Perspectives in Media
To reinforce basic audience theory.
To have a basic understanding of how
to evaluate your coursework against a
consideration of your target audience.
Julian McDougall (2009) suggests that in the
online age it is getting harder to conceive a
media audience as a stable, identifiable
However audiences still clearly make sense
and give meaning to cultural products.
An audience can be described as a
temporary collective (McQuail, 1972).
Mass / Niche & Mainstream / Alternative
Is your text popular for a mass
Historically (until the 19th century, at any
rate) the term 'popular' was quite a
negative thing, with overtones of vulgarity
and triviality. Something not 'nice' or
'respectable'. In the modern world, the
term means 'widespread', liked or at least
encountered by many people. It has also
come to mean 'mass-produced', i.e. made
for the 'mass' of people. There is a
downside to this, of course, in that it can
also be interpreted as 'commercial' or
This leads into a further consideration,
which is the definition of 'popular culture'
as 'low' culture, something not for the elite,
but for the 'common' people. Cultural value
('high' culture) has been traditionally
associated with dominant or powerful
groups - those who have appreciation of
classical music, art, ballet, opera and so on.
'Low' or popular culture is everything not
approved of as 'high'. It is vulgar, common,
or 'easy . It is postmodern.
Another definition of 'popular' is literally 'of
the people', a kind of 'folk' culture and this
is an interesting area, because it
encompasses the idea of an 'alternative'
culture which includes minority groups,
perhaps with subversive values. The 'indie'
music scene is an example of this. So
'popular' culture can and sometimes does,
challenge the 'dominant' cultural power
What should be done in terms of your
coursework is three things:
1. You must detail the target audience
for your product.
2. Detail what the audience might
identify with in your product (could
link to the construction of identity?)
3. What meanings/uses they might
make from consuming/interacting
with the product.
Ien Ang (1991) detailed that
media producers have an
imaginary entity in mind before
the construction of a media
Audiences only exist as an
imaginary entity, an
abstraction, constructed from
the vantage point of the
institution, in the interest of the
Ang (1991) states that 'audiencehood
is becoming an ever more
multifaceted, fragmented and
diversified repertoire of practices and
You must detail the social demographic
of this target audience (gender, age,
ethnicity, social class).
John Hartley (1987) institutions are
obliged not only to speak about an
audience, but crucially, for them to
talk to one as well; they need not only to
represent audiences but to enter into
relation with them
Hartley (1987) also suggests that
institutions must produce invisible
fictions of the audience which allow the
institutions to get a sense of who they
must enter into relations with .
e.g. they must know their audience so
they can target them effectively.
For your magazine work, for example, you used
information from the National Readership
Survey (NRS) in order to help detail the
demographic for your audience (most consumer
magazines have a target readership of ABC1)
In terms of your music videos you must relate
this back to sub-cultures (Sarah Thornton,
Gaining Feedback from your Audience
You attempted to gain feedback from your
target market in order to get their opinions,
You used the blogs, forums etc in order to
share ideas and images.
You also conducted polls to tailor the
product better for your audience.
Write down how you did this.
Audience Reception Theories:
Passive and Active Audiences
There are basically two different schools of
thought concerning how audiences consume
media texts, those that believe that audiences are
passive and those who believe that audiences
are active .
Passive Audience Theory
The idea that the media injects ideas and views
directly into the brains of the audience like a
hypodermic needle, therefore, controlling the way
that people think and behave.
The Frankfurt School s Hypodermic Theory
This Marxist theory, which was championed by
theorists such as Theodore Adorno, assumes a
direct stimulus-response relationship between
audience reactions and the consumption of
Criticisms Of Hypodermic Theory
Doesn t allow for resistance or rejection of
Passive audience/hypodermic theory are
sometimes referred to overall as Media
Effects Theory , i.e. the media has a direct
and powerful effect on its audience. for
your coursework this can relate directly to
music videos debate at the moment
concerned with rap/gangster videos,
Marylin Manson etc, computer gaming.
Moral Panics And Folk Devils
Stanley Cohen in his book Folk Devils And Moral
Panics (1972) defines a Moral Panic as:
a mass response to a group, a person or an
attitude that becomes defined as a threat to
Cohen argues that the media, especially news
media, often create and/or reinforce moral
panics in the public.
The term Folk Devil is the name given to the
object of the moral panic, i.e. it is another
name for a scapegoat.
Pluralist Model and the Active Audience
This is the idea that the audience have
an active role to play in the
understanding of, and creation, of
meaning within a media text.
Predictably enough, the pluralist idea is
the exact opposite of a hegemonic one.
A pluralist model argues that there is
diversity in society (everyone is
different) and therefore there is also
choice (we can choose what to believe
and what not to believe.)
So in media terms, because the audience
(society) is diverse, with different points of
view, the media is influenced by society.
Because the media need to please the
audience they will try to reflect the values
and beliefs that are predominant in society.
In other words, they give us what we say
we want rather than telling us what to think
and believe, in order to make us stay in our
McQuail s Uses And Gratifications Theory
Dennis McQuail (1972)
2. Personal Relationship: A talking point
3. Personal Identity: identifying with the
representations on display
4. Surveillance: Information
Parkin s/Hall s Audience Readings Theory
Frank Parkin (1972) and later Stuart Hall
(1980) analysed the readings within
audiences as either:
1.Dominant or Preferred Reading: The meaning
they want you to have is usually accepted.
2.Negotiated Reading: The dominant reading is
only partially recognised or accepted and
audiences might disagree with some of it or find
their own meanings.
3.Oppositional Reading: The dominant reading is
refused, rejected because the reader disagrees
with it or is offended by it, especially for political,
religious, feminist, reasons etc.
You must think about the meanings behind
the text and how you encoded and they
decoded (Hall, 1980) according to their
situated culture (personal, small scale
communications and interactions we have
on a day to day basis).
Media texts will never be successful unless
they are carefully constructed to target pre-
established audience needs or desires .
Evaluate the ways that you constructed a
media text to target a specific audience.