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Nine uses its Conversations platform to learn more about its audience communities

By Alana Latham




When it comes to understanding our audiences, Nine’s audience insights team triangulates data by using behavioural analytics, bespoke surveys, and qualitative methods to unpack the what and the why.

But with the onset of COVID-19, the conduct of traditional qualitative methodologies (in-person focus groups, home immersions, and in-depth interviews) were off the table, so our team looked for an online solution to explore how we might better harness the power of conversation to unlock richer insights about our audiences.

The bespoke online communities established by Nine allowed for qualitative research related to its audiences.
The bespoke online communities established by Nine allowed for qualitative research related to its audiences.

The solution

In August 2022, we launched Conversations powered by Idea Xchange.

The platform allows us to set up bespoke online communities for qualitative research related to our publishing brands, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Food,, and The Australian Financial Review.

It’s suitable for our publishing business needs because:

  • It’s a purpose-built platform. Each community is customisable, and has a bespoke activity design and digital interactive tools.
  • It’s agile and flexible. It enables us to respond in real-time to events, with an ability to change and develop activities based on audience responses or evolving business needs.
  • It can be short-term or ongoing. Participants take the lead, have organic conversations, and allow for us to have continuous engagement with them.

The platform is connected to Idea Xchange, Nine’s large-scale research panel, which allows us to recruit participants from a pool of more than 45,000 active members who regularly participate in surveys about our brands, products, and experiences.

With more than 45,000 active members, Nine has a rich pool of audience data that allows it to tweak and develop products.
With more than 45,000 active members, Nine has a rich pool of audience data that allows it to tweak and develop products.

How we do it

When the requirement for a community has been identified, the audience insights team sets up a briefing session with primary stakeholders to identify the key research needs.

We then look to recruit members both via our Idea Xchange panel and our brands’ audience-facing platforms. We make use of on-site intercept surveys, post calls-to-action on our social media pages, and send targeted invitation e-mails to our database. If we are looking for growth audiences (i.e., non-subscribers or hard-to-reach demographics), we liaise with external recruitment partners.

Once we have our participants, we then design various activities for them to complete, depending on the scope and objectives of the research. The tools in the Conversations platform allow us to schedule video blogs, audio uploads, diary entries, pin tasks, card sorts, personal canvases, screen recordings, and much more.

While the community is active, the audience insights team moderates and engages with participants. We then provide updates to stakeholders via a dedicated Slack channel.

This process allows for our editorial, marketing, and product teams to hear from our audiences in a different way: with less structured questions, more interaction, and deeper understanding.

How the Conversations process works.
How the Conversations process works.

The results

In the past 12 months, we have successfully run short-term and continuous communities for Nine’s publishing business. These include the following achievements:

  • The Age Community saw 237 active participants engage over 12 weeks to share their views on what they wanted political parties and candidates to be talking about in the lead up to the 2022 Victorian state election. The community’s responses — when collated with a wide range of feedback gathered through surveys, events, polls, e-mail, and voter vox pops — helped form the basis of Victoria’s Agenda, The Age’s successful audience-centric election coverage project.
  • The Metros Youth Community saw 45 active participants over 12 weeks in a deep dive to better understand the needs and wants of our younger audiences (aged 18- to 34-years-old). Over the 12-week period, we learned more about their reading habits, how they interact with our brands, and where and how this audience spends their time on and off our platforms.
  • The Foodie Community saw 92 active participants engage over 34 weeks to complement a nationally representative survey prior to the Good Food step-in. This community became a place for us to test, trial, and gather feedback on specific product features, content themes, and subscriber-only benefits, such as the new What’s for Dinner newsletter.
  • The Weekly Conversations Community has 561 active participants and has slowly been growing members since launching in August 2022. This weekly community gives our stakeholders a place to check-in and provides a pulse check on broad or topical issues such as cost of living.

What’s next

We are continuing to experiment with our online Conversations communities, including the length and cadence of studies, and the types of activities they include. We regularly check in with both our audiences and stakeholders to see how we can improve the process, and ensure better outcomes for all.

Coming up next month is a short-term community for our Australian Financial Review subscriber audience. We will be inviting participants to complete a 12-day diary study to better understand their habits on-site, in-app, and within their inboxes.

About Alana Latham

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