Where journalism and marketing converge, that's the niche where you'll find the audience development specialist. Staying on top of the latest trends is not a new idea, but it is one that's challenging to get right. And that's where this job shines.
It seems that technology and trends change almost daily. What was exciting and new a year ago might be standard today, or it might have faded away. So how do some digital publications always seem to get it right while others bring up the rear? They make a point to always be learning.
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With a specialist on board, you've got someone, or a team of someones, whose sole purpose is to keep you moving forward. They're not writing copy, and they're not necessarily marketing it. What they are doing is helping you become better all the way around.
Audience Development Specialists Have a Unique Skill Set
The job of the audience development specialist, or the czar or czarina, isn't the creation of stories. His or her job is to understand which content the audience wants and how they want to find it, and helping that information become integrated into every publishing process.
These folks have their finger on the pulse of digital publishing. They know what the competition is doing, and how well it's working. And according to Digiday, they share that information cross-departmentally to influence both copy creation and marketing strategies.
The audience development specialist is a wellspring of information, all of which is found by active participation. They observe, but they also participate in the development of mobile strategies, in social media, and with comment moderation. If it's in the digital world, they know about it and are part of it.
Reaching the Audience Means Engaging Them
The ever-changing face of journalism is being driven not by the newsroom, nor by the marketing department. It's readers who dictate where the focus should be. They're no longer a captive audience, and they have plenty of other options.
Most readers don't hit the home page first, maybe not ever. In fact, Digiday says The New York Times realized that while they have been focused on pushing the traditional home page-centric model, most of their readers never see the home page at all.
Nowadays, publishing is more like a house party where people enter night and day, in every way imaginable except through the front door. And it's the audience development specialist's job to ensure they're greeted and shown exactly what they want.
You Need to Fill This Niche
Time was, journalists crafted copy, and the marketing department worked to ensure the copy was visible. Now, the line between those two jobs is more important but also hazy.
You can expect SEO and some social media skills from writers, and you can also expect a bit of editorial skill from marketers. But with a specialist dead center between the two, you've got someone whose job it is to bridge that gap.
With a specialist or team of specialists on board, you'll know when something amazing is happening, and be primed to capitalize on it. Think about the ALS ice bucket challenge. Who knew something that started so small would become a phenomenon? You can bet the publications with an audience development specialist on board knew.
Newspaper and website publishers share a common goal: To attract the right audience in the right place at the right time, and to give them a reason to come back. The audience development specialist is making that happen by staying involved.
They're your eyes and ears at a time when it's more difficult than ever to know what people want and how to give it to them.
The newsroom will always focus on copy, and marketing will always focus on spreading the word. And you can expect both teams to have a working knowledge of digital publishing, since that's the new face of business.
But with an audience development specialist, you've got something more. Instead of wondering about what works, you'll know. And when that knowledge is part of everyday operation, your publication is ahead of the curve.