Your Unknown Audience

They could be hiding anywhereOne of the principles of effective communication is know your audience. It's good counsel, not unlike write what you know, don't try to be funny if you're not, or similarly useful guidance. But when it comes to the average blog, how is this possible? Sure, there are blogs whose authors enjoy a consistently high level of readership, and in those cases there's generally enough feedback to get a pretty good idea of who's out there, and who isn't. Blogs in that category also tend to be aimed at a specific crowd to begin with; in effect, the subject matter determines the audience. Even when readership is low—or unknown for that matter—a blog focused on a particular topic or concern releases its author from that unknown-audience quandary.

Because blogs are such versatile instruments—as versatile as any Web site, since that's what they are, really—their applications are limited only by the imaginations and purposes of those who use them. For those of us who take pleasure in words for their own sake, identifying the audience probably isn't the overriding concern. In such a situation, the blog may be more creative instrument than soapbox; communication remains the goal, but would exist whether or not anyone is there to receive it.

Where simple creativity isn't the imperative, who's in the audience becomes more important. But as a blogger, or someone who otherwise publishes words on the Net, the audience may be forever obscured behind the scrim, and the glare of the klieg lights. There's no help for it. Perhaps the best we can do, if we can't know our audience, is attempt to follow those basic principles of effective communication. Write what you know is always good advice, and I might add the warning of my first and favorite English professor: Never write down! Thanks, Dr. K, wherever you are.


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