16 Questions You Need To Answer To Define Your Audience

Back in the good old days of television, defining a potential audience market was fairly straightforward- what age group in which areas were available at 7pm on a Tuesday and looking for something to watch? With the internet, though, broad audience demographics are actually a detriment, because with so much content available for literally anyone to watch on their own schedules, you have to get specific.

This is a list of all the questions you should ask yourself and your team as you develop a project and/or, better yet, ask your existing audience. This will inform everything from story structure to shooting style to marketing, and absolutely needs to be considered from the beginning.

The Basics

  1. Age
  2. Gender identity
  3. Sexuality
  4. Race/cultural background
  5. Mental/physical disabilities
  6. Location

Some of this seems easy and basic, because you can often copy and paste your personal answers to these questions. Keep in mind, though, that the audience you’re defining here doesn’t just have to be one type- perhaps you think your content is useful to both women and nonbinary people (women 18-24, nonbinary people 25-30) from small towns. The point of this exercise is not to limit you- it’s to focus you to the exact segments of people who will enjoy your content the most. Also, in the case of audiences with disabilities, knowing they’re there in advance specifically will encourage you to make sure your content is as accessible as possible, like adding closed captioning or even providing full text transcripts of episodes. You should definitely be closed captioning anyways though.

Example: my web series Sam and Pat Are Depressed has an audience that is largely aged 18-30, all gender-identities (but female-leaning definitely), is on the asexual spectrum, is from a middle-class/ lower-middle-class cultural background, suffers from mental illness, and is located in a city where roommates are necessary well into adulthood. That’s the most specific version of our audience, but knowing each of those answers allows us to target women in particular, asexual people in particular, people with mental illness, and people with roommates.

What they do

  1. What life stage are they in?
  2. What is their educational background?
  3. What do they do for work?
  4. What are their hobbies?

Life stage refers to the fact that, for example, not every 26-year-old woman is built equal. When my mom was 26, she was married, had one kid (me!) and one on the way, and was about a year from owning a home. I am currently 26, am unmarried (but in a long term relationship with a partner who I live with), and am nowhere near financially secure enough to have children or buy a home. As such, if my mom at 26 and I were potential viewers for content at the same time, we shouldn’t actually be in the same market, in the same way that a 26 year old med school student and a 26 year old Silicon Valley entrepreneur and a 26 year old unemployed person living with their parents aren’t in the same markets. At least, not because of their ages- some content is just more interesting to people who are parents of young children, or parents of teenagers, or childless adults, or couples trying to have children, or couples putting off children until their careers are more stable. See where I’m going with this? Life stage is arguably a more important piece of information than age.

Presumably, educational background, work, and hobbies all speak for themselves.

Example: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries probably had an audience segment of people who either still lived at home or were living in a dorm for college or graduate school, were college/grad school students currently and thus likely didn’t have a job (yet), and enjoyed watching YouTube vloggers.

What they consume

  1. What are their favorite movies and TV shows?
  2. What are their favorite books and blogs?
  3. What are their favorite bands and podcasts?

A lot of the time, an easy way to find an “in” with an audience is by appealing to them via something they already enjoy consuming. You’re piggy-backing on a pre-vetted piece of media. The best way to capitalize on this is to fill in the blanks:

“It’s like [existing media] meets [different existing media]!”


“It’s like [existing media] meets [different existing media] but with [unique twist]!”

Example: My other web series, Brains, is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Zombies (a reference to the popular book parody ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’ based on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which itself is the book The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is based on.) Our audience tends to enjoy zombie comedy media (Warm Bodies, Zombieland), vloggers like Anna Akana or fictional narrative vloggers like Lizzie Bennet, and books like The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot.

How they consume

  1. Where do they hang out online?
  2. What device do they use to watch video content?
  3. What are they willing to pay for?

Final tier! Many articles on Stareable and across the web emphasize knowing what pockets of the internet your audience hangs out in- Reddit versus Tumblr versus Twitter versus MySpace- but that’s only one variable of the behavior equation. Equally important for you to understand an audience and how best to serve them is to know where they’re physically watching your content. Is it on their mobile phones, on the bus? On a laptop in their bedroom? On the YouTube app on their smart TV? All of these screens are wildly different, and the content being consumed on each needs to reflect that. If you have a sense that your content will be viewed on larger screens, camera quality becomes much more important. Alternatively, smaller screens make it hard to be invested in scenes that play mostly in wide shots- if someone watches your show on a phone, will they be able to see the actors? Or the small details layered into the production design? If not, you might need to scale those details up, or cut into close up coverage sooner.

And then, there’s the $$$. This question is best asked directly to your audience, perhaps in the form of “have you ever paid for access to content or a creator? What platform did you use (Patreon, PayPal, Ko-fi, IndieGoGo, etc), what is your average contribution, and why did you decide to financially commit?” Even without direct access to ask this question, though, browse around common funding platforms like Seed&Spark and Patreon for content similar to yours (you should already know what that content is from the last section) and see what they offer at what amounts and if it’s been successful for them.

What are other questions you can be asking yourself or your audience to help guide your production and your marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments!

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The dumbest thing I’ve ever made to explain a point people probably already understood:

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I feel all this stuff is dead on, but I look to my own interests and don’t find that they align with my demographic identity at all. I don’t consume anything really that is part of my age gender sex cultural mental or location checkbox. Mostly I am caught by a show when I feel for the characters, and am happy to be transported into a world I am unfamiliar with.

Well like I’m trying to showcase, demographic identity isn’t always so easy to define by age, gender, or sex. That’s why it’s only one part of the equation, and one that requires a lot more specificity than “male 25-35.”

Yea I mean, you rock - this is a very thoughtful and intuitive piece, and we as creators must think about this. I just notice that as i think about what I’m caught by - a show or anything, it defies this concept. We are all fighting for eyeballs so all these strategies are great. I dont consider myself that much an outlier so I have to imagine people also feel this way too.

Let me ask you this, then- have you ever watching something or read something or consumed some piece of media without being directly recommended to it by a friend? What was it about your first impression (cover art, teaser, synopsis, etc) that convinced you to give it a try?

Here are a few examples of things i DEFINITELY was not recomended by in my life, but have become extremely caught by. Maybe it can help us figure out an alternative criterias for reaching audiences.

Pacific Coast Native Art - ever since I discovered the hall of native peoples in the museum of natural history in NY I was caught by the unique visual language of the sculpture - it was following laws of its own, and i wanted to understand those ‘laws’. This art has become a lifelong devotion and hobby.

The Bonfire radio show on SiriusXM -Maybe I would’ve thought it ‘wasnt my thing’ had I not discovered it myself, but the hosts willingness to push the envelope in their improvisation and their bold commitment to the bits and hitting the comedy hard turned me into an addict.

Poldark - this show is def for women - my girlfriend and I kept the tv on after Downton Abbey and thought it was great. The history, characters, etc are great, the lead couple are both great heroes in their own right but I think we watch because we are attracted to the leads.

Hamilton Soundtrack - Another thing i would think i would NOT be into. I only checked it out to find out what the deal was when the Pence thing happened. I found it extremely moving, heartfelt, technically excellent but most of all, nostalgic for late 90s pop and hip hop music, which i was also nostalgic for.

Maurice Ravel (and romantic to modern classical in general) - i never fucked with classical music, but 10 years ago during Obama’s first election WNYC and WQXR hadnt split, so Terrence McKnight’s radio show would come on, and he would describe his show as ‘500 years of music’. He would tell stories about all the artists and make the genre not seem stuffy or daunting, and it allowed a way in to these artists.

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Things I’m picking out from this:

“discovered the hall of native peoples in the museum of natural history in NY” - Audience segment: people who enjoy or go to museums. (“what they do”- specifically, “what are their hobbies?”) Potentially partner with a museum to promote your work or even to set up a co-hosted live event. Definitely find out where people who enjoy museums hang out online to talk about that kind of stuff.

“kept the tv on after Downton Abbey” - Audience segment: people who enjoy Downton Abbey. (“what they consume”) Start tagging content as Downton Abbey keywords, find out how Downton Abbey promotes and piggy back/do your own spin. Describe your show as “Downton Abbey [but/plus/if] [unique descriptor]”

“the Pence thing” - Audience segment: liberals, people plugged into politics and current events, people interested in late 90s pop and hip hop music. (“what they consume”) Hamilton is very much a musical both for people who love musicals and for people who have never enjoyed musicals, and plays both of those sides at once in its outreach and social media presence. If it wasn’t as high-profile, it could have played that up by doing in-character analyses of current politics through the eyes of the historical figures, done topical hip hop about current events in costume, done pop up performances outside of other musicals/in midtown for tourists looking for something new, etc.

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You know what? Maybe you’re on to something!

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for real, the way you parsed this was clearer to me - the approach. i get it now.

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No problem! I tried to give examples for each section but clearly I wasn’t clear enough- that’s what I love about this forum! The ability for every article to become a thread and a back and forth in and of itself.

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Thanks Bri! This is very in depth. The gears are turning haha

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