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: A mobile newsroom offers authentic and organic opportunities to connect with historically underrepresented communities and report on them in ways we never have before.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Learn how The Fresno Bee improved engagement with Latino audiences through regional collaboration, experimentation with new story topics, newsletters and virtual events.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: As a public media organization, don’t be satisfied by serving as a pass-through for PBS and NPR national programming. Expand your news reporting team and go beyond radio, creating a more robust website and digital app where people can access the latest news and information, as well as engage with your journalists.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: If you want to easily gauge your audience and facilitate immediate responses and manage your relationship with your audience, use a two-way text messaging program.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Learn how to build trust in the Black community by conducting extensive research, creating products and content that serve this audience, and showing up for the community.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Understand your opportunities for audience growth through research, experimentation and listening. Change your reporting process to focus more on making news for and with local Black communities instead of just about them. At the same time, grow awareness through marketing and outreach, and leverage partnerships to expand your reach and understanding as well as to build trust.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use several approaches, including audience roundtables, mobile newsrooms and source audits, to rebuild trust and engage with the Black community, whose achievements have often been ignored or downplayed by local news organizations.
Recognize your role as a member of “the media,” lean into complexity and nuance, and get to know the people you aim to serve.
In the digital subscription cohort for alumni of the Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program, five teams were challenged to think creatively about growing and retaining digital audiences through experimentation. In this Better News piece, each team shares the challenge it took on over the four months and highlights its biggest lessons.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Build trusted relationships with people who have lived without local news sources for years, by showing up for these communities, listening to them and delivering the content they most want. Make sure the coverage is for these communities, not simply about them.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Create an online subscription-based platform that produces editorial content focused on amplifying positive stories within the Black community, raising awareness regarding relevant issues that affect the community at the local, state and national level.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Consider your readers not just as political junkies or sports nuts, but as multi-dimensional people who love politics and are enamored with baseball (or both). When you do that, you can open readers to a wide range of different coverage they didn’t know you had.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: To build your opinion content, solicit responses from readers who have registered for a free account on your site. Pick the best snippets of a commenter’s ideas, creating a broader range of voices on curated discussions of local issues. Partner with a local university to foster and analyze these discussions.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Accelerate digital subscription growth by encouraging reader participation and answering reader questions.
Here are 10 ideas to steal and adapt: From audience-focused initiatives to changing internal systems, these original case studies are the most-viewed in 2022 on BetterNews.org.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: To grow revenue, work within your means and do things you are passionate about. Hone in on your team’s skill sets and partner with third-party companies to monetize your content across platforms.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Grow your audience and paid online subscription base by bridging significant gaps in reaching key segments, including Black readers.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Simplify your newsletter format and workflow so that one person can realistically own the products and experiment.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Consider reaching a national audience that cares about a topic your newsroom covers well. The national audience may not subscribe because the rest of your reporting isn’t as relevant to them. How could you get them to read, interact with, and most importantly, financially support your coverage?
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Flip the narrative and add solutions-oriented reporting to your coverage, rather than solely focusing on problems in your community. The solutions journalism beat can include stories about people, programs and processes working to fill gaps in equity, break down barriers and make your region a better place.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Attract and serve a Spanish-speaking audience not through AI translation, but through showing respect — building capacity and being careful to ensure the information you publish is accurate, timely and culturally competent.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Take a beat that your newsroom owns – in this case, the Buffalo Bills – and leverage your journalists’ expertise on the subject, paired with an appropriate platform like social video, to build reader engagement and generate sponsorships.
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.