Reaching new audiences

News organizations are always seeking to reach new and larger audiences, including reaching people who, up until this point, have shown little interest in the content. 

Audience acquisition on the web is a massive industry. Search engine optimization remains important in capturing more traffic from search. Paid acquisition also makes sense for news organizations in well-defined markets that understand the lifetime value of a subscriber. 

What journalism organizations have, which other industries on the web crave, is lots of great, sticky content. But as it turns out, there’s a lot more to attracting new audiences than continuing to publish content you think people should like. It isn’t enough to believe, you have to do the work up front to meet with, listen and learn about their real information needs first. 

Before you can reach people, you first need to do everything you can to find out as much about them as possible, including where they currently get their news and information, both from traditional and non-traditional sources. 

We recommend starting by crafting user personae for each type of individual that you want to reach. Personae help memorialize and share a collective understanding and underlying assumptions about each target type. These are updated and refined over time based on interactions with real representatives of each group.

The next step is to go out into the wild, engaging with your future audience members and customers where they are today in the real world, when possible, and on other websites, apps and social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp or even YouTube. Sites of competitors are always a good place to start. Think also about identifying and working with and through community groups and civic organizations whose membership includes people you are trying to reach.

Journalists already know how to research, identify, reach-out and engage with people and organizations. The only difference here is that in addition to listening and collecting information to get a story, you are seeking to discover and then meet the information needs of people you are beginning to reach.

This process in large news organizations is typically supported by a technology stack of separate but interrelated services, but you can also start very small with social media outreach, landing pages, online forms, video chats and spreadsheets to engage with, track and convert newly acquired readers and viewers. 

The messaging, frequency and type of communications that are most effective in uncovering and converting new audience members varies greatly from market to market. It often requires iterations and tests before you get it right. But it’s safe to say that people react more favorably when the reason you are reaching out is to help them, not just you