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  • Stephanie Morillo

Here Are the Three Audience Types Who Engage With Content

Three women conversing around a conference table
Photo: WOCinTech Chat

A few months ago, I got an email from a reader who wanted to know how to attract an audience to their blog. Their blog was geared more toward individual developers and covered a range of beginner topics, but they actually wanted to create content that would attract possible mentors and even employers. What kind of content do those audiences want? Do we need to create content for every audience?

In this short post, I’ll explain the differences between different audience types and help you understand what these audiences look for when they interact with your content.

Audiences Fall into Three Main Buckets

As I mentioned in The Developer’s Guide to Content Creation, your audience isn’t everyone. You have a specific audience (or reader) you want to attract and your content addresses them directly. This reader is called your target (or primary) audience. (In the book, I show you how to define your target audience.)

But in addition to your target audience, there are other categories of readers who look at your content. Known as secondary and tertiary audiences, their goals differ from your target audience.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a blog about Ruby for early-career Ruby developers. Your audiences might look like this:

  • Target (primary) audience: Early-career Ruby developers with 0-2 years of Ruby programming experience. Your blog is comprised of tutorials, reference guides, and how-to blog posts that explain Ruby concepts for new Rubyists.

  • Secondary audience: Advanced Ruby developers who want to share beginner-level content with their students or mentees. They might also be open source maintainers who want to understand what concepts are most important to beginners.

  • Tertiary audience: Hiring managers or podcast producers who are curious about your writing style and your areas of specialization in advance of an interview.

The book Technical Communication Today by Richard Johnson-Sheehan defines these different audiences—and their goals—as follows:

  1. Primary audiences are action takers: “They are usually action takers because the information you are providing will allow them to do something or make a decision.” (Johnson-Sheehan, 23)

  2. Secondary audiences are advisors: “They advise the primary audiences; usually, they are experts in the field or have special knowledge that the primary readers require to make a decision.” (Johnson-Sheehan, 23)

  3. Tertiary audiences are evaluators: “They are often evaluators of you, your team, or your content.” (Johnson-Sheehan, 23)

In summary, your content addresses the needs and wants of a primary audience. Your secondary and tertiary audiences are aware that they are not your primary audience. You do not have to write content that is specific to these audiences for them to derive value from it. These audiences will use your content as a resource or reference to better understand your primary audience and your areas of expertise.

Your Turn:

  • Using the example from earlier in this post, which audience are mentors and hiring managers a part of?

  • Think about your blog. Who is your target audience? Who are your secondary and tertiary audiences? Why do you think they visit your blog?

Like this post? Purchase The Developer's Guide to Content Creation for more content-related tips and exercises.


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