Who referees audience development discussions at your company?


I participated in a panel discussion recently at the INMA Audience Summit in Scottsdale. The topic was audience development across platforms. 

As newspapers evolve to newsmedia companies, there is a rising expectation from the advertising community to understand the value of each medium’s audiences to their marketing communications. 

The notions of “total audience,” “unduplicated audience,” even “duplicated audience” are not new. In the past five years, newspapers from North America to Europe to Asia have tried some spin on this concept with varying success.
The challenge is that not all audiences are created equally. A reader of a print newspaper enthralled for 45 minutes is not the same as a hyper-kinetic web viewer who pops in for 20 seconds and leaves. Yet in our embryonic efforts to deliver “total audience,” one is equal to the other.
In Scottsdale during the question-and-answer session, I noticed something unusual about the conversation.
One executive talked passionately about the value of a subscription audience that embraces a print newspaper. Another talked about the value of a single-copy audience of a print newspaper. Someone else talked about a mobile news consumption audience. Still another talked about the value of a standard web site audience, and how that same content repackaged into a health web site vertical can command 500% more CPMs than viewers of the standard web site.
All great discussion about the value of audiences!
Then it dawned on me: Who is the referee of these great insights into the unique value of each audience for each platform? Who orchestrates, aggregates, and translates these fabulous, passionate insights at your newspaper?
Nobody raised their hand.
OK, who should lead this discussion at your company? The chief executive? The chief marketing officer? The chief audience officer? The chief researcher?
At the break in Scottsdale, a rump session broke out that expanded upon this discussion. The chief digital officer of a Canadian newspaper passionately argued that you can’t talk about total audience. There are too many differences. You can sell what you know, and we know the unique value propositions of each medium.
I’ve since talked with dozens of newspaper executives on three continents and gotten a similar reaction. One INMA member disagreed so strongly that you can’t talk “total audience” that he showed me data of household penetration layered on with incremental information on e-mail penetration.
Yet the episode shows a major flaw in the newspaper’s transition to newsmedia company. Not all audiences are the same because not every medium is the same. We have to recognise this, and we have to organise ourselves horizontally to have this discussion with advertisers.
Who is the audience referee at your company?
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