How big is the optimal publishing audience? Too much vs. too little?

“How big is the optimal publishing audience? Too much vs. too little?”

A marketer from Capital One asked, “How big is the optimal publishing audience? Too much vs. too little?” It’s one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions on content marketing.

To answer this question takes a judgment call. As you make this call for your brand, here’s what to consider.

Balance audience size and engagement

The audience size only tells part of the story. Marketers who build a smaller, highly engaged audience can outperform those who focus on a bigger but less engaged audience.

So don’t be blinded by audience size alone – consider the level of engagement.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. It can’t be done.

To maximize engagement, find a niche where you can serve up the very best content on a topic of interest to your audience.

How to find your niche?

To start, get to know your audience better than competitors do. Here’s how.

Perform buyer persona research to learn buyers’ information habits, topics of interest, questions, and obstacles to overcome. Here’s a step-by-step process to perform your own buyer persona research.

Next, perform a competitive content audit to find the white spaces where you can build a content base. Here’s how to do a competitive content audit.

As you or your agency perform the content audit, ask:

  • Which topics can you cover better than others? Better means: more thorough than others, simpler to understand, shorter and easier to digest, or more authoritative.
  • Can you bring a unique viewpoint? Does your founder or CEO bring a unique point of view as Sir Richard Branson does at Virgin, or Elon Musk does at Tesla?
  • Are there experts with recognized names you can recruit to create content?
  • What is the one kind of content that will stand out and tower over the competitors in your market? The most important job you can do is build your content base.

A content base consists of one kind of content, in one medium, published consistently over time – specifically to build your audience. Examples: the Red Bulletin and the Michelin Guide.

CMI Content Marketing Base
Do one type of content brilliantly. Focus on building a content base, then grow your audience.

Andy Crestodina observes in his blog that marketers generally build two types of content bases – publications based on news, or libraries of evergreen information.

Don’t veer back and forth between these types. Get clear up front about which type of content base your brand is building.

Build or buy an audience?

As you build a solid content base, it takes time – years – to build your audience of subscribers. Once built, your unique audience is incredibly valuable.

Why? Because they’ve given you permission to send them magazines, blogs and email newsletters. Because they’ve gotten to know and trust your brand as a resource.

If you don’t have the time or patience to build your own audience, consider the option of buying rather than building from scratch.

That’s why companies such as Arrow Electronics bought magazines and websites that already reached a big audience of relevant subscribers. They took a shortcut to audience-building.

It’s tough to build audience 

Audiences tend to flatten out over time, notes Mark Schaefer in his blog on growing a social media community. He says that even companies who add 20 followers a day may not see growth in their overall audience.

Why? Churn. Adding 20 new people today is great, but if 20 others leave, your net audience stays the same size.

This issue of audience churn affects any company that produces content. 

Today, we need to take into account that the coronavirus crisis is making search traffic more volatile. It’s a busy time for websites that sell essentials, for health and wellness sites, and for recipe sites. But restaurants, travel and events are hurting.

This is one of marketers’ Top 100 Questions about content marketing. Here are the answers.

“How big is the optimal publishing audience? Too much vs too little?” is one of marketers Top 100 Questions on content marketing. Here are the answers.