Who is My Audience?
I was listening to a podcast recently that sort of rattled my chains. During this podcast the interviewee made some comments that got me to thinking. He is an outdoor writer and he made comments like (and I paraphrase) “you need to identify who your target audience is and write to them.” And then he said, “Define your niche and write in that niche, too many aspiring writers are generalists and not focused enough.”
As I listened to this, I became despondent. I have been writing for almost twenty years in the outdoor industry. I have published over one thousand articles, stories and reviews. My writing has been acknowledged by numerous agencies and groups with nearly forty respectable awards. Yet, as I thought about this, I could not for the life of me identify ‘who my audience is.’
Then as I continued to think about it, trying to identify my niche was even more depressing. My niche has evolved, changed a few times and eluded me at others. My ability to write about a lot of different topics has been my niche. I have embraced being a generalist. The guy that can and does cover it all and does it all fairly well. I am not a whitetail deer writer, although I will publish a dozen or more stories annually on whitetail deer and how to hunt them. I have never been known as a gun writer. But this year I have written more stories about guns and reviews on guns than anything else. I do not believe I can be labeled a turkey writer, but this is perhaps my most favorite animal to hunt and write about.
I have written stories on so many subjects and species that I cannot remember them all. I have written about Whitetail deer and mule deer, black bear, turkey, feral hogs, elk, moose, coyotes, bobcats, fox both grey and red. I have written stories on how to hunt squirrels, rabbits and quail. Many a story has been spun around ducks, geese and decoys. Stories about woodcock and grouse. Articles of dogs and how to select them and train them. Stories about knives, bow and arrow, target shooting, optics and accessories. I have written about the nuances of the bow and arrow. From selecting the best bow, arrow, rest, sight, release and quiver to why not to do so. There are stories about black powder rifles and handguns. Stories about crossbows, recurve, longbows and compound bows. I have written about catching largemouth bass, striped bass, spotted bass and smallmouth. If you look you will find stories on how to catch bluegill, redbreast, shell cracker and crappie. There are stories on catching walleye, northern pike in remote lakes and every catfish available. Then there are the trapping stories. How to catch coyotes, fox, bobcats and raccoons. I have written mostly about hunting, fishing, trapping and life outside.
But of all of it, most of what I enjoy writing is not about the ‘how’, as much as it is about the ‘why’. I do not enjoy writing about the ‘how’. Although that is the only thing most magazines will buy. I do write about the ‘how’ – I just do not enjoy it nearly as much as writing about the ‘why’. There are plenty of writers out there who are far better than I am about telling you ‘how’. I love writing about ‘why’ we are there in the first place. What is it that draws men and women into the distant wilderness or neighborhood creek? What is the allure? What is the essence of the why? I write stories about sitting around campfires, sleeping in tents far from civilization. I write about traveling to distant places or nearby woodlots. About floating rivers and wading streams. About climbing mountains and slipping into frozen ponds. It is my belief that the ‘why’ is far more important than the ‘how’.
I can tell you how to catch a trout. But I long to tell you why you should want to catch a trout. I can explain the biology of the rut in deer, but I desire to capture the reasoning why we sit out in sometimes miserable conditions hoping for just a chance to see a buck. It is relatively easy to explain how to catch bedding bluegill. But to clarify the feeling of the fight from a panfish that causes grown men to tear up at the excitement is something difficult.
I have written volumes on how to kill turkeys in the mountains, plains and everywhere in between. But trying to understand the man who is as transfixed by the sight of his two hundredth bird as he was on his first – now that is good literature. And that is what I aspire to write.
So, who is my audience? My audience is everyone who understands that the why is far more important than the how. My audience are those men and women who crave for one more day, one more sunrise, and one more starry night. Those who inwardly smile at the perfect set of decoys, or the point of a setter. The man or woman who come across an old fence and marvel at the family that built it to survive. My audience is the little boy with his first BB gun. Or the girl on a pond bank praying her bobber will bounce.
The outdoors is a magical place. It is a place where we can experience the perfectness of creation and the tranquility of our own soul. It is a place where we experience things that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Whether you are traversing ancient glaciers or sitting in your backyard, the majesty is everywhere.
So I write for you. For everyone who dares to wonder and imagine. For everyone who looks out a frost covered window and dreams. For the upland hunter more interested in how his dog performs than he about his shooting prowess. For the big game hunter who enters vast wilderness in search of adventure. For the angler on a remote lake mesmerized by the loon and ripples. I write for you. For those who look into the flickering flames of a campfire and know. For those who don’t mind grounds in their coffee, or ice in their boots. I write for those who hunt the high country to go to sleep to the sound of bugling bulls and are transfixed by the millions of stars that are watching.
My niche? It is the outdoors. My audience – well it is you. All of you, all of you who want, need and live the outdoors. I hope you enjoy the times I try to capture. For the moments in time that are stilled long enough for you to come along. I hope you can feel the breeze on your cheek, and smell the fresh pine and decaying leaves of the mountain stream. I pray that through reading my simple words, you will know you are part of something far bigger. Your life in this vast place has purpose and meaning. You are valuable. So, I will write for you, my audience who live the outdoors.