hop­ing enough of it sticks.

Tom Ar­giriou, vice pres­i­dent of cus­tomer in­sights and data strat­egy at Gannett re­cently spoke about this very is­sue and the busi­ness chal­lenges of con­sumer mar­ket­ing, ask­ing:

Who are our au­di­ences and how well do we know them?

How do we cre­ate value for our prospects and sub­scribers, en­gag­ing them more and keep­ing them longer?

How do we tell a com­pelling story?

As pub­lish­ers – if you haven’t asked these ques­tions and taken the steps to an­swer them, you’ll quickly find that newer con­tent ve­hi­cles (in what­ever form) are ask­ing and hon­ing their prod­ucts to do this bet­ter, faster, and smarter than you. Au­di­ences are fickle, and to­day they may buy tick­ets to Justin Bieber, but not un­der­stand­ing what a true Belieber wants and why they went to see you in the first place, could leave you singing to your­self.

Af­ter the first two def­i­ni­tions, to me, this is where the con­cept of “au­di­ence” gets in­ter­est­ing, and is where we have much room for growth: a reg­u­lar pub­lic that man­i­fests in­ter­ests, sup­port, en­thu­si­asm, or the like; a fol­low­ing… and op­por­tu­nity to be heard; chance to speak to or be­fore a per­son or group… Let’s call this “the rest of au­di­ence.”

This is the rest of au­di­ence so few of us have even ven­tured into (as­sum­ing the first def­i­ni­tions and au­di­ence data anal­y­sis is hap­pen­ing or quickly in the works) – and is where tech­nol­ogy be­comes key to the rest. The reg­u­lar (mean­ing con­sis­tent) pub­lic that man­i­fests, is in­ter­ested, sup­ports, and shows en­thu­si­asm for your prod­uct – THAT’s the au­di­ence gold.

Let’s be hon­est, how many pub­lish­ers can say their au­di­ence is en­thu­si­as­tic about their con­tent? Are they sup­port­ing your con­tent? Are they in­ter­act­ing with it – or sim­ply con­sum­ing it? Your Be­liebers need to be­lieve (sorry, I couldn’t help it) in your con­tent and in the com­mu­nity (read: sup­port, fol­low­ing, and en­thu­si­asm) ral­ly­ing around it.

Regis McKenna in 1991 said that “Mar­ket­ing is ev­ery­thing, and ev­ery­thing is mar­ket­ing …

To­day tech­nol­ogy is cre­at­ing greater cus­tomer choice, and choice is al­ter­ing the mar­ket­place. Six prin­ci­ples de­fine the new mar­ket­ing: mar­ket­ing is a way of do­ing busi­ness that per­vades the en­tire com­pany; com­pa­nies must dis­pel their lim­it­ing mar­ket-share men­tal­ity; pro­gram­mable tech­nol­ogy prom­ises to open up al­most lim­it­less choice for cus­tomers; a feed­back loop is mak­ing ad­ver­tis­ing’s one-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion ob­so­lete; the line be­tween ser­vices and prod­ucts is erod­ing; and the mar­riage of mar­ket­ing and tech­nol­ogy is in­evitable.”

They were say­ing this in 1991…. here we are to­day – still talk­ing about the ba­sics. <sigh>


The fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple is that you have to have feed­back loops for the two-way con­ver­sa­tion. Your au­di­ence wants an au­di­ence with you. In or­der to truly have au­di­ence and keep au­di­ence, you must both GET and AC­TION upon feed­back.

Kiss­met­rics says the 5 best ways to get feed­back are:

1. Sur­veys

2. Feed­back boxes

3. Reach out di­rectly

4. User ac­tiv­ity from your an­a­lyt­ics

5. Us­abil­ity tests

I highly sug­gest you read their ar­ti­cle, as it pro­vides you all the ba­sics for these 5 steps. The end re­sult is un­der­stand­ing and two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your au­di­ence. As Rollo May said, “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion leads to com­mu­nity, that is, to un­der­stand­ing, in­ti­macy, and mu­tual valu­ing”.

The con­cepts are ba­sic, the points are sim­ple, yet for pub­lish­ers to move for­ward and com­pete in the new tech­nol­ogy laden space that is “the con­tent con­sumer au­di­ence” – they’ve got to stop think­ing the so­lu­tion is another spe­cial sec­tion, or man­ag­ing the de­cline in print. They need to think about au­di­ence and the com­mu­nity that will bring MU­TUAL value. Au­di­ence is so much more than eye­balls. It’s en­thu­si­asm. It’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It’s un­der­stand­ing. It’s the fu­ture.

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