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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - March 2021

A publishers' guide to listening to your audience

In the media industry, we have always had a problem that most newsrooms are fundamentally disconnected from their audiences. The stories that we find to be valuable, and the stories that the public actually needs are very far apart. But more than that, the value that we contribute with our journalism (and therefore also the value of what people feel is worth paying for) is minimal.

This is something we all know, and we have seen this in countless studies over the years.

However, there is a shift happening. Over the past several years, I have seen a definite shift in the way publishers talk about their audiences. It started when publishers hired audience engagement teams. In the beginning this was mostly just about social media, but it has evolved into something much more. Publishers have realized that they can no longer afford to just 'be there', and it isn't enough to 'just do journalism'.

This is a wonderful trend, but it opens up the question, how do you actually listen to your audience? What does that even mean? And if you start to listen to your audience, won't you just end up making cat videos all day?

Well, this is the topic of this 31-page report.

It's about more than just listening

One thing that often makes it difficult to talk about this is that 'listening' implies that you just ask people what they want, and then you just do that.

This, of course, is almost never the case.

I'm reminded of an experience I had a few years ago with a friend of mine. He had just moved into a new home, and one of the very first things he did was to buy a cable TV package.

I asked him why he did that. Why not pick a streaming channel where, every evening, he could just pick whatever he wanted to see on demand?

His answer was simple. He said that, when he got home from work, he just wanted to be able to turn on the TV and then let the TV station decide what was interesting. That way he didn't have to make a choice.

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What is Baekdal?

Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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