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An ever closer union

How close are you to your readers / users / viewers / listeners (delete as appropriate)? Ideally, it should be very.

By James Evelegh

An ever closer union

Do you keep them at arm’s length or are you so close, you can see the whites of their eyes?

It’s the latter group that appears to be winning. Success in publishing is increasingly being measured by proximity to audience.

This is a recurring theme through many of the articles in the March / April issue of InPublishing magazine.

Rory Brown writes, “the closer you can get to your end-user audience the better. The best business information companies are fully integrated into, and seen as being part of, the industries they serve.”

67 Bricks’ Will Bailey and Jennifer Schivas agree that for information companies, being embedded into a customer’s workflow is an incredibly strong place to be. It’s the holy grail.

This closeness allows you to charge a premium for the information you provide, helps ensure your product is continually refined through user feedback and testing and effectively creates high barriers to entry for would-be competitors.

Once the relationship has been established, the publisher must be proactive in maintaining that closeness and being highly responsive to meeting evolving customer needs.

Consumer media companies are similarly trying to get as close as possible to their users. According to Jessica Norell Neeson, BBC Good Food currently has the highest volume of paying subscribers since 2012.

This is testament to the efforts they have made to “meet the audience wherever they are, understanding behavioural drivers and tailoring our content to resonate across a diverse range of platforms.”

As Jessica explains, “publishers need to adapt by building strong relationships with their audiences with tailored, relevant content to deliver brand loyalty.”

This requires a greater focus on research. As Reneé Doegar notes, “companies often talk about ‘customer focus’ without actually doing any research. It’s all too easy to make a lot of subjective internal decisions.”

At London Review of Books, she says, they “hired a head of audience last year, and we are seeing the benefits of running more surveys and getting more information from our print and digital channels.”

At Hearst UK, this closeness is manifested in their development of membership propositions for those of their brands where audiences are seeking a deeper and more meaningful relationship. Hence the creation of the Women’s Health Collective and the Men’s Health Squad. In both these cases, the publisher is making determined efforts to “better understand customer values” so they can “provide richer content they can charge a premium price for”.

This desire to better know your audience applies to all aspects of publishing. As Richard Reeves notes, when it comes to preparing themselves for cookie deprecation, “building better first-party data funnels and gaining a 360-degree view of audiences are the top two priorities,” for publishers.

Publishing nowadays is no place for the standoffish, close engagement with your audience is what will bring you success.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.