John Burbank - Nielsen
John Burbank – Nielsen

I recently read an article by John Burbank, the CEO of Nielsen’s Online Division. It’s about the “audience-centric” Web. We talk about customer-centric and visitor-centric, so, why not audience-centric as well? Although the term audience is increasingly used in content marketing, I don’t like the taste of it too much: isn’t an audience a bunch of people that’s simply looking or listening? Does an audience talk back? Do demographics buy products?

“The audience is the center of everything”, Burbank says. You know where this comes from: the world of (online) advertising and the idea of ‘acting as publishers’. Audience, demographics, reach, etc.

Burbank continues: “In the audience-centric Web, metrics will answer traditional marketing questions: Who saw my ad? Did I affect the way they think about my product? Did they actually buy more?”. These are all valuable questions since they actually focus on the business outcomes. Burbank is also very right where he states that online is no longer an island and that cross-channel is really the way to go.

Contextual and personalized touchpoint marketing is cross-channel

It’s obvious: people use several channels. In fact, people don’t think in terms of channels. They are channel-agnostic. Every time there is an interaction – visible or not – between a brand and a consumer, you have a touchpoint that can serve as a trigger, can be optimized, measured, etc. It’s the holistic single customer view that matters. An audience is a vast concept, a person is a more…personal concept but a touchpoint is a very tangible concept that even goes beyond the individual customer since it includes need, subject, social object, intent, meaning, etc.

Nevertheless, the audience-centric view to me is still too much about mass. One-to-one marketing in a personal way is what we strive for and, yes, big brands will continue to try to attract attention and create interest using interruptive tactics. But in the online and certainly social space, they will have to work much harder to earn that attention.

Contextual, personalized, cross-channel and integrated touchpoint marketing become far more important. It is by definition cross-channel and individualized, with a stronger focus on digital footprints, behavior and real-time optimization.

Demographics don’t interact or buy, people do. And their intent and emotions matter. So, maybe we should start talking about people-centric or “humanistic”. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter what name the baby gets as long as we see that the audience is not one and it talks back.

John also writes that “The richer the consumer data, the richer the business opportunity“. Very true, at least if you use the proper data in the right way and look at the customer across all touchpoints and channels.

Read the full article, “Get Ready for the Audience-Centric Web”, here.

Originally posted on