Blog Post

Analysing audiences using postcode data


The Audience Agency are helping us to understand who Creative People and Places are reaching.  They explain the process in this blog.

The Big Feast, Stoke-on-Trent, Appetite. Photo: Clara Lou Photography

The Audience Agency talk about how they are helping us understand who the Creative People and Places programme is reaching. 

What is postcode analysis?

Postcode analysis is the process of using postcodes of audience members, subscribers or donors (or participants at CPP programmes) to understand more about their likely characteristics – who they are, where they live, and how likely they are to engage with the arts, culture and heritage. We can use postcodes to create profiles of an audience, which can help you understand who you’re reaching, and, just as importantly, who you’re not.

What can the profiles tell us?  

These profiles can be hugely useful and can show us the likely levels of arts attendance, social grade, household income, communication preferences, digital engagement and life stage amongst hundreds of other measures about audiences.

How can they be useful?

The insight that this information provides is invaluable in helping you understand your audience. They can indicate the likely characteristics of your audience without having to ask them a 10-page questionnaire. They also allow you to see how those who are engaging with your activities differ from the local population as a whole (ie are certain types of people over- or under-represented in your audience?). And importantly, you can see how your audience evolves over time – perhaps in response to changes in programming or marketing.

What has The Audience Agency been doing for CPP?

We’ve been profiling the postcodes of CPP participants for the last two years, and will be doing so again this winter. All CPP Places get a (yearly) profile of their participants over the previous calendar year, and a comparison with the population of their project area. We also produce a yearly national report which profiles all participants across the country; the next one of these is due in Spring/Summer 2017 (data for which will cover the 2016 calendar year), and will be followed by a report which describes who the CPP programme reached in its first three years.

Some highlights from Year Two

Our reports show that across all CPP projects in 2015, 47% of participants belonged to one of the lower engagement Audience Spectrum (our segmentation system) segments, 43% one of the medium engagement segments, and 10% one of the higher engagement segments. This compares with 36% lower, 42% medium, and 23% higher in the English population – we see 12% more from lower and medium engaged segments amongst CPP participants than we do in the English population as a whole. This indicates the CPP programme as a whole is successful at reaching those who have historically been less likely to participate in arts activities.

Across all CPP projects in 2015, approximately 52% of participants belonged to the C2, D or E social grade. This is 6% higher than in seen across the population of England, where 46% fall into grades C2, D or E – suggesting CPP is effective at reaching those in the lower socio-economic groups.

By analysing where people live in relation to the activities in which they’re participating, we also see that the programme really is reaching local audiences and not ‘importing’ them from areas which perhaps have a traditionally higher level of engagement with arts and culture; on average 75% lived within the project area, and the average (median) drive time from home to event was three miles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, rural and sparse/fringe events had the widest reach in terms of drive time and distance travelled, and urban events tended to draw an audience from closest to home – 90% of participants at urban events also lived in urban areas, compared with 52% of audiences at rural events also living in rural areas.

Other standard tools which can be used on top of or alongside our Audience Spectrum/Mosaic profiling:

Our APR+ report gives a postal sector breakdown of your area, and shows how Audience Spectrum differs throughout it. You can use this to focus on particular postal sectors based on the Audience Spectrum profile of people who live there – ie targeted activity based on the hyper-local population – or identify which postal sectors might have the population most interested in the work you’re producing.

Mapping allows you to visualise the relative levels of each segment, group or type across your area.

Population statistics via Neighbourhood Statistics (a free tool on the ONS website)) allow you to see how some of the things which Audience Spectrum or Mosaic describe vary across your area, and to get baseline figures on the population beyond Audience Spectrum segment, Mosaic group or type.

There’s a lot more you can use geographic analysis for - for instance finding out what percentage of your participants come from particular wards, or what the average drive time is for people coming to your events. You could then feed these findings into other analyses – eg are people coming from within your project area different from those who are coming from further away?

For more information contact

Read The Audience Agency reports on year two of the Creative People and Places programme here

Read our In Conversation blog to find out more about what the data is telling us