Identifying your audience

Two unintentionally related things happened today: theSkimm, an email newsletter that summarizes the day’s news for a young, female audience, raised $6.25 million in financing. And I wrote this piece about the rise of “smart filters” like email newsletters. The main thrust of it was that I think we’ll see more editorial products that not just filter information, but will also do so with a reference point or “voice”/approach intended for an identified and specific audience.

It was interesting to see the feedback about theSkimm — about its voice being grating or flippant. I mostly agree, but I think that’s a great thing because I accept that I’m probably not its core audience. theSkimm is a great editorial product and it’s been successful so far because it identified a very specific audience and serves that audience really well. If you don’t like it, you’re not that core audience.

I think this is what happened initially with Vox’s explainer backlash. Its tone wasn’t right for some of us, but we probably weren’t Vox’s core audience anyway. So I think it’s a good sign when people have strong feelings — hopefully positive — about your product because congrats, you found your audience.

Also, it means that as more organizations realize this, they’ll make a product for you too.

The challenge is, as Mathew Ingram writes, is that the “broader you become, the less valuable you become for each individual reader. It’s like the law of diminishing returns, in a media sense. And so you need more and more readers to stay afloat, let alone to grow.”

Anyway, I have a big report coming out fairly soon (hopefully in the beginning of January) on single-subject news products and I try to address a lot of these questions about audience, etc. in it.

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