Know Your Market, Know Your Reader, When Writing An Article

Posted at 22:20pm on 20th May 2009

Part 3 of 6 in a Series on Article Writing

Whatever you read about the secrets of article writing, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll be given will be to Know Your Market. In blogging terms that means knowing your Brand – as I alluded to in a previous post (see below). But it’s amazing how often this is overlooked by those hoping for publication. Last week we looked at this crucial element of writing, by seeing what it means from the viewpoint of knowing what personal experience, specialist knowledge, and professional expertise you can draw on. In other words, what you have to offer in terms of what you can write.

WALK IN YOUR READERS' SHOES

This week we’re going to concentrate on your prospective readers. So rather than examining WHAT you know when writing an article for a particular market, we’re going to make an analysis of WHO you are writing for. To answer that, you need to know your potential readers. And that means you have to take the time and trouble to understand them. As Ken Blanchard, American author and management expert, wrote in the One-Minute Sales Manager: “Before I walk a mile in your shoes, I must first take off my own.”

STUDY THE PUBLISHING MARKET TRENDS OF EACH PUBLICATION

So what does that mean in terms of knowing your market? First and foremost, it means making a study of each particular publication to which you want to submit material, to ascertain the type of person who reads it.

  • Who is the editor of the magazine? (He or she is the reader who will decide whether your material is suitable!)
  • What publishing market trends does this particular publication adhere to?
  • Are there features of a magazine article which show a bias towards one sector of society or another?

Answering these questions is only the beginning.

BLOG READERS

If publication for you means writing for your own blog, the same rules apply. Only in this case, you will be both author and, in effect, the editor of the magazine.

  • You must decide who you are writing for?
  • What is your brand?
  • What do you know of your readers from your website’s stats?
  • Do they show a predominance of one demographic or another?

It’s not enough simply to write and hope that people will read what you’ve written. Know your reader, and you will have a better chance of targeting others of like mind.

The sort of detail you need to know about the readers of any publication can be broken down into three categories (and for these titles I am indebted to Michel Fortin) Demographics, Geographics, and Psychographics. Let’s take them one by one:

READERS' DEMOGRAPHICS

  • Gender – normally male or female (unless someone knows something I don’t). This is usually pretty obvious from the front cover, which gives an indication of content. Some magazines, of course, are not exclusively for one or other.
  • Age-range – again front cover and content are a good indication: knitting patterns, for instance (do they still do them?) are unlikely to be read by adolescent boys!
  • Socio-economic status – to some extent this can be determined by the cost and quality of the magazine. The glossier and dearer publications are likely to be purchased by those on a higher income with a more disposable ratio. Another clue may be found in the advertisements: the products and holidays on offer.
  • Hobbies and leisure pursuits – again, the more up-market the magazine and its advertisements, the more esoteric the hobbies are likely to be. Polo, pony-trekking and yachting would more probably be the pursuit of the wealthy than, say, tennis or football for instance.
  • Political affiliation – this may be harder to determine. Look for clues in the type of articles that appear in the publication, particularly those which offer opinion. But even an informative article may give an inkling of political leanings.

READERS' GEOGRAPHICS

  • Countries & Nationalities – unless you have lived in a country for some considerable time, it’s probably quite difficult to write for a nationality which is not your own. If you intend to do so, you need to be sensitive to the traditional styles and customs of your readers.
  • Race / Ethnicity – this may cover immigrants as well as indigenous population. Cover and contents of magazines (articles, photography, graphics and ads) should be studied to see if they are specifically aimed at one particular group.
  • Language & Dialect – you might think this obvious without undue inspection, but you might be wrong! What looks, to you, to be a definitive language – say French – may, actually, be a Parisian dialect, Belgian or Swiss French, or French Canadian. I once had a translation of a text accepted for a Royal Millennium function to be held in South Wales, only to find that the same translation was unacceptable for a Jubilee celebration two years later in North Wales.
  • Location, location, location – are the readers of a certain magazine townspeople or country folk? Again, this may present you with problems. Second home owners in a rural setting may have a very different agenda from those born and raised in the country. It’s no good submitting an article to the Farmers’ Weekly on the Right to Roam if the locals are complaining of the destruction of property by newcomers.

READERS' PSYCHOGRAPHICS

  • Sensitive or Taboo Subjects – these may include sex, religion and politics. If you’re blogging on any of the above, you may take the attitude that visitors to your site can take it or leave it. But be aware that you may turn away the very people you want to reach. And, of course, if you are hoping for success in a paper publication, your understanding of these sensitivities or taboos is crucial.
  • Cultural mores – as we’ve already seen, age, nationality, ethnicity and even location may have a bearing on local customs. One person’s habits or belief systems – like Hindi funeral pyres - may be anathema to others.

GAIN SPECIALIST KNOWLEDGE: HOW TO UNDERTAKE A SURVEY

Determining the demographics, geographics and psychographics of the publications to which you are interested in submitting your material, is vital if you are to achieve success. Supermarket magazine stands offer a wonderful opportunity to undertake an initial survey. A brief glance at the cover of any particular publication may be enough to eliminate it from your search.

Look inside at the editorial and index to see what blend of specialist knowledge, personal experience and professional expertise are on offer. Do you have the know-how to write for these markets? No? Then leave them on the shelf. Otherwise, purchase anything that looks hopeful and study it closely over a period of weeks. It’s hard work, yes! But in the end, it will pay off.

NEXT TIME:

We’ll be looking at Part 4 of 6: Lead Techniques When Writing An Article

Previous articles in this series:
Related Posts:

Do Niche Blogs Attract More Readers An Subscribers Than A Scattergun Approach?

Although many of the articles on this website may be used freely where expressly stated, this one forms part of a series, and may not be reproduced unless by written permission from the author.

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. Book her here for your event.

All proceeds from Mel’s latest novel, A Painful Post Mortem, are for charities benefiting children worldwide. Buy a copy here and help raise cash for children like Rachel, who, at 13 is mother to 6 kids orphaned by AIDS, or this project, drug-proofing teenagers in the UK

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