Audience is one of the top key metrics at media companies in the world now. While it used to refer to just the print newspaper, it now encompasses paid print, free opt-in products, Web sites, mobile apps, and social media sites.
In fact, the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) is now encouraging media companies to report on all of these metrics with its consolidated media reports, which really tell a picture of the brand and the audience that we reach on a multitude of platforms.
Over the last several weeks, I began noticing a hashtag on my Twitter feed called #AdviceForYoungJournalists. Some of the tweets were humorous in nature, while others offered some serious advice.
However, one thing that I found missing was what focus journalists should have to reach their future audience. That’s when I decided I would give some tips of my own to the young journalists out there.
Why am I writing a post with advice for a young journalist? My whole career has been in distribution, marketing, and sales, so what would I know about being a journalist? I definitely want to leave the writing up to them, but do want to share some emerging trends that I think are important for journalists.
What should the focus be for a young journalist? Isn’t it just about writing a story and handing that over to your editor? Not so much anymore. As mentioned above, audience is everywhere, which means we have to get the content there as well.
Mobile is really a big focus right now for all media. Whether you are trying to reach an audience through writing, video, or photojournalism, mobile is the place to be.
According to Bloomberg Business, we now spend more time starting at our phones than even our televisions. As of the third quarter of 2014, we spent 177 minutes a day with our smartphones, and 168 minutes a day watching television.
While some of this may be smartphones supplementing television watching, this number has grown quickly in the last two years, and most likely will continue to grow.
This Poynter piece by Cory Bergman focuses on why “mobile first” is important and continuing to disrupt journalism today. It also lists some problems we are still seeing at media companies that put a greater focus on “mobile, too:”
- A responsive design isn’t a mobile strategy.
- Mobile will not only surpass the desktop, but begin to erode it.
- The desktop decline will pressure news revenues.
- News needs to solve problems.
- Technology companies are mobile first and spending like it.
So how does this apply to a young journalist who can’t change the business strategy of your publisher? The good thing is that most of you already have a smartphone and most likely are mobile centric, so the next step is to focus on the various platforms where your content will be published.
As Bergman says, “A study by Flurry in November found that the news category only accounts for 2% of total time spent on mobile apps. Social apps gobble up 26%. Facebook alone accounts for 23% of all time spent with mobile apps, according to Comscore in December. That beats every news organisation’s app combined by a long shot.”
As of just last month, Facebook alone had more than 1.3 billion registered users, with 71% of United States’ Internet users on this popular platform. Even with that reach, Facebook is just one of hundreds of social media platforms. And it is not where your audience may spend all its time.
Younger readers are tending to migrate to Twitter and Instagram, and are very active on Snapchat. If you are trying to reach a female audience, look at Pinterest as the platform to be on.
You should also consider posting routinely on Google+ as a young journalist. While your reach may not be as great there, it is the No. 1 social signal that Google uses in its search algorithms. If you come in at the top of search rankings, you will more likely be considered an authority in your field by ranking higher in the natural rankings of what is relevant to your beat.
One of my passions in the business is the customer experience, which includes interacting with the audience on whatever platform we are reaching them on. Some journalists do a great job in engaging with their audience.
Now that a piece can be published to so many platforms, the commentary from the audience is not as static in nature as it used to be. It is now more dynamic and can be used to help build your personal brand.
Readers love a personal response. While not all of the audience can or even should be responded to, you can create advocates in your area of expertise by responding when it makes sense.
Caution has to be taken to not let this bog you down, but can be effective. This can also be a great way to start a conversation that may lead to even more story ideas.
Journalists have to focus on reaching their audience to continue to allow news organisations to put out great content. Content drives audience which drives revenue — and the three are not mutually exclusive.