When content creators rule, how do marketers find their audiences?

by Katie Jansen on May 16, 2017

These days, audiences follow people, not platforms. While marketers spend a great deal of time thinking in terms of which platforms should get ad spend, their audiences are simply following their favorite creators from outlet to outlet. “People will change their behavior and go where a creator has produced interesting content,” writes the CEO of Issuu for Recode. “Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ series is proof positive of this at work — if you create amazing work, people will leave traditional networks.”

This shift in consumer behavior causes a challenge for marketers. Knowing where your audience is today isn’t good enough – you need to know where they’ll be tomorrow, too.

Content discovery is changing

In Nielsen’s The Audience Report, you can see there were only a few forms of content discovery from 1965 till the early 2000s: cable, AOL, and satellite TV were about it. In the mid 2000s, there was a sudden influx of options – Netflix, Hulu, smart TV, streaming radio, Roku, Amazon Prime, and more. That Nielsen report was released in 2014 and doesn’t even account for all the new forms that have bubbled up since then, like Snapchat, Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Periscope, and many more.

That means the way people thought about demographics and media consumption for about 40 years suddenly went out of date. Now that there’s a seemingly endless plethora of platforms, consumers are less attached to specific types of media and more attached to the people and the creators. Audiences will follow them wherever they go.

Creators are becoming celebrities, too

Creators used to just get some acknowledgment in closing credits. Now, thanks to social channels like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and more, creators are getting the spotlight for the first time. A food blogger with a large following can get her own TV show. A screenwriter for a hit TV show can have a following similar in size to one of the show’s actors. A YouTube comedian can end up on MTV, ABC News, and Cosmopolitan and even interview the President of the United States. A study from Google in July 2016 found that YouTube stars are more influential than mainstream celebrities.

Think about where your audience is now for clues about where they’ll go next

With less attachment than ever to platforms and more attachment than ever to creators, a simple job switch could shift your audience to a whole new medium. Are you targeting people who are higher income and likely to be Fortune readers? They might also now read Axios, which poached Fortune’s former and widely read VC reporter, Dan Primack. Does your audience like the quirky humor of Fox’s New Girl? They probably watch Hulu, too, which picked up The Mindy Project when Fox canceled it.

Although traditional media isn’t necessarily going anywhere, audiences are more open than ever to switching to new platforms and outlets. This widens the pool of opportunities for advertisers, and knowing your audience and what they’re likely to consume is the best way to avoid sinking in it.

Native advertising is more lucrative than ever

A study from BI Intelligence predicts that native advertising will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. The findings are unsurprising. Consumer loyalty to creators over platforms means ads created for a targeted audience that are integrated with the content itself resonate best.

Remember to consider the format when integrating as well. For example, native video ads do very well on YouTube or similar media. A playable ad for a mobile game does best within another mobile game. Because the ads are framed as native content, they need to live up to the quality of the media they’re advertising within. The entire package matters to consumers, and paying attention to the full experience matters.

For decades, marketers could plan their spend by platform. With changes in media consumption and loyalty, that’s no longer the case. When your audience can move platforms on a moment’s notice, it can be exhausting to keep up with them, and advertising strategies that were effective yesterday can be out of date by tomorrow if you don’t pay attention. Keep these findings and strategies in mind as you craft your marketing strategy, and you’ll be sure to see success.

Katie Jansen is AppLovin’s Chief Marketing Officer. In addition to her work, Katie is an advocate for women in tech and equality in the workplace.