The most essential component of any marketing campaign, being traditional or digital, is of course the audience. First, because the audience is your client and the target group you intend to convince to buy your product or follow your work. But the audience is not simply your client. As media outlet operating in a complex reality, you have understood by now that audience is in fact audiences, so multiple audiences that can in fact be your supporting communities at local level. You can engage your local audiences by co-production of media content on local issues of concern. For instance, audiences report on environmental issues, local infrastructure, social services and other daily issues. In these cases, audiences are your partners and contribute to enriching your media content. Third, audiences are the public at large even outside of your local community that might find an interest in what you do if you provide attractive, authentic and quality content in a variety of forms. For instance, TV Apollon has a very rich archive of Albanian folk music for the past three decades and broadcasts regularly such music. It has attracted so large publics outside of their local audiences in the regions of Fieri and Vlora.
As soon as local media in Albania recognise and embrace this basic principle about the role of audiences, this will be better for their sustainability and performance.
It is also essential to think about the formats to be used for targeting audiences.
So, you have to ask yourself: What type of media format does your audience want?
For instance, younger audiences require more innovative formats, and you might want to consider for your website including GIFs, infographics, illustrations, live updates and annotated timelines. Also, channels differ depending on audiences’ preferences and demographics. Younger generation prefer to get information from your website and social media, whereas retired persons are still in the habit of watching the evening news section and your evening talk show. For instance, TV Apollon has been traditionally a local TV station targeting local communities, with the majority of their audiences from rural areas and in the group age 40-65 years old. Now they have a digital presence with an interactive webpage and social media profile. They find that they need to adapt their content to audiences by thinking about formats and channels and accounting for the differences of media production for television and for the digital space. On the contrary, DurresLajm is an online media portal and it has produced content only for the digital space but based on audience research, they find that they need to engage more in audio-visual materials and consolidating their video production.
Let’s start targeting
Digital tools provide a unique opportunity for audience targeting for local media.
By audience targeting we should understand the practice of using data to segment audiences by characteristics, demographics, or interests with the aim to find the right combination: personas, time, message.
Let’s start with geographic targeting. Traditionally, news outlets tend to cover stories where reporters can get quickly and easily (because of costs) and their followers should be located predominantly in populations that are closer to them. So, the size of a population at a particular place should influence how media cover events originating in that area and local community.
What about socio-economic targeting? This is about the socioeconomic profile of the local area that media covers. For instance, TV Apollon has a long running agricultural programme in line with the interest of its audiences from rural areas in south of Albania. However, by trying to attract also more advertising, they have had to also shift towards soft media content such as lifestyle, sports and fashion too. Another example is DurresLajm adapting the content with information that aligns with interest of tourism season as it is a seaside town, and its audiences are affected directly or indirectly by the touristic activity.
Currently, technology is omnipresent, and it has given citizens increased choices and control over media content, platforms, and ways in which they can engage. At the same time, media outlets are given increased choice to choose among formats, channels, tools they use in order to maximize dissemination, target specific public and generate engagement of their audiences. On the other side, citizens also have a choice to use different tools and filter the information to fit their needs and preferences. So, this is an ongoing process of analysis, creativity, change and adaptation.
For instance, Business Magazine is the first digital magazine, with original content oriented in the field of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It has a specific audience targeting and customised content and formats to fit the needs and preferences of entrepreneurs, start-ups, business and innovation students, experts and investors.
Local media can capitalise on this opportunity by targeting their audiences in an effective way through the five “A”s of digital transformation, thus being mindful and respectful of their audiences by considering their characteristic, their needs and demands.
How to become a ‘Five A’ star?
For local media, traditionally, geographical audience targeting seems mandatory as their audiences were located predominantly in areas closer to media itself, and the size and characteristic of that population at a particular place influenced how local media produced content and covered events in that area. With digitalisation, geographical audience targeting is not that relevant anymore. Local media are of course targeting local audiences, but also audiences in other places that connect to this media through digital platforms, online social media and other channels. Think for example of the online portal DurresLajm.com, it covers primarily events from the region of Durres in Albania, but its followers include as well Albanian diaspora in different corners of the world. As such, audience targeting for DurresLajm is not simply about citizens working and living in the region of Durres, it is much broader. To understand how broader, local media need to work with data.
To understand audiences and communities, local media need to work with data, collect and analyse data. Digital tools now allow to do this in an easy way, providing insights about media’s performance on various digital platforms. This can then feed into the targeting audience and engagement strategy. For instance, the ‘Media for all’ project is supporting DurresLajm, CitizenChannel and SarandaWeb in Albania with Smart Octo / Content Insight tool. This analytical tool about the digital presence of these media outlets will support them to improve their knowledge about audiences and build more strategic approach and targeting. Focused on stories and being data-driven is essential to connect with audiences.
However, data cannot help unless media have a clear goal in mind, a clear message and the right timing. This is not a one-off process. Audience targeting has to be refined regularly because interest and demands change and also media’s content needs to change. Casting a wide net to attract audiences does not work, instead local media need to refine and target their audience clearly by using digital tools.
Media can use Google Ads or Facebook custom audiences and retargeting to do market intelligence for your audiences. For those media that also use LinkedIn there are also interesting options available with search engine marketing. Also, through open source you can add ChatBox to your presence online and this can reinforce links to audiences.
Building the brand
For instance, Amfora is an online media dedicated to archaeology and cultural monuments in Albania, with a focus on the city of Durres. It has built up its brand by engaging with local stakeholders such as municipality, university, civil society, local public authorities and donors to raise awareness on issues of archaeology and cultural monuments. It has also built up its brand by connecting to needs of local communities for instance investigating the impact of earthquake of November 2019 into the archaeology and cultural monuments in the region of Durres. Amfora also connects very well with mainstream national media. Their local stories are original and based on proper research and are then picked up by national media providing them more exposure and impact.
Another interesting approach is by working with local influencers offline and online. Think of the local influencers for instance in the town, who is a local hero, someone people respect and follow and start to build a working relationship to promote your media outlet. You can set up a database of local influencers who have respect among your audiences and plan content with these influencers in mind and then reach out for comments, quotes, and value-add input in varying forms in the online social media. Look also for local sponsorship to support you work and to target your audiences.
Considering that technologies are rapidly changing, and digital transformation is advancing fast in post-COVID-19 induced reality, it’s important for local media to keep looking forward to finding new strategies, training staff, engaging experts or finding alternative ways to audience targeting.
Always keep in mind ethics and code of conduct. Remember that audiences can tell if a story is not authentic or relevant to them. They might click once, but then they will not follow nor consume your content again. So, be mindful of audiences and respect them by finding a right balance between offering value to audiences and searching for engagements.