needs to know vs- wants to know

How to Determine What Your Audience Needs to Know

what your audience needs to knowWhen covering news stories, whether they are niche news stories or general interest stories, it's important to be able to determine what your audience needs to know versus what they want to know. The easy way is to write about anything and everything that will generate clicks, sell ad space, and be shared online. We're not saying that strategy doesn't work, and it's an okay strategy if you want to be come a tabloid or a gossip magazine. However, if you want to be better than that, and to write about news that matters with tact and professionalism, then understanding the difference between needing to know, and wanting to know, is crucial. Here's how to determine what your audience needs to know:

Determine Your Audience

No, you actually don't want everyone in the world who has Internet access as a reader. There's no direction to that, and you can't please everyone all the time. So, make it a point to determine your audience and to create the persona of your ideal reader. This makes easier to figure out what your audience's needs are, and what they need to know. Sure, there's a lot of things they want to know, and there are also a lot of things that a lot of people want to know, but not necessarily your audience.

For example, St. Louis-based Delux Magazine does a good job of this. Their ideal reader is the affluent African-American, or the AAA, who is into luxury and lives a high-end lifestyle. These are people who aren't necessarily concerned with Kim Kardashian, Grumpy Cat, or Rush Limbaugh's latest comments. However, they do care as to what Nick Cannon and Nelly are up to, as well as the latest fashion and the hottest nightclubs in St. Louis.

Newsjacking is Okay

Newsjacking is the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself. Therefore, Kim Kardashian by herself may not matter to Delux Magazine's audience. However, if she's shooting a cool commercial with a hot brand in St. Louis, that'll make a difference. If she's showing up to a Delux Magazine event, then that's okay to cover as well. If you can tie a hot news story into your target audience, then by all means make the connection and publish it. Be careful not to stretch it, like when American Apparel used Hurricane Sandy to advertise its sale, or when Kenneth Cole used the Arab Spring to promote its new spring collection.

Don't Go Overboard with the Juicy Details

Running with the Kim Kardashian example, keep juicy and private details out of the story. Let's say that she is coming to your town, or is participating in a major event relevant to your audience. Do you really need to tell your readers where she is staying, and what's in her hotel room, and who she's staying with? Do really need to investigate where she's going and what she's doing before and after the event? Probably not, even though everyone in your audience would love to know. It's important to consider personal privacy when determining stories to write about and the details to include in those stories.

The Kardashian example is easy. How about topics that are a little more difficult, such as a gay bar destroyed in a fire. Do you release the names of deceased patrons? What if you learn a homemaker in the community had been a prostitute many years earlier. Do you run it? If a local judge rents a porn video, is that news? These questions are obviously a lot a tougher, so rushing to publish them because you might be the only one too publish it, or because people will flock to these stories, may be shortsighted.