A Question of Audience

I’ve been thinking a bit about science communication recently.

One of the most important parts of communicating science (or indeed, communicating anything) is knowing your audience. Much of the time if a piece is flawed, it’s flawed because the author didn’t have a clear idea of who they’re talking to.

A persistent worry among people who communicate science to the public is that we’re really just talking to ourselves. If all the people praising you for your clear language are scientists, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and think about whether you’re actually being understood by anyone else.

This blog’s goal has always been to communicate science to the general public, and most of my posts are written with as little background assumed as possible. That said, I sometimes wonder whether that’s actually the audience I’m reaching.
Wordpress has a handy feature to let me track which links people click on to get to my blog, which gives me a rough way to gauge my audience.

When a new post goes up, I get around ten to twenty clicks from Facebook. Those are people I know, which for the most part these days means physicists. I get a couple clicks from Twitter, where my followers are a mix of young scientists, science journalists, and amateurs interested in science. On WordPress, my followers are also a mix of specialists and enthusiasts. Most interesting, to me at least, are the followers who get to my blog via Google searches. Naturally, they come in regardless of whether I have a new post or not, adding an extra twenty-five or so views every day. Judging by the sites (google.fr, google.ca) these people come from all over the world, and judging by their queries they run from physics PhD students to people with no physics knowledge whatsoever.

Overall then, I think I’m doing a pretty good job getting the word out. As my site’s Google rankings improve, more non-physicists will read what I have to say. It’s a diverse audience, but I think I’m up to the challenge.

1 thought on “A Question of Audience

  1. Wyrd Smythe

    File me under avid enthusiast, a long-time reader of popular science material and dabbler into what I can get from some formal papers. Mostly limited by a lack of higher math… I’m trying to figure out (without much luck) tensors and “affine spaces” and such (I loved calculus, got an A+ in it, but it was decades ago, and I’ve forgotten most of it).

    I just began following you, but I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far and getting value from it. First blog I’ve found (which I can follow) that talks about quantum gravity, and that’s a big draw for me.



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