The Four Cs to Building a Digital Audience

Paul Herron Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hooks are used to hang a coat in the winter, catch a fish in the summer, or dock a boat in the fall. But, for digital media organizations today, one definition of a hook is how a reader relates to the words on your websites. So, how can you harness the value exchange? Your audience defines you, but without them, how can you become a desired destination?

When devising a plan to grow your media website’s profile and audience, the Four Cs is a great place to build your framework from:


Ferries Buller educated the world years ago that “life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris must’ve had a crystal ball into the future of content marketing today, which is faster than the 1980s had ever been. Today’s data tells us stories about how your content is performing and if the value exchange actually has value. Like it or not, fake news has broken bread at the table and challenged those in digital media to rethink the content you are publishing.

‘Targeting an audience’ sounds like a chore. Instead, shift your thinking to who in your audience you can help. You may have to accept a smaller margin of profit now to invest in the content quality that digital audiences demand – but, in the end, your audience will value the content you deliver and make you a mainstay bookmark.


Consuming media through social networks rather than coming directly to your site has allowed readers to conveniently get what they need, which has left many media organizations grappling with what it all means for their business. Maintain your relationships with your social media partners, but take the power back.

“Here’s what you need to know” is the first sentence for over a million people read every day when they receive a snapshot briefing of what is happening at The New York Times. A teaser mix of bold headlines and photos delivers an iceberg of coverage, but can be a challenge; make worth the work to have your readers open articles they may have never seen. If you don’t have an app, put those collected emails to use and deliver a briefing that offers a convenient way to click through to your site.


Encouraging your audience to contribute to your site will foster more engagement and thus more loyalty over time. User-generated content (UGC) can convert your occasional visitors into brand loyalists, and ultimately transform your website into a trusted destination.

Make your audience part of the media by allowing editors to deploy tools that engage with the audience directly. Your audience can produce hands-on UGC  that many times, your organization cannot on quite the same level. For instance, you can create a Rotten Tomatoes-style platform for any type of vertical, allowing your audience to become participating critics. This way, not only will they want to engage with your website; they will engage with other readers in your community.


What does your digital audience care about? Tell stories that connect with your audience in a human or personal way. With people increasingly making buying decisions driven by feelings rather than logic, ‘purpose content’ creates meaningful relationships with audiences which resonate much deeper than the loyalty marketing of years past. Aspirational stories tap into your audience’s dreams and/or desires to reach a lofty goal or live a lifestyle they long for. Whether it’s to be financially secure, hit the open road with no attachments or send their child to a school anywhere in the world, marketers need to consider the hope, need and desire their audiences care about; harness how that connection can help build a story that brings a dream to real life.

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: are you offering your audience content that resonates; is convenient to consume; offers a community-building platform; and is developed with a cause?