Audience Research

What it means

Audience research refers to any study conducted, reviewed, or considered on audiences with the goal of gaining insight into the audience’s behaviors, attitudes, values, motivations, and perceptions to better meet the needs of those the museum aims to serve.

Audience research has many methods, and is evolving, scalable, and dependent on the goals of the organization or project. Audience research can be qualitative and focused more on deeper insights or it can be quantitative and focused on statistically significant sample sizes. It can be conducted via online surveys/digital applications, online panels, focus groups, intercept surveys, observational studies, in-depth interviews, and more.

The U.S. Census, Convention Visitor Bureau, other cultural organizations, and commercial firms may be resources in this work.

How it’s used

Applications include informing strategy, optimizing revenue opportunities, crafting messaging, and enabling the museum to see itself as others see it.

Why it matters

Museums exist to serve the public, and therefore, understanding audiences is a foundational component of making that work meaningful. It’s a useful measure of the success of other initiatives such as branding, social impact, or mission effectiveness. It should inform such overriding questions as organizational purpose.


One tool we find useful for sifting through data to find actionable insight is a Competitive Advantage Diagram mapped from the audience’s perspective.


Another good resource is the Visitor Studies Association at

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