The audience also controls how you communicate

The Wired story a few days ago on a survey carried out by The Washington Post into the changing reading habits of its 18- to 34-years-old readership segment is also significant from an organizational communication point of view.

What the Washington Post survey showed was that people in this age range just aren’t interested in reading newspapers and print magazines. Wired added:

The Post experience merely mirrors the results of a September study (pdf) by the [US] Online Publishers Association, which found that 18- to 34-year-olds are far more apt to log on to the internet (46 percent) than watch TV (35 percent), read a book (7 percent), turn on a radio (3 percent), read a newspaper (also 3 percent) or flip through a magazine (less than 1 percent).

This story presents a clear reminder to communicators to think more about communicating with their audiences in ways that appeal to those audiences, rather than just continue with traditional ways either because that’s how it’s always been done or because they rigidly fit into an inflexible communication model.

Just as ‘new’ communication tools like blogs, wikis and RSS are creating widespread change in organizational communication practice in who controls the message (see this post a few months ago for some commentary on that, and this one about RSS), so it is with how you communicate that message.

You can have the most compelling story in the world. But if no one wants to read it because the way you deliver that story just doesn’t appeal to the audience, then your efforts will fail.

Understanding your audience also includes understanding the most effective ways to the reach that audience. To re-coin a phrase that I’ve used a lot in this blog, the audience is firmly in charge. Whatever its age.