As a lifelong story teller, I get it. It's about the audience. When you tell a story, if nobody is listening, your story really doesn't matter. Been there, done that.
I've been thinking for a while about that. And, in many ways even though I've been conscious of the audience issue, it's alluded me and by extension the media organizations, I've worked for.
Sure, some of those organizations have enjoyed tremendous success in their niche, but that could be in large part because of the perceived utility their medium has served rather than creating any actual value or benefit.
Up until recently, my career has focused around that little box in your car that has all those knobs and buttons, that helps transmit sound waves from a studio to the speakers in your vehicle. I loved the music it played, or the conversations it brought me into. I grew up my entire life wanting in on that magic, mesmerized by the power of radio, and it's ability to speak to me directly. I didn't initially know the words to the songs, or the topics being discussed, but on a very visceral level, I was sure I wanted to work in radio. I connected in a very personal and meaningful way to radio, and knew that it was going to play a huge part in my life.
There are all kinds of things that went into the pot when thinking about that specific connection I had with radio. There is for example how I listened to the radio, mostly with my dad in his car, as he drove me around town as a salesmen. For me, from an early age, radio meant connecting with my family. Or maybe it was the lyrics, musicianship and voices contained in the songs we listened to. I liked them a lot and still remember most of the words to them because the described fun, real life scenarios that took me away from being a student at a school I didn't belong in. And then too are all the stats and information I heard by sportscasters who I adored and later worked with, who painted precise pictures with their words of games, teams and athletes I idolized. No matter the exact scenario, the point is, I was part of an audience, even though I didn't fit into the demographic or psychographic construct of this or that radio station. I was deeply engaged with the content so much so, that it guided my career path. Now that's a connection!
When I started working for radio stations in the late 90s (dreams do come true), my whole construct of what an audience represented changed for me in an explosive way. I learnt very quickly that the audience wasn't about the little kid who wanted to work in radio, or frankly his father who sang to him as they drove around town, but instead it was about creating content for a specific target audience the station represented. You know, men, 25-54 with a blue collar household income that had 1.5 kids and a job they hated. If you think that gap in audience is too vague, imagine my despair when on a dime, a consultant would come in and attempt to focus programming around adults more generally, in order to gain a larger slice of the total audience pie and make our station more attractive to women. We (myself included) became just another number to radio stations and by extension advertisers. I should say that this phenomena isn't isolated to radio, we're all still just numbers to advertisers who chose television, print or even the web to get their message to us. That's fine, I get it, but in all of it, I think they missed the point then, and in most cases still do today.
Audiences, are not exclusively part of one demographic or psychographic profile. How can they be? How can marketers and indeed the media consciously lump 25-year-old men and 49-year-old men in the same category? The truth is, they can't. Both have completely different lifestyles, and offer different things to those same marketers and media types.
What if though, there was a more compelling way to target a message?
What if you had a story and could ensure it resonated with an audience no matter what their demographic. I know, I just blew your mind, and shifted the paradigm with that idea. I'm of the belief that you can, and that good marketers do it all the time. Some consciously others by accident.
The truth is, masters of their craft, great story tellers in any medium, know how to tell their story so it attracts an audience not so it suits a particular demographic.
They key, is asking if the content resonate with its intended target. Successful content does it in spite of demographics.
Let me give you an example. My daughter who is not part of the same demographic profile as I am, enjoys reading baseball articles from Sportsnet.ca. She gets as much from those articles as I do. You know why? Cause she is very well versed in all things baseball, and has a grasp on the content, well beyond her years. I bet if she had social media accounts, she'd share some of those stories with her friends. She is passionate about baseball and her Toronto Blue Jays, and while she's not in Sportsnet's target demo, their content resonates with her. They successfully tap into her sophistication level on the topic and connect with her on an emotional level. She's their audience, and that's my point.
The media and marketers would benefit as much (if not more) targeting audiences based on sophistication and passion as they do agonizing over wide swaths of demographics.
Don't believe me? Think about your favourite blogs or content. Do the articles you share and rave about resonate with you because you are of a certain demographic or because you connect with the content on a visceral level. When the media and marketers don't lump you into some homogeneous group, but instead focus on their fans, and their sophistication level, they are more successful. When we actually understand and enjoy what we are reading we are more apt to tell others. It's the truth.
I'd love to hear about your favourite authors, blogs or stories, and please tell me why they are your favourite.