Monday, October 01, 2007

shifting audience sands

Does your audience seem scattered, like grains of sand on the beach? Is your message searching for a bottle with a GPS system? You're not the only one, and the shifting sands of modern audiences are prompting new approaches in two of the most traditional media: big newspapers and national opinion polls. In "Why Big Newspapers Applaud Some Declines in Circulation," today's New York Times notes that many newspapers are limiting their delivery zones and stopping ads, calls and other promotions designed to recruit new subscribers. Why don't they want you?
Most of the customers recruited with promotions and cold calls drop their subscriptions when the discount expires, so the cost of pursuing them and putting the news on their doorsteps can exceed what they pay for the paper. And despite falling ad sales, most American papers still make more money from ads than from circulation.
And advertisers haven't been shy in letting the papers know they'd prefer a more targeted, loyal audience.

In opinion polling, NPR notes that the trend toward replacing land-line phones with cellphones only could mean that major opinion polls are missing a key demographic: young people. By the 2008 election, cell-phone-only voters are estimated at 15 percent, which could skew exit polls--and less political surveys as well. Add to that more mundane issues: Calling interviewees on cell phones leads to a higher refusal rate, as they could be driving, dating or otherwise occupied -- and because of federal laws against automated dialing to cell numbers, they're more expensive to reach for a poll. In the story, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg says:
"In the long run, most pollsters and campaigns are going to have to figure out how to reach younger people," Greenberg says. "Because as they age and become a bigger and bigger part of the election, their technological communication habits are different from older votes. And we are going to have to completely rethink our technology for communicating with them."
Both trends mark a shift in measurement that communicators need to watch over the next several months. Will you change which newspapers you target for media relations based on their new demographics? And how will you measure attitudes and opinions in youth audiences effectively, despite cellphones? (Think blogs, online surveys and Facebook.) In either case, remember that when you report results, you need to know the policies of the polls and papers you're citing.

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