On audience

I read a great blog entry the other day by Gary Bembridge — I’d not heard of, nor read anything by Gary previously, which only made what he wrote all the more refreshing. The post, titled “Travel blogs, travel bloggers & travel blogging conferences are doomed” covered a range of bases that sorta get tossed around pretty frequently, but there was one section, in which he was talking about what goes on at the conferences, that really leapt out at me.

“I was surprised, especially with my marketing background, that there is limited discussion about what real travellers and everyday people are seeking in the form of information, advice, education and entertainment about travel. There is almost no discussion and no data on what the real target are consuming, enjoying, returning to, valuing and seeking. The focus is on more on what is “in it” for the blogger, so how to do better SEO, how to be a better writer (on assumption that real people are actually looking for that) and how to get tourists boards and brands to want to work with you.”

He’s talking about audience.

A common catchphrase (not just with blogging, but writing for the web in general) is write for the reader not Google, but there seems to be little discussion about who these readers actually are.

Who is our audience? Who is yours?

With online travel, I think generally speaking you can draw a line from left to right.

To the far left you’ve got the real inspirational/naval gazing stuff — for the readers who don’t know if they want to go to Peru, Paris or the Pharmacy. This might be your Sunday supplements, some mag at the hair salon or generic travel bloggers.

As you move to the centre, the readership becomes more specific and they might be interested in a diving supplement, an adventure travel magazine or a more specialised travel blogger — say one aimed at travelling with kids.

Further to the right again, they’re really narrowing down — picking up a destination specific magazine, reading a trip planning website or browsing a destination specific travel blog.

At the far right you’re got the transactional websites — be they flights, accommodation, tours and so on, where the reader has a pretty firm idea of what they want to do and has a credit card in their hand.

At each of these stages, the reader (be it on- or offline) is looking for inspiration, followed by more information, pretty much makes a decision and then finally wants someone to pay to make it happen.

So I return to my question who is our audience?

Is it what Google Analytics tells us? British, Australian and American, obsessed with weather, islands and where to score drugs in Cambodia?

Or is it what Facebook tells us? Thai, Indonesian and Australian fascinated with noodle soup and sunset pics.

Is it the blog traffic? More disasters involving copious amounts of water please.

The newsletter perhaps? Brits and Yanks love a sexy title.

The forum? Expats and regular returnee travellers to the region.

Hotel bookings? Surprisingly flashpacker to midrange, heavily Australian.

Appsales? Australians, Americans, French and Germans.

There’s a certain amount you can infer from each of the above to try to better cater to the readers, and I guess it isn’t too difficult to double down on the material that people find the most interesting.

Or think about it another way. Who do you want your audience to be and where on the inspiration to transaction line do you want to be? If you’re trying to make a business out of this, you want to be as far to the right as you can.

This brings me back to Gary’s quote back up top.

Who are you writing for and more importantly, what do they want?