Know your audience

This year´s slogan of the Media Innovation Day was “Be unique! How focus and identity make media successful”. The media event was curated by Anita Zielina and Klaus Weinmaier.


By Alison Langley


Last year, participants of Media Innovation Day were encouraged to keep trying stuff. This year, they were given tips on how: Differentiate your content, create a loyal audience and write stories relevant to them, was the message of the day.

For Anita Zielina, we can’t be innovating fast enough. Simply optimizing for Google searches is no longer effective. And, by the way, our competition isn’t the news organization down the street, but around the world. Websites are pulling content from agencies to combat shrinking media budgets, warned the editor in chief for digital products at Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). And then there is the de-coupling of stories from their websites.

To be read, journalists need to stand out from the crowd; find a niche; be unique. It sounds like a cliché, but what that means, is to know who your audience is, speakers said.

For Hansi Voigt, founder of Switzerland’s, the answer is relatively easy: young, educated Swiss millennials. Watson was able to build a strong and loyal readership because the content is trustworthy. The site keeps the audience by remaining relevant to their interest.

Watson also understands how millennials view habits and tailors articles to match their tastes: The next generation wants interesting and provoking stories, but in an easy-to-read format. Readers are comfortable with a web-only platform, so Voigt feels free to try new ways to tell stories.

One example: Watson exposed the progression of how a tabloid sensationalized an attack by an asylum seeker via short slides. Ten years ago, a newspaper would have written a long essay. Another: The website deconstructed a viral letter, pointing out its factual flaws via text bubbles.

By always keeping in mind his readers, Voigt, whose website relies heavily on classic advertising, knows the importance of Facebook, Google and Apple to keep enticing readers to his site. The big three, he says, are the Internet for millennials. Hence, Watson editors are looking with interest at Facebook’s Instant Article and worrying about Apple’s ad blocker.

AJ+, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a website. It posts its videos directly on Facebook.

In the future young people won’t leave social media to consume news elsewhere, says Alfred Zachary, AJ+ Engagement Producer.

That means the Al Jazeera affiliate competes with cat videos for viewer attention, so stories must be intelligent and provocative but fast and easy to watch. AJ+ tends to start videos with dramatic or eye-catching footage.

Like Watson, AJ+ are very clear about their audience; in this case, they are Millennials around the world. Because not all their viewers use English as a first language, AJ+ videos are text heavy. Occasionally they post longer texts to

Because it has a strong brand, the Wall Street Journal’s challenge is how to keep its newspaper readers while still attract a younger audience online. Reader expectation ties the Journal’s hands a bit, says Raju Narisetti, senior vice president and deputy head of strategy for News Corp. They have solved the problem by adding 30 pages of print and creating separate channels online that offer content appealing to each demographic.

Narisetti targets social media use to fit the audience. The goal ultimately is to get people to core product, he reminds the audience. Wall Street Journal’s newspaper wouldn’t use Snapchat because the story wouldn’t appeal to a younger audience. The brand re-packages content to different products to add profitability.

Key, says Annie Fox of Chartbeat, is to continually analyze and evaluate traffic so that you can keep up with trends and tailor your stories. Visitors who spend 3 minutes or more on your site are twice as likely to return., the online version of the famous German weekly, uses analytics to understand what readers want. They are constantly challenging themselves: what is the coolest thing we can do? The answer? Stay tuned, says editor Jochen Wegner. A new innovative product from Die Zeit is coming soon.

Watch MID15 Fotos here >>> Credit: Walter Henisch

Identity Matrix >>> Credit: Klaus Weinmaier, Anita Zielina

Identity Matrix explanation >>> Credit: Klaus Weinmaier, Anita Zielina

Read also: Das war der Media Innovation Day 2015 (in German)


press review: „Watson will in Österreich Fuß fassen“ Jochen Wegner „Klarnamen im Netz sind ohnehin eine Illusion“ Raju Narisetti „Wir sollten nicht für Facebook arbeiten“ Edition F: „Auf der Suche nach Leserinnen im Netz

Ö1: Tanja Malle im Gespräch mit Annie Fox, Chartbeat: „Wie Medien die Echtzeitanalyse von Websites nutzen

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