Who’s watching Newsnight? Who knows…

Posted on 05/12/2011


Hundreds of thousands watch Newsnight, but who are they?

Ask any journalist why you should listen to them and, eventually, most of them would say the same thing… We are in touch with what our readers / viewers / listeners want to hear. Some may say they even represent their audience.

And this is a fundamental part of how the media works.

Journalists, producers and media owners understand their audience, which means that they create a product people want. These people then consume that media, therefore meaning other organisations want to influence (thought PR) or advertise with that media. This means the media can afford to act independently and continue to give their audience what they want.

Which is why I was puzzled to read an interview with a senior figure at Newsnight who said, in response to a fairly basic question:

I’m not sure we have an average viewer, but whoever they are we are very grateful for their continued support.

Now, consider that Newsnight’s viewing figures have plummeted recently (even down to fewer viewers than the Independent has readers!) and has been re-branded ‘snoozenight’ by some industry figures.

Although BBC-insiders have launched a passionate defence of the show, perhaps one of the first steps to making the show more appealing to a wider audience would be for the producers to find out who makes up their average audience, who has turned off and who they could look to reach.

They could then start building a programme which appeals to these groups, rather than just rely on the odd ‘agenda setting’ interview or major news story for ratings boosts.