Demographics, Schemographics

October 4, 2012

advertising, news, video news,


Demographics are dead.  At least that’s what NBC News Digital believes in terms of targeting.  Instead, the focus now is on personifying the viewer and to do that, NBC has turned its back on the ‘archaic’ way of defining TV and video news audiences. But the push away from demographics is nothing new, according to this Mediapost article:

“Almost since they were first created in the 1960s, demographics have been cast as an archaic -- and to some extent, not-so-representative -- way of clustering audiences for advertisers and programmers alike.”

Interestingly enough, they were originally developed by ABC as a stopgap advertising solution to compete with the much larger NBC and CBS brands.  Fast forward 50 years later and news brands should be asking themselves if demographics are really the best way to target audiences.

So what’s the alternative?  NBC News Digital has launched a plan that focuses on the personification of an audience member and emphasizes the behavior of the news consumer rather than their sex, age, and income.  They have designed a system that categorizes the following into four 'behaviors':

‘Always On’ are your friends glued to the USA Today Twitter feed

‘Reporters’ are your friends who take pride knowing about a story before USA Today does.

‘Skimmers’ are your friends who follow USA Today merely as a filler between Entertainment Tonight and ESPN

‘Veterans' are your friends who still read that free copy of USA Today from the hotel rooms.

Of these four groups, you can probably guess that advertisers and NBC News Digital are most interested in the first two groups who are constantly connected and always looking for what’s hot.  

Kyoo Kim, vice president of sales at NBC News Digital, says the plan is to change its advertising formats by putting an emphasis on what it is calling ‘native formats’ that blur the line between editorial and brand content.  The hope is to have advertising messages seamlessly transitioned into a user’s newsfeed and will actually serve as ‘guideposts’ to deliver news content.  

Given how many people are connected 24/7, the idea behind targeting should no longer be focused on your sex, income or age but rather the behaviors that shape your day-to-day life.   If advertisers can relay their message into that connection or feed of a ‘Always On’ user, then the delivery of a brand will be much more effective.