Before you do anything else, stop and read at least two sections of the Essentials (“table stakes” requirements for news organizations to “get in the game” digitally):
- Table Stake #1: Serve Targeted Audiences with Targeted Content and
- Table Stake #4: Funnel Occasional Users to Habitual and Paying Loyalists
Reaching audiences is no longer just another function of marketing and circulation teams in traditional business departments of media organizations. The role of attracting readers/viewers/listeners belongs to everyone, including (and especially!) the newsroom. Journalists are often expected to share their work through email newsletters, join discussions in the comments section, and use social media to develop a following. Job titles that include words like “engagement” or “social media” or “community” have emerged to signal roles dedicated entirely to attracting and building relationships with audiences. As social media and other digital platforms bring journalists closer to their readers, it’s obvious why the most effective top-of-the-funnel tactics now come from the newsroom.
Reaching new audiences is an approach that makes sense for any business model, regardless of whether your news organization uses advertising or subscriptions as a primary revenue source or has truly diversified its revenue mix. After all, more people using your product mean more eyes on your journalism and a boost to your revenue, right? But if you work in local news, you likely already know that scale isn’t always possible, nor is it the best approach. It’s finding and targeting the right audiences that will be most valuable long-term. And, as you know from reading the Essentials, “different approaches are required to attract different kinds of audiences to the top of the funnel.” The way you use Facebook to attract people interested in political news is going to be different from the way you use the same platform to generate interest in sports content.
This section of Better News guides you to think strategically about reaching new audiences and using battle-tested tactics for top-of-the-funnel engagement. By following Table Stake #1, you know already that the first step in an audience funnel is “to get them to come” by attracting as many potential users from your target audience segments as possible. We’ll examine ways to plan for such growth before diving deeper to examine a few battle-tested tactics for engagement. Specifically, before you begin to think about the right tactics for reaching a new audience, it’s important to first answer why you want to reach new audiences in the first place.
- What are your business and editorial goals, and are they aligned?
- How does reaching new audiences fit this strategy?
- What’s in it for your business—and what’s in it for the new audience?
Then, identify who the target audience is for your business and mission—and learn all you can about the types of users within this group.
- What does data reveal about your audience’s habits and needs, or who you’re not reaching?
- How can you segment your audience and use personas to help you understand their needs?
- What gap are you filling for these groups?
After your strategy makes sense for reaching a targeted audience, focus now on the top of the funnel, using specific tactics to reach the right audiences. Keep in mind that “different approaches are required to attract different kinds of audiences to the top of the funnel,” as mentioned in The 7 Essentials of Table Stakes. Tactics could include social media, SEO, partnerships, paid campaigns and distributed platforms.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that your digital tactics may change as your target audiences’ needs and habits change. Data analysis, A/B testing and listening to audience feedback are necessary to measure return on investment and to adapt to your users’ evolving needs.