Content Isn’t Audience, But You Knew That
When I gave a keynote at the EdNet conference, where I met with many old and new friends in the business of publishing. I ended up in the most interesting conversation with one in particular, a man who was connected to me from years ago when publishing in print was my life. We got to talking about how publishers were facing the need to move from shelves of books to information that moved across the Internet.
He said, “I love books. I love seeing them stand on the shelves. I understand why everyone wants to keep making them. But I also see why we need to move our thoughts and ideas to PDFs.”
First I winced, then I smiled, then I laughed.
“What?” was what he said.
“You’re thinking of the paper web. A PDF is just a digital form of a paper document and almost as much of a pain. It’s not really part of the web. It’s a gated and separate location. I have to leave where I am to click over to where it is, wait for it to load, and then I’m stuck inside it. Switching back and forth takes for ever. It’s like asking me to go to the corner to buy a book.”
“Ah, I suppose I should be saying content.”
“Content on a blog or a website is easier to access. Yep that’s for sure, but content isn’t the end.”
I asked him to tilt his head to consider this question, “How many books sit on library and living room shelves that were chosen with great intentions then never read?”
If your goal is to sell books or to sell content, then keep your eye on them.
That will happen is that you’ll grow your sales and find ways to get more books in peoples hands and more visitors to your content.
But all of the thoughts that writers worried to express and the reams of ideas that could be changing the world may become good piled in the good intentions of book shelves and feed readers — parts of collections that never get read.
The book, the pdf, the website, the content isn’t the destination the audience is.
Know Your Audience as Well As You Know Yourself
An airplane traveling from New York to Chicago is off course 98% of the time. Still it gets there. Why? The pilot is always adjusting with his destination in mind. Do you listen to your best audience and tweak what you do to keep your content in their sweet spot?
The audience is your destination. If you’re writing for yourself, you’ll head in a different direction than if you’re writing for people learning what you know. It may sound obvious, but it’s still worth stating — if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. If you think you’re going everywhere or writing for everyone, you’ll end up nowhere.
Too often authors and bloggers don’t think through who their readers will be. As a result a blog post or a book title gets our attention but doesn’t keep us interested. Don’t write for the fad or the lastest content trend, write for the people who are exploring the idea behind it. Then when they change their direction, you can change yours with them because your relationship is with the audience not with the content.
Have you really thought through who your audience is? Here are some questions to help you do that. Take a shot at answering them all in one sentence.
- Who am I writing for?
- How are they like me and how are they not?
- What do they care about?
- What will get their interest and keep it to the very end?
Write down your audience profile. Revisit it often. Adjust it as your readership grows and you get to know them better.
Use it to guide what you choose to write.
Now that you’ve got a clear destination. Other decisions get a whole lot easier.
Do you look at what you offer from the audience view? How does that work for you?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!