Go to Your Audience

Launching a social change campaign, promoting a documentary film or mobile app, or seeking readers for your new book, you need to be wherever your audience is.  You must go to them. The New York Times found this out the hard way in the last year with the launch of their mobile app NYTNow.  They were targeting younger readers, charging $8 per month for a slimmed down version of the newspaper, and hoping to attract 200,000 new subscribers to use their mobile app.  Even with huge outreach, only 20,000 signed up. So now the app is free.

More and more, audiences want content to come to them, not even log onto an app or go to a website. Getting an article or link on the home page of a major website used to be huge deal, but not anymore. These days, most of us access news through social media on mobile devices. Articles and commentary show up in our news feeds.

A July 2015 study from the Pew Research Center reported that more than half of all Facebook and Twitter users get news on these sites, a significant increase in the last two years. And it’s not just those stereotypical teens or millennials, Pew says. Users of all genders, ages, races, demographics, education levels, and household incomes reported they increasingly got their news on Facebook in 2015 compared to 2013, even as usage of these sites has remained pretty steady overall, according to Pew.

From a Wall Street Journal story: “We need to be wherever readers are, regardless of the platform,” said Kinsey Wilson, the New York Times’ editor for innovation and strategy, echoing sentiments often heard from executives at digital startups like BuzzFeed and Vox Media. “We consider this to be a series of experiments to figure out what our audience wants and how best to make them paying customers. This is very different from going only after eyeballs and clicks. You have to deliver value and you have to help people navigate in a world where they are overwhelmed with information,” Mr. Wilson said. “With that, we believe the economics will follow.”

A recent example. A client asked me, "How do I get my book covered in Time Magazine?"  Years back, getting a story or even a mention in Time was a big deal. It was prestigious, millions of people saw it. Now, an article in the actual print version borders on irrelevant. Those articles are not available on line, blocked by a paywall. If you are not subscriber, you can't see it. If you are a subscriber, you can access articles on line, but you can't effectively share it since only subscribers can see what you posted. A few million people still receive the magazine, but I wonder how many people actually open it. As a book author, you are much better off getting your book discussed on time.com, than in the magazine, since that site continues to attract millions of people but much more importantly, content shows up on google and social media from the site.   

So the outreach game is increasing less about driving traffic to your website or sending out email blasts - and much more about content creation / curation and spreading the word through social media, more and more accessed on smartphones.