Guide | Meaningful mapping

How to use the geography of where your audiences live as a means to usefully segmenting your database...

Knowing where your current audiences live is one of the essential elements in the process of effective segmentation for audience development planning. Once you understand where your audiences are coming from, you might then be able to use geography as a means to usefully segment your database. It is worth taking some time and effort to get this right. This guidance will help you to do that, using Audience Finder insights as well as the companion article to this guide, Segmentation made simple.

How can I see where my audiences are coming from?

One of the best ways to analyse the distribution of your audience geographically is to map your audience database. Using postcodes from your data, mapping software can show you precisely where audiences are located, as well as calculating and presenting catchment areas to illustrate where potential audiences are located and the extent to which your organisation penetrates into them. Through these methods you can visualise and identify “hotspots” and “coldspots” which may be areas for future audience development activity. Doing this involves bringing together information about your own audiences from your database with other secondary sources of information, such as population or arts attending statistics, which are available through sources such as Area Profile Reports

Your catchment area can be defined by establishing which postal sectors – from your organisation’s data - contain the core proportion of your audience. There are a number of potential ways of visualising and depicting a cultural facility’s catchment. The most common are: drawing a regular distance radius from the facility, for instance 10 miles, or defining a 15, 30, 45 or 60 minute drive time, or identifying the postal sectors in which the majority of your audience live. If you already hold data on your audience, you can use this to define these areas. For instance, you could find out bookers’ average drive distance from your venue, and then define everyone within this drive distance as being in your catchment area.

The map below shows a 30 minute drive time catchment area for an organisation; all households within the shaded area live within a 30 minute drive of the venue. Thirty minutes is usually regarded as the standard drive-time for most arts events or museums, however for specialist museums, scarce events or large scale productions of opera, ballet or musical a drive-time of 45, 60 or even, exceptionally 90 minutes may be likely. On the other hand events in a local community might be expected to attract people largely from within a 15 minute drive-time.

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Area Profile Reports (APR)

Effective planning for organisations at a local level is highly dependent on local data. A valuable source of such data is the Area Profile Report. These contain a rich depth of information describing the population of a defined area. This area can match your catchment area, be based on drive-time or distance radius, or match local or district authority boundaries. Included in the reports are the population size, and a wealth of other demographic in­formation including gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic grade, higher qualifications and households with dependent children. Also included are estimates of the numbers of potential arts, museum and heritage attenders. APRs give this information about the area as a whole, and then for each postal sector within that area.

In this way it’s pos­sible to identify any postal sectors within your catchment area that are particularly well (or poorly) represented in terms of any of these demographics. For example, you might find it useful when planning work for local culturally diverse communities to identify those postal sectors within your catchment area that contain particularly high concentrations of relevant ethnic minority households. It is important to note that numbers of potential arts attenders in each postal sector should not be regarded as absolute targets that an organisation should expect to achieve. The numbers and percentages are intended to reflect the adults’ propensity to attend a particular type of event, but not necessarily at a venue within the defined area.

The reports are available to not-for-profit organisations operating in the arts and cultural sector or to venues receiving work from funded clients of Arts Council Eng­land. Within Audience Finder you can access Regional Area Profile Reports and order your own organisational APR from the Research Team.

Pinpoint Mapping

Pinpoint maps show the geographical distribution of audiences by plotting each postcode in a dataset onto a map. In this example map, each dot represents one booker to an arts organisation. Postcode sector boundaries can also be overlaid, to show which sectors are strongly represented and those which are not.

Pinpoint maps are particularly useful in rural areas where postal sectors can cover large geographical areas (count maps may give the false impression of large numbers of audience members living in the middle of a forest, when they actually live in a nearby village) and with small data sets where low numbers of postcodes per postal sector leads to patchy count maps.

Catchment Area Mapping

The map below shows a catchment area which has been built from audience data, rather than a pre-determined drive time, distance, local authority or set of local postal sectors. The data has been analysed by counting the number of bookers from each postal sector, and the catchment area is created from the top postal sectors which together account for 75% of bookers. A venue with a particularly local audience will have a smaller catchment area, perhaps only taking in a handful of postal sectors, whilst a venue with a regional or national audience will have a widely dispersed catchment area.

Mapping potential audiences and penetration levels

Penetration describes what percentage of the population of an area are in an organisation’s active audience. By mapping penetration we can assess the potential for further development of audiences. This method can also be used in-conjunction with estimates on the size of potential audiences (or indeed any information relating to population characteristics such as age, ethnicity, etc.) from sources such as TGI and Taking Part to produce a visual representation of both potential audiences and population penetration. The example map shows audience potential; areas estimated as having the greatest potential are coloured in darker shades, and those with least potential in lighter shades.

How can I use insights about where my audiences come from?

Much of this may be done by eye, by comparing maps. For instance a pinpoint map of a particular grouping of survey respondents’ postcodes could be compared to a map showing geo-demographic types for the same area. In this way you will be able to test out whether the segment or group you identified through your survey relates to a particular Mosaic, or Audience Spectrum segment for instance. This will enable you to test inferences from your survey results against a geographic or geo-demographic target area. It is then possible to append or tag geo-demographic types to mailing lists or other box office data for targeting purposes.

‘Do It Yourself’ Geographical analysis where no box office data exists

Whilst maps provide a neat visual means to analyse where your audiences come from, you don’t have to invest in mapping to get at this type of information. It is possible to conduct this type of analysis on data from your survey using software such as Microsoft MapPoint or Socrata, whose basic packages allow you to upload postcode data, create maps and do some thematic mapping. You can also get a visual representation of the information you produce through purchasing laminated postal geography maps, which can be used again and again from The Audience Agency.

So, once you’ve identified which groups are most and least represented on your database you can then decide whether or not to target particular ones for special attention - dependent on how well they are repre­sented in the catchment area. Mapping can therefore provide a good first impression of the character of the population of your defined catchment area and the differences between postal sectors in levels of potential arts engagement.