Advertisers and media buyers are consistently told that online advertising these days is “all about buying an audience”, that “content does not matter so much any more”.
This is to disregard that content is the reason that brings members of the audience together in the first place. It happens offline at a movie or in front of a TV show and also online, on a famous economist’s blog or a cooking website. The very concept of audience exists because of the content attached to it.
Now, of course audiences online don’t just sit in front of their screen(s) waiting for the event to unfold. The Internet is not a bus stop. Online audiences are on the hunt, for information and increasingly, entertainment. It’s their doing so in such a disorderly fashion, anywhere and any time, that creates the illusion that what they’re actually reading, watching or interacting with is secondary.
There is one big reason why this is not the case: it is called engagement, or the amount of attention that a viewer actually spends in interaction with the content. For an advertiser, the effect is immediate: if a user opens a web page and bounces off immediately because what they see is not what they’re looking for, any ad impression that was part of that page becomes de facto wasted. The better the content, the more responsive the audience, which automatically rubs off on the advertising. That content online may be found easily because there is so much of it does not mean it should be taken for granted. Think quality content and you quickly realize that it may not be so ubiquitous after all.
Good content is what feeds those audiences that you’re looking for. It’s the plankton of that food chain on top of which you sit as a marketer. Take that link away and the whole ecosystem collapses! Therefore, “audience” can not be disjointed from “content”: make sure you don’t fall prey to some clever beast determined to convince you otherwise.