The relationship with audience members is very important for media. Media develop content about and for their audience. With the fragile situation in which many media find themselves, this relationship has however become even more important.
One of the main factors that allow a media business to grow (in terms of audience numbers, partnerships with others and revenue) is the extent to which the medium is able to put the audience members (or clients) at the core of everything. Media today do so by constantly analysing: What does the audience need? How is what we give to the audience different from what others are offering? How can we optimise the experience the audience has when engaging with our medium and our content?
To answer these questions, media engage more with their audiences, in addition to gathering data on their audiences through digital metrics or traditional audience research. Especially in contexts in which it is difficult for a medium to get in touch with audience members (because of the safety situation for example), it is important to find ways to gather information about the audience to prevent the media business from steering blindly. Understanding the audience is an important aspect of a media business model.
Audience engagement is about making the communication with the audience a two-way communication, rather than one-way communication. Traditionally, media have been sending information to their audiences. With the digital transformation, media can now also use their audience to obtain reliable information, but also engage with audiences (online) to build more loyal and lasting relationships.
Audience engagement can bring several advantages to a medium (also depending on the type of engagement), including:
- audiences that are involved and committed to the media outlet;
- audiences that are prepared to become a lasting member/subscriber of the media outlet;
- audiences that are supportive in critical times;
- audiences that help form a story;
- audiences that bring ideas for topics and formats;
- audiences that give data.
Audience engagement can be quite time-consuming. A media outlet will need to invest the time of at least one person (partially) to for example reply to comments online. The engagement needs to be sustained over time in order to gain results. Therefore, the main cost of audience engagement is time and patience.
Audience (or Community) Support
Many of the successful media today are able to gather much support from audiences, bringing audience members together as a community. Even though the path towards generating revenue through membership models and donations is a long one – in which building trust with the audience and putting them first is vital – media indicate that the effort is worth it.