There’s a whole bunch of stuff that makes online audiences great. They’re immediately measurable. You can see how they heard about you. You can see what things they’re searching for in order to find you. If people are talking about you it’s easy to see what they’re saying. If you fancy it you can even get into a proper 2-way-conversation with them, imagine that!
And because the web has historically been much more of an active medium than a passive one it’s much easier to get people involved with what you’re trying to do (if you’re engaging them on the right terms). It’ll be interesting to see how this changes in over time. As the web becomes a medium that delivers more of our traditionally passive entertainment forms will user involvement go down? Or will it go the other way round and traditionally passive entertainment will become ‘activated’ as it goes online? Early signs would seem to suggest the latter, which is a good thing.
No discussion of online audiences would be complete without a mention of numbers. And it’s true that the amount of people that you can reach with a piece of online activity is generally going to be smaller than you can achieve with a TV ad stuck in a couple of relatively cheap spots. But even the best TV media targeting is going to give you heaps of wastage and perhaps most worryingly ‘dead eyeballs’. With good online activity you can guarantee that people are interested and engaged (by the way I’m not counting banner ads or other interruptive online advertising here, they screw up my argument).
I quite often also hear people playing the niche card. About how it’s all very well using online for young male audiences but it’s not mainstream enough. And maybe on the surface that’s true. But it shouldn’t be. I just think we’ve not been working hard enough to do great stuff for 55 year old women.