Use your archives and partnerships with cultural institutions to retell your community’s most fascinating stories through audio — engaging new audiences and opening doors to new sponsorship opportunities.
Serve targeted audiences with targeted contentSubscribe to Updates Think and act audience first. Be audience-driven across your enterprise. Identify and focus on particular, target audiences with needs, interests and problems that you can address well and derive revenue from. Use your local market knowledge, perspective and presence to serve these audiences far better than competitors. In doing this, don’t trap yourself into serving individuals alone – don’t overlook businesses and organizations as potential content customers you can serve.
Big Picture A primer on why news organizations must serve targeted audiences with targeted content
Audience first is a mandatory change imposed by digital media realities. It is Table Stakes – without it, your news enterprise cannot be ‘in the game.’ Equally important though is this: putting audiences first not only gets you into the game but also far better positions your newsroom to provide more effective journalism whose relevance and value better serves the needs, interests and problems of target audiences. In other words, audience first is essential to fulfilling your journalistic mission.
Plan Understand the gaps in your news organization and how to close them
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Identify and serve an audience segment that has left your print edition, but is still invested in your community and active in city life. Help them find value in a digital subscription.
Three ways newsrooms can reorient toward getting content in front of the right audiences.
Take this quiz for a quick read on your organization’s gaps in serving targeted audiences with targeted content — and find out why your gaps exist.
Success manifests itself both internally in skills, attitudes, behaviors and ways of working with one another and externally in how audiences and advertisers perceive and, then, put a value on your efforts.
This section describes ways to track progress and measure success at mastering how to use targeted content to serve targeted audiences.
Do Actions to close the gap
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Improve your news organization’s coverage, audience reach and brand recognition among Black readers by amplifying stories that focus on the Black community.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Local news sites nationwide rely too heavily on law enforcement sources, and crime stories dominate their news coverage. Gannett newsrooms committed to repairing relationships and building trust with members of marginalized communities by rethinking community justice and public safety coverage.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: As an independent nonprofit newsroom, move beyond philanthropy as a core strategy and begin reader revenue and community membership experiments in order to move toward sustainability.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Gannett’s Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee is telling more diverse, authentic stories that are making an impact, thanks to a new audience engagement initiative called the Digital Advisory Group, or “the DAG.” As part of a 2021 pilot, Knox News paired a Facebook group with one-year digital subscription trials to listen to Black voices and earn their trust. The DAG united community members and journalists to engage one another for more authentic content.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: By telling and sharing stories in the Latinx community (beginning with the pandemic’s impact on people, families, businesses), you can do what good newsrooms do — reflect the communities they serve.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Don’t just settle for being a publication that covers the African American community. Transform your newsroom into one that tells stories for and with Black residents. Grow relationships and trust, increase the number of African American voices on your platforms and continuously work to reflect the community demographics in your workforce.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use Instagram to listen to your audience, especially during a major breaking news event. Provide your readers with explainers and relevant service journalism. Let their concerns and questions guide important parts of your coverage.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use your reporting, digital, photography and video resources, and take advantage of the growing popularity of streaming platforms and mobile-friendly video. Present existing coverage in an audience-focused newscast that’s attractive to new sponsors.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Deepen your relationship with readers and expand your news coverage of communities with a team of freelancers, creating digital hubs and newsletters to organize and promote coverage.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: WFAE and La Noticia both knew that immigration issues affecting Latinos in Charlotte needed more coverage. They decided the best way to address it was together.
Move beyond automated newsletters by writing a newsletter for a targeted audience that actually fits their needs.
To hold onto loyal readers, particularly those who read the print edition, encourage them to activate their digital access to your content including the eEdition, which often has more content than your print edition.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: If you want to maximize your digital subscription growth, you must have a focused plan on not only how to grow your subscriber base, but also how to retain and improve the engagement and loyalty of your current subscribers.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Refocus your community coverage to build trust and cultivate new, diverse audiences — growing subscriptions along the way.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Prioritize digital subscribers over page views, and provide subscriber-only stories on topics that are vital and unique to your community.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Newsday is driving digital subscriptions and engagement with targeted newsletters.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the KPCC-LAist newsroom has invited questions from its audience. Nearly 4,000 people have written in. More than half of them have opted into newsletters, and nearly all have received a personal answer.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Create a town hall-style event for local candidates running for office to engage with constituents often excluded from the election cycle. The town hall hosted by EdNC, a nonprofit news outlet covering education in North Carolina, allowed high school students in a rural county to meet with candidates for state superintendent.
If you want to shift your newsroom to an audience-first approach, then you must set and hold the newsroom accountable for audience goals. No amount of training, town hall discussions, strategy studies, brown bag lunches or other approaches to describing and encouraging audience-first changes will gain as much traction.
Audiences have choices – lots of choices. So, it is imperative that your newsroom understand the needs and interest of audiences from their perspective, not yours.
“Learning by doing” is your newsroom’s path toward figuring out what works best and most sustainably.
This step begins your transition from instilling an audience-first perspective across your newsroom toward getting good at identifying and serving targeted audience segments.
Using defined criteria for making key decisions is an enormously important discipline to build in your news enterprise. The best way to learn how to serve targeted audiences with targeted content is to ‘just do it.’ Get going now!
The audience teams you select should start by defining success – that is setting specific traffic, engagement, revenue and/or other goals – then craft ‘content plus’ approaches to succeeding. The content that best serves a target audience differs from traditional newsroom thinking about beats and news coverage.
Eventually, you should organize the whole newsroom around audience-driven teams and, as Table Stake #7 describes, have mini-publishers drive those efforts.