Understanding Your Audience: The Generalizations and The Nuances
Let's start off with a quiz called, "Identify the Audience." The concept is simple, read over the following list of demographics that all describe one particular group of the US population and offer your best guess. See if you are correct by checking your answers below.
- ____% have a college degree and about ____% hold graduate degrees
- ____-third(s) of this group have an online profile on sites like Facebook and Twitter
- More than a _____ of the group own a smartphone
- ____% have downloaded a podcast
- More than ____% text on a weekly basis or more
- ____% listen to streaming audio at least weekly
Answers to quiz:
- 80% have a college degree and about 50% hold graduate degrees
- Two-thirds of this group have an online profile on sites like Facebook and Twitter
- More than a third of the group own a smartphone
- 60% have downloaded a podcast
- More than 40% text on a weekly basis or more
- 40% listen to streaming audio at least weekly
Did you guess correctly? The group characterized by all these demographics are public radio listeners.
Sometimes it is surprising for people to find out that public radio listeners are very tech savvy and embrace new technology. But when you really think about it are these findings surprising? No, not really. For example, as the cost of technology drops and those devices become more widely used, public radio listeners are just as likely as any group to increase usage.
This little quiz serves as a reminder for researchers and consumer product developers to make sure they understand at least basic information about the audience before starting any project or study. For example, if you focused all of your questions on broadcast radio usage, you could be missing a huge part of your audiences' behavior. They may be streaming their radio listening because it's more convenient so products designed for that behavior are crucial for innovation.
The more you know the better prepared you are for changes. Again, looking at radio, 6% of the public radio listeners own an HD Radio, 13% own a Satellite Radio, 10% own an eReader, and 6% own an iPad. This suggests to us that we need to further investigate expanding distribution of NPR content to include these devices. If we don't, we might be losing a very key component of our existing audience. (Don't worry, we are expanding to digital platforms.)
The take home message here is: just because your audience is described in one way doesn't mean that each individual or subset of that group is all alike...or even that you can always generalize their behaviors. Exploring the nuances is just as important.
Scott Vanderbilt is the Research Manager for Digital Media and Emerging Platforms.