When you are starting a blog, or any online site, your relationship with and understanding of your audience will be the most important aspects of your success.

Who are they?

Communities break down in different ways for different topics. Here are some examples.

  • Industry community: People whose livelihoods are directly related to the subject
  • Academic community: A crowd of wonks and researchers studying related matters
  • Legislative or political community: The folks making and advocating for policies
  • Cultural community: Those whose interest in the topic takes a more personal or social bent

Where are they?

Map the various spaces inhabited by people who have a stake in your topic. Look for popular sites on overlapping topics using search tools and terms, then look at who's commenting and what they're sharing. Look through Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, Tumblr postings, sub-Reddits, etc. Are there relevant trade publications? Do they have active forums online? Newsletters?

What do they look for?

Start your search online, but don't stop there. Find a few people who would be ideal members of the community you hope to build, and get to know them. Ask them where they look for information and what type of information they like best.

Pay attention to the issues that really animate folks, the stories that touch them, the links they pass on, and the headlines they share. Get a deep sense of what interests people about your beat. You'll need to develop a great ear for a story or a theme that will really hook your audience's attention and what will hook those who aren't already junkies for information on the subject.

Taken from Developing a Successful Journalistic Blog, a self-directed course by Matt Thompson at Poynter NewsU.

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