A Step-by-Step Guide to Audience Development

A Step-by-Step Guide to Audience Development

The true challenge of becoming a successful publisher is sustaining an audience – providing so much ongoing value that they naturally seek out your content and become a loyal reader. First-time readers may find iQ through a native ad, a social media ad, or a shared social post. Intel uses Eloqua for its email service provider (ESP), which allows it to map content consumption and behavioral actions to the content email subscribers receive based on actions and attributes. Deconstructing the story With a three-part VR series and accompanying video, the team chopped the assets into smaller pieces for other channels. Users swiped up on the short video to go to the primary story. The iQ team determined repeat readers are four times more likely to sign up for emails than first-time readers – so it delayed the pop-up push until a reader’s subsequent visits. He explains that to succeed with an audience-first approach, editors must understand how their content is moving audiences from one stage to the next, and content distribution managers must see how content is being developed and optimized to drive strategic actions. “Anyone can get an auto-play video ‘view,’ but can you get your audience to stick with the video for more than five seconds? It’s all about how to use Facebook as a means to harvest an audience from its one billion users on to your own platform. That’s the holy grail for content marketers who want to build ongoing relationships through valuable content.” Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.

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In 2016, when Intel iQ boasted 2 million monthly readers who averaged more than two minutes per visit, the iQ team wondered what is the additional value of a returning reader versus a first timer?

A lot, it turns out.

In early 2017, the iQ team borrowed a page from the traditional media playbook – focusing on sustaining loyal readers rather than a “more eyeballs” approach. Luke Kintigh, head of publishing at Intel iQ, shares how they did it.

“Creating content is not the difficult part of content marketing. Distribution of your content, particularly with paid media, is also not that hard to do initially. The true challenge of becoming a successful publisher is sustaining an audience – providing so much ongoing value that they naturally seek out your content and become a loyal reader.

“When this happens, you’re transitioning away from renting momentary audiences one campaign at a time to owning long-term audiences that add real equity to your brand … equity that remains well after your product launch or short-term KPI.”

Rather than chasing volume in the short term by whatever means available, the team committed to earning readership in a long-term relationship – a simple enough maxim but one that eludes many content marketers.

“We can get people to watch a video or read a blog post, but when you take a direct-response approach to content marketing, you essentially start from zero each time you attract someone new,” explains Kintigh. “We wanted to develop and deliver value to our audience over time and think about how to keep them coming back.”

Lay the groundwork for deeper customer relationships

To figure out how to build a longer relationship with the customer, the iQ team defined what it calls a “customer ladder” – the steps someone takes to progress from first timer to engaged subscriber. The most important KPI for the team is the number of email subscriptions – a sign that someone finds the iQ content valuable.

Define sequencing touchpoints

  • iQ ad exposure is the “fly by” person – someone who may happen upon a mention of iQ or Intel content but hasn’t slowed down to consume that content.
  • First-time readers may find iQ through a native ad, a social media ad, or a shared social post. They stop and read because they’re interested in the content iQ is publishing.
  • Repeat readers visit iQ more than once and demonstrate an affinity for the content iQ talks about – from VR/AR and artificial intelligence to robotics and autonomous vehicles.
  • Email sign-up readers are the holy grail of content marketers – readers who convert to subscribers. This is a sure sign iQ content is paying off.
  • Recirculation readers are a small subset of “fanatics.” About 15 percent of email subscribers are loyalists – people who open and click on more than 10 iQ e-newsletters every three months. This is a particularly valuable group to Intel because they care deeply about the topics iQ shares and can help steer the program’s editorial strategy.

Match tools to touchpoints

What makes the Intel example unique is that the iQ team believes truly engaging quality content is key, but it also knows that to get that content in front of an audience it must leverage data science, technology, and advertising. In other words, quality alone will never win; masterful content marketers exploit technology to maximize their investment in quality.


Predictive tools like SimpleReach help the team optimize the content it publishes. They analyze what has worked, as well as content trending online, and suggest topics, key phrases, headlines, and formats to ensure that iQ maximizes its reach.

Social media management encompasses a host of tools, from Opal, an editorial planning tool, to Spredfast, a publishing tool to manage its social channels (primarily LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook). Social channels offer different values for each audience type. Twitter is effective to drive new audiences, but Facebook is more successful for retaining audiences and converting email subscribers.


Recommendation engines like Outbrain may grow awareness for some marketers, but the iQ team finds it much more effective to retarget those who had visited iQ at least once.

In-feed native advertising like Sharethrough is used by IQ in conjunction with social platforms like Facebook for multichannel native advertising. Specifically, it shares iQ content to help drive readers to the owned site. Other native platforms like Nativo, Flipboard, and TripleLift fall into this category too.


Marketing automation tools Eloqua and Adobe are used by iQ to automate all the parts and processes of an ongoing content marketing program – from defining key audience…