Up close & personal

James Evelegh's editorial from today’s edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

Up close & personal

How well do you know your audience? I mean really know them.

The better you know them, the better your marketing, was the central message of a fascinating talk at the PPA Customer Direct conference, by The Economist’s Mark Beard, entitled ‘Properly define your audience and unleash the full power of your marketing machine’.

The Economist’s audience definition project was prompted by the realisation that ad revenues were in long term decline and that reader revenues had to grow to fill the gap. They had to invest heavily in reader marketing and to justify the increased budget, Mark had to demonstrate to the board a more in-depth definition of their target audience than ABC1, male, 45-65, income over £100k.

Mark and his team collected all the data they could find on their readers and worked it hard, ultimately coming up with six attitude statements that summed up typical Economist readers. These included the obvious (‘interested in political and business news from trustworthy sources’) and surprising (‘have an interest in art and want to be educated about it’). Backing up these statements were a number of detailed qualifying statements and descriptions.

Phase 2 of the project involved inviting agencies to find people who matched the new criteria. The results were electrifying: a prospect pool of 32m US and 4m UK people was identified (current subscriber base = 1m) and promotional campaigns were put together using brands they would never have previously considered, like the ‘Jonathan Ross I Like Film’ podcast. The greater understanding of their audience’s characteristics and interests allowed The Economist to be much more imaginative in how they went about communicating with them.

Reader revenue is growing at a healthy rate and now forms 60% of total revenue. In-depth reader knowledge allied to actionable insights are the key to this growth.