Reporting on the environment and science has increased globally over the last years as the topics gain relevance. What kind of coverage do DW's target groups in Asia and Africa expect from these topics?
We asked users from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Indonesia and Pakistan and a total of 3,000 persons completed the online survey. All of them were between 18 and 40 years old with an above-average education.
Wildfires, floods, plastic waste, the development of vaccines against the coronavirus: science and environment topics are on everyone's mind these days. A recent analysis conducted by DW’s Market and Audience Insights (MAI) department sought to find out more about DW's environment- and science-savvy target group: When and how do they consume science and environment content, what interests them specifically? And how can our editors tell stories in a catchy, yet meaningful, understandable way?
Many believe their behavior doesn't (or cannot) contribute to solving environmental problems.
One important finding was that 41 percent of the participants believe that they cannot personally contribute to solving environmental problems. At the same time, environmental issues become more relevant when they directly affect users and their communities, the study found: The users' top three interests are clean and healthy surroundings (81 percent), access to clean resources (78 percent) and the impact of the environment on health (78 percent).
This underscores the high demand for empowering, regionalized science and environment stories. "We already regionalize a lot of our content within the environment department – particularly through our shows Eco Africa and Eco India, but also with our audio formats or the new digital channels like Planet A. Here, for example, we first check if the topic is relevant for the target regions by consulting search engine tools. We reach out to regional experts, check regional data and studies where possible. Of course, we also work closely with local producers and authors," says DW Head of Environment Vanessa Fischer.
89 percent of the target group are interested in environment topics that "deliver useful facts or solutions for me or my community." Again, it is regionalized content as well as a constructive approach that provide the most impact: "Constructive Journalism means providing context and then adding perspectives. This is key. We as journalists have to be careful not to oversimplify things when it comes to showing solutions or highlighting a solution-based approach," says Fischer.
To be relevant, science has to deliver facts and knowledge that help people in their personal lives.
Avoid simplifying: This also applies to DW’s diverse target group for environment and science topics. DW's MAI team generated a total of six user types within the target groups.
The science target group consists of:
1. The science escapist, who likes to explore spaces and places beyond reach
2. The science pragmatist, who wants to learn how to make human life better
3. The techie, whose interests are technology and innovation.
Cleanliness and the environment's impact on health are what the target group is most interested in.
The environment target group consists of the following three types, Fischer explains:
1. Environment affected: "This type appreciates simple language and personal stories."
2. Environment conscious: "This type appreciates content that explains phenomena and likes graphics and mini-series to deep dive into a topic."
3. Environmental pragmatist: "The environmental pragmatist focuses on solutions to existing problems or challenges like the future of agriculture and food security."
How does this user typology help, then, to meet the demand for high-quality, regionalized environment content? "It really helps to picture users when producing content and deciding which approach to take. I also think it's remarkable that the three types like to consume environmental content that includes interviews with experts, reliable facts and figures and simple language used for complex topics. For me, this pretty much sums up users' high expectations of quality journalism," Fischer explains.
The study sought to find out the key motivations for consuming science content.
Some findings of the study were, however, unexpected, for example the fact that only a small number of users found some of the 18 topics they were asked about not interesting at all, or that human-wildlife conflict was ranked as least interesting, which "was a surprise," Fischer shares. Still, there is "great potential to make environmental topics relevant and engaging."
Many users appreciate the independent regional reporting of Deutsche Welle, highlighting the relevance of regional reporting by international broadcasters. Here, the study has also raised some new questions, Fischer said: "It is sometimes a real stretch to produce content with global relevance and a local or regional perspective."