Understanding Audiences and Their Behavior

Course Overview

Understanding Audiences and Their Behavior
Self-Directed Course
Time Estimate:
This course takes about 2 - 3 hours to complete

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

Do you know who your audience is, and how to reach them? In this course, we will go beyond the traditional ways to measure audience and help you understand what motivates people to use media — and how to create a valuable media product for them.

Starting a new venture? This course will show you how to move beyond hunches or trends to describe your potential audience. We'll show you how to use research and your journalistic judgment to identify and define your audience.

What Will I Learn:
  • A systematic approach to identifying and understanding your audience
  • What kind of audience research matters
  • What research methods are the most reliable under what circumstances
  • How to identify and refine a target audience for a product
Who should take this course:

Journalists in traditional news organizations, entrepreneurial journalists or anyone who wants to engage their current audience or identify and target audiences for new initiatives

Course Instructor:

Rachel Davis Mersey

Rachel Davis Mersey is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She uses quantitative and qualitative research strategies to examine journalism in light of the changing media environment. Her aim is to improve the practice of journalism in a manner that enhances publications’ relationships with their audiences by understanding their identities. Her classes have worked with Chicago-based clients such Crain’s Chicago Business, WGN and the Chicago Reader. She is also a member of the school’s innovation projects resource board, which focuses on guiding multiplatform development ventures.


Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is on the front lines of social change around the world, working with visionary leaders and organizations to change social structures and institutions — so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential and have a voice in decisions that affect them.

Established in 1936, with gifts and bequests by Edsel and Henry Ford, the foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with its own board, and is entirely separate from the Ford Motor Company.

Technical Requirements:

No special software is needed. However, we strongly recommend you have a high-speed or broadband connection. We recommend accessing this course with Firefox or, for Mac users, Safari 2.x or higher.