Publishers are finding it difficult to prove the value of their audience

Brands might say: “I’m not working with them, the numbers aren’t big enough.”

With the sheer complexity, size and volume of content creators now out there, it’s more crucial than ever to prove value, and more than that, efficiency.

During the first Board conversation, the same discussion kept coming back time and again: what’s better, a higher number of ‘views’ from a mainstream audience, or a smaller number of focused ones?

In order to truly prove the value of niche versus mainstream audiences, you would need to undertake some fairly significant research covering multiple sectors and brands, with multiple publishers involved.

In that setup, getting buy-in from a publisher of a large size to potentially prove that their commercial offering is ineffective, or from a smaller one to prove that their pitch isn’t entirely accurate, is unlikely at best. And even then, it would be hard to arrive at a one-size-fits-all answer.

On a broader sense, Sam Payne, brand strategist at native advertising platform Sharethrough, makes the point that the decision on which is better should be based on two things: the goal of your content, and your audience.

“First, what do you want your content to do? How do you want your audience to interact with it? How do you want your audience to feel? What’s the end goal? If you’re looking for downloads or purchases, with the secondary KPI being brand awareness and engagement, then go for a targeted approach. But if brand awareness is the primary KPI, on top of genuine and useful brand content, a broader approach is more appropriate.”

In terms of the audience aspect, he says to consider how your potential audience behaves online. How do you think they interact with content? What are their passions? It’s too easy to pigeonhole your audiences’ online activity into how your ‘ideal’ consumer would act on the web. Every person acts differently online, and it’s important to realise that audiences have a whole host of different interests that they look at online, and find content that they want to engage with. This is the content discovery journey that brands need to align with.

“If you think about the way you consume content of a morning: you check your emails, browse social media, and read recommen­ded articles from different sources, content destinations or online magazines. Brands need a 360-degree strategy to reach their audiences at each point of their content discovery journey, with a piece of content that’s appropriate for each platform. One size doesn’t fit all. Facebook needs to be shorter form, whereas sponsored content on Forbes can afford to be much more intricate and long form.”

How we can be better at dealing with this

· Push for content objectives, don’t just ‘do’ for the sake of speed.

· Take time to run through the questions outlined above before making a shortlist of partners.

· Shape your audience profile properly, based not just on who they are, but how they think.