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Jul 17 / King Kaufman

Who’s the audience? What do they want? Good questions from the N.Y. Times

This Nieman Lab piece on how the New York Times approached its coverage of the World Cup is a few weeks old. I’m still catching up from vacation. But it’s worth looking at, even if everyone involved was living in a world where Brazil had never lost a competitive game by six goals.

Can you imagine a world like that?

Anyway, most of it is an interview between Nieman Lab staff writer Joseph Lichterman and Times sports editor Jason Stallman, who talks about the organization’s strategy for covering big international events. As an editor at a newspaper that’s also a massive digital operation, Stallman has some concerns that not everyone has. But I’m most interested in his view, expressed throughout the interview, that the Times had to aim at a lot of different audiences.

That, I think, is very common. “Our philosophy, or our approach, is to offer as much variety as possible,” he says. “We don’t want to go into this with a strategy to strictly capture the hardcore soccer fans or, conversely, strictly target more casual or even non-sports fans.”

More on that subject:

Just this idea that for these major sporting events, you have a lot of people who are expert in the sport who are following it closely. You also have a lot of people who are just casual fans who are tuning in. And you have a lot of people who don’t know the first thing about it, but who are swept up in it. We just feel that we need to offer as much variety as possible and force ourselves to experiment with how we tell the stories. It’s not always going to satisfy people how to do storytelling with words or still images, we have to be a lot more imaginative than that.

Lichterman asks Stallman about this interactive piece about different “Goal!” calls around the world, which Lichterman describes as targeting first-time readers:

When we’re conceiving of these story ideas we’re always keeping in mind who might this appeal to. Will it be the hardcore soccer fan or the more casual person? With the goal one for example, anyone who has been immersed in soccer for the past decade probably finds that to be almost cliché — a story about announcers screaming “Goal!” But for people coming into the World Cup for the first time, that may be new to them, or they might not know a whole lot about it, and maybe we can tell the story in a different way. The story that was written by Fernanda Santos went back into the history of that and how it has such roots in Brazil — and then the audio was quite a fun way to letting people hear different calls from around the world. We thought folks who were quite familiar with these calls they might learn something and for folks who are new to the sport they might answer some questions for them as well.

Who’s the audience? What do they want? What different stories, and different kinds of stories, are likely to be informative and entertaining to each of these audiences? These are important questions, and not just during gigantic international events.