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Today we live in what I call the ‘audience era’ – an age where everyone and everything has an audience.

The origins of this are not news for anyone in marketing. Mass-market social media combined with 24/7 mobile access has radically reshaped our communications environment. Publishing to an audience today has been simplified to a single button press, so it’s no surprise that, according to our data, an incredible 82% of internet users now publish a video, photo or review online at least once a month.

In a little over a decade, we have gone from thousands of outlets to billions. While there are many global developments that have shaped this new era, six key trends stand out above the rest, highlighting a greater need for reliable data that reflects real people, and a more audience-centric approach to marketing in 2017.

1. Accelerated Globalization

By 2020, it is predicted that four billion people will be online, the majority of whom will reside outside the US and Western Europe. This is a vast and connected market place where content, communities and communication can travel freely, unconcerned by local borders or geographies. Today, the majority of our time online is spent on global platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter or Snapchat. The possibilities for businesses are immense, with direct access to networked audiences 10, 20 or even 100 times the size that mass media could ever deliver.

But this new opportunity also presents some challenges; larger cross-border businesses need a better level of audience understanding, while marketing communications are increasingly developed centrally with a singular brand, positioning and executional plan that can work anywhere in the world – a conceptually much harder feat.   

 2. The Rise and Rise of Consumer Power

Consumer opinion, comments and sharing can now make or break mass-market perception. This means that it is more pressing for businesses to understand what makes their audiences tick (their needs, wants, motivations and behaviors) in order to design products, experiences and communications that drive business growth. 

Consumers are demanding more of what they want, and less of what they don’t, making it more important than ever for brands to rely on data-driven insights that can make their marketing as tailored to their audiences as possible.

3. The Democratization of Content

Today, every business can develop content that tells their story anywhere in the world through news stories, blog posts, photojournalism, videos and conversation. This is a huge opportunity, but one that places very different demands on how businesses operate.

Advertising can be switched on and off, but content and communication is permanent and always on.

This requires a more developed strategy, with upfront investment that has to be built on a deep understanding of your audience and where their interests lie.   

4. Long-Tail Advertising

Traditional advertising typically required a large budget, an army of agencies and an organizational structure that could manage this in each market in which you operated.

Today, anyone can buy an advertising campaign and reach a global audience.

Google was the pioneer in self-service advertising with paid search and, today, it has over 40 million advertisers. Now Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have self-service solutions that enable you to reach audiences anywhere in the world. This has created tens of millions of advertisers, all of whom need to understand increasingly niche audiences.

5. Audience Fragmentation

In the mass-media era, there were limited channels to engage an audience, meaning content and its distribution were dictated by the media owner. Today, there is infinite choice, from on-demand platforms like Netflix and YouTube to content aggregators like Apple News, Facebook and Flipboard.

We live in a search-centered world where we dictate what we consume.

The result of this is that audiences have splintered and fragmented, but are more centered around passions and interests. The mass audiences of male, female, or 16-24s have absolutely no relevance in a highly fragmented media landscape. For this reason, businesses need a much deeper knowledge of who the right audiences are in order to know how to really engage them and drive growth.

6. Real-Time Information Flow

Today, over 60% of internet users spend more than three hours a day connected, while 85% access from a mobile in their pocket. Connection to information, news and events from across the globe is instantaneous. This means businesses now need to constantly interact with audiences, respond quickly and maintain an ‘always-on’ status. To do this requires a more up-to-date understanding of audiences – one which is constantly refreshed and evolving.  

This new era presents endless opportunity for brands. Global household names such as Uber, Dollar Shave Club and Tesla have been built with minimal advertising investment, leveraging content, their user-base of publishers and the network effect of the social internet to drive rapid awareness and scale. Similarly, individuals now have the ability to build highly niche micro-businesses with a global customer base, leveraging platforms like Etsy, eBay or Amazon to sell and Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get their message across. 

To succeed in this world is, however, more demanding; Strategy is king and you need better product, more inventive communications, better customer experience and the ability to evolve and react in real-time. This is a challenge that simply cannot be met without an understanding of your audiences.

For these reasons, we’re seeing an exponential demand for audience profiling - a development which is of no surprise to us. In today’s landscape, we believe audience profiling capabilities are needed by every single organization around the world because, fundamentally, audience-centric marketing is the only marketing that works.

Like what you’ve read? Download our Trends 17 report to find out more about the biggest trends shaping the media landscape in 2017.

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