The importance of growing a loyal audience in journalism

Choose journalism as a career and no two days will be the same. Working in this dynamic environment means you will get to meet a diverse range of people and discover fascinating stories about the community and world you live in.

After qualifying as a journalist, you will be eager to get started on this exciting career path. Your studies and practical experience will stand you in good stead. At this point, you will also need to start growing your audience—the people who consume your stories form the very foundation of journalism and without them, your story cannot be seen or heard.

Read on to learn more about the importance of audience in journalism and how you can build a loyal following. We’ll also touch on why journalism is such a fulfilling career and how you could qualify as a journalist or consolidate your experience with a flexible online training program.

What is audience

A journalist’s audience is made up of the people and communities who read or listen to their stories. The role of the audience has evolved over the years. While once, a journalist’s audience was passive and accepting, audiences of today, who are often the source of news stories and who are much more likely to engage with journalists, challenge stories and perspectives, and comment on and share them, thanks to the advent of digital media. Audiences may also merely dip in and out of stories or news channels or may be loyal followers of an individual journalist’s “brand”.

The benefits that an audience brings to journalists and news outlets means that they are measurable and worth investing in—the relationship between news providers and their audiences has never been as valuable as it is today.

The importance of audience

Not only is a news outlet’s audience of value, but without it, journalism cannot exist. One good reason for this is because the nature of journalism has evolved away from print media and there’s less demand for traditional advertising. This means that loyal audiences and their subscriptions are vital for ensuring the constant flow of income that news establishments need to operate.

For individual journalists, their audience is essential to ensure that they are credible—it’s no use getting the scoop of the century if you don’t have an audience to read it, listen to it, or watch it. Building credibility is an important part of building a brand too and goes hand-in-hand with establishing yourself as a professional player in the industry. A loyal audience speaks for itself—with so many news outlets available, audiences vote with their feet, so retaining a loyal following goes to show you’ve well and truly earned it.

An audience will also give a journalist the essential quality of employability. If you’re applying for a job with a news establishment and can bring over your own established audience with you, then you instantly become more useful to them. Without the valuable asset of a loyal audience, your career as a journalist may be limited, so let’s find out how newly qualified journalists can work to build their audience.

How to build a following

Building a following takes time and effort—it certainly doesn’t happen overnight and is something that you can start thinking about while you’re studying for your formal journalism qualification. Here are some tried-and-tested ways of building up a committed audience, who will help you progress in your journalism career.

Build up your portfolio

For newly qualified journalists, your portfolio is your shop window; it’s your chance to show the world what you can do. When you build your own portfolio, be sure to host it online. Building your own website is easy and affordable these days and makes the perfect platform to show off your work.

On the home page, display your name, photo, and short tagline that describes who you are and what you do. To make it super easy for potential followers and employers to see your work, link to some key articles from the home page. When it comes to choosing your “best bits”, it’s preferable to pick quality over quantity. Select around six to eight pieces that you feel best reflect your writing style and quality of work.

There are lots of ways to build up projects before you land your first job as a journalist. You can start your own blog or write on a voluntary basis for organizations close to your heart, for example. In your portfolio, you may also want to include samples of other skills such as photography or broadcast journalism.

You should also include other essential information about yourself, including qualifications (whether you already have them under your belt or are studying for them), areas of specialization, and your contact information, including links to your social media accounts.

Be sure to proofread your site before it goes live—impeccable grammar and attention to detail are essential journalistic skills, after all. Then, share a link to your portfolio website far and wide, to reach all those potential audience members out there.

Build your brand

Build your brand first and your audience should follow. In this day and age of digital and immediate reporting, you don’t necessarily have to be committed to a single employer. Many journalists, even those starting out, are making a name for themselves in their own right. That’s because they’ve built their own brand and found an audience that resonates with it.

In order to build your brand, you’ll have to ask yourself a few fundamental questions. First of all, what kind of journalism do you wish to specialize in? You may love the satisfaction of investigative reporting or the thrill of sports reporting. Defining which type of journalism you want to pursue is your first step if you’re planning on taking studies to qualify in the field or already have a general journalism qualification.

You may even wish to find a niche within a niche. So, if you gravitate toward science journalism, you could find a special place reporting on space exploration, putting yourself right at the cutting edge of developments. This very specialist subject area means you can build up your own niche audience who will see you as the “go-to” person for news in this exciting area.

You’ll need your own personal website too—think of it as the place where potential audience members can read your work and find out more about the topics you write about. The section above on building your portfolio covers what you need to know about creating your online presence.

And be sure to keep an eye on those metrics—it’s good to know on which platforms your audience follows you and how their numbers fluctuate. Most websites and social media platforms come with built-in tools so you can track metrics such as where your audience is around the world and which keywords they are using that bring them to your articles. You can take advantage of tools such as Google Analytics to understand more about your audience and how to develop it.

Nurture relationships

It’s not enough to merely have an audience these days—you must nurture your relationship with your followers too.  This means engaging on social media and finding out what people really want to know about—your role as a journalist is not just to feed stories to the public, it’s also to give them a voice and ensure that they are heard.

When you’re researching a story, speak to people affected negatively and positively by its impacts. Ensure that you’ve not just told a story, but the full story, and that you represent the audiences you are trying to capture. You’ll also need to take care of relations with the people who can help you find and research your stories, without which you’d have no audience!

So, take care to build up relationships with fellow journalists, with the press officers and communications specialists who are the gatekeepers of those precious news stories, and with officials from agencies such as the emergency services and local government departments. This means that you will have a constant source of information and people to interview.

Master multiple platforms

In this digital age, the world of journalism is rapidly evolving and so it’s essential that you engage with all the available platforms to reach as many people as possible. This means you must nurture a constant presence on the platforms your audience uses. As well as posting stories, images, and updates, you should engage with your followers, responding to their comments and taking on board their views.

And remember, engaging isn’t just about communicating what you have to say or promoting your stories. It’s a conversation between you and your audience, so as well as offering information you are listening to others’ reactions and finding out what people want to know.

You will need to master the skills of photography, video, design, and audio to be able to use these digital platforms to their best advantage, so it’s a great idea to either take a specialist Digital Journalism course or undertake additional training in these media.

Why choose journalism?

Building your own brand and audience requires effort—and so too does the studying and practical experience you need to qualify as a journalist. But your hard work will pay dividends as you progress through a career that’s got a lot to offer.

Here are some of the benefits of working as a journalist:

It’s a dynamic career choice

The world of news and storytelling is fast-moving, with situations changing by the hour and day. Working as a journalist means that you’ll always have your finger on the pulse, with insider information about what’s really going on.

You can see the results of your hard work

Nothing beats the thrill of seeing your name attributed to an article or news item—seeing your name up there is a testament to your hard work and study and will give you the impetus to hit more and more goals in your chosen career.

There are lots of opportunities to diversify

With your journalistic training, there are lots of chances to diversify. You can specialize in almost any topic under the sun, transitioning from one area to another with ease since your training will have given you transferable skills, which are acknowledged just about everywhere around the world.

You can make a difference

By telling the stories of ordinary people, you get to make a real difference in their lives. Journalism is first and foremost a public service, so by writing up (or broadcasting) those hard-hitting stories, you are giving the voiceless a chance to speak.

You can earn a decent wage

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, journalists working in the newspaper sector earn an annual mean wage of $54,720. For those working in radio and television, this figure rises to $75,140, while journalists working primarily for media streaming distribution services can earn upward of $130,000.

There are lots of routes in

Journalism training has become a more accessible and flexible area in recent years, so you don’t necessarily have to have a bachelor’s degree in the topic to work in your desired profession. There are lots of ways in. For example, if you’ve studied in an unrelated field but have the talent and desire, you can go on to a postgraduate course in journalism with no issues.

Want to get into journalism?

Journalism is without a doubt a fascinating path with many opportunities and directions in which your career could grow. If you’re intrigued to know how to get into journalism, then why not investigate online courses which allow you to study at your own pace, alongside your existing commitments? St. Bonaventure University offers online Master of Arts Courses in journalism and could be just what you are looking for. At St. Bonaventure, you can choose between a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism and a Master of Arts in Sports Journalism. Both are delivered online for the most flexible and convenient experience.

As well as traditional journalistic skills such as reporting and writing, the Master of Arts in Digital Journalism will teach you other competencies such as videography and photography so that you will be able to truly connect with modern-day audiences. The Master of Arts in Sports Journalism will help you understand the sports media landscape and get to grips with wider issues such as equality and identity.

The beauty of both these courses, which are accredited, is that you can graduate in just one and a half years with all coursework delivered online for your convenience. This means you can plan your study schedule with ease.

You don’t even need any journalism experience to enroll in St. Bonaventure’s programs—they’ll teach you everything you need to know about entering the profession and forging a successful career. Before long, you’ll be building your own unique brand—and your audience—and taking that first foray into the exciting world of journalism.

Know the value of your audience

Gaining your qualifications in journalism is just the first step toward a long and productive career. But the hard work doesn’t end there — cultivating your brand and following are both essential tasks that you’ll need to devote time and energy to as you progress along your path.

So, be sure to know the value of your audience as you set out in this dynamic career. Set aside time and effort to engage with and grow your following and your hard work will reward you in terms of the doors it will open.

If you’re a graduate in another field and are intrigued by a career in journalism, then know that there are more ways than ever before to enter this fascinating area.

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