When a media text is being planned, perhaps the most important question the producers consider is "Does it have an audience?" If the answer to this is 'no', then there is no point in going any further!
Audience research is a major part of any media company, using questionnaires, focus groups, and comparisons to existing media texts
In researching our audience we have looked at a number of comparisons to existing media texts.
We have looked at the consumption habits of our target demographic, we have used our own experience as young people in taste and preferences.
We have looked at the different genres of music which are most popular amongst our age group.
We have an in-depth understanding of what our target audience expects in terms of code and conventions of our main product.
A great deal of time and money is invested by the industry in finding out if the idea/artist (band) will be successful and attract a lucrative audience.
There are other categories that divide up a target audience:
Arguably the most important category for choosing a target audience is race.
At the moment race divides and dominants the UK music chart as reflected in the popular genre of RnB
For example: Lady Gaga targets the young teenage audience, men, women and homosexuals (homoerotic imagery)
Location has always been important with associating a genre
Despite this, we must remember that musical taste is a very personal thing and younger audiences may choose music as a way of showing they belong to a group (community) or choose music or a more “underground nature” to highlight their growing sense of expression and individualism.
Record companies also consider very carefully how that audience might react to, or engage with, the text or product they intend to produce . The following are all factors in analysing or predicting this reaction:
AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT This describes how an audience interacts with a media text. Different people react in different ways to the same text. (Stuart Hall)
AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS These are the advance ideas an audience may have about a text. This particularly applies to genre pieces. Don't forget that producers often play with or deliberately shatter audience expectations.
AUDIENCE FOREKNOWLEDGE This is the definite information (rather than the vague expectations) which an audience brings to a media product.
AUDIENCE IDENTIFICATION This is the way in which audiences feel themselves connected to a particular media text, in that they feel it directly expresses their attitude or lifestyle. (attitude, age, clothes, direct address etc)
AUDIENCE PLACEMENT This is the range of strategies media producers use to directly target a particular audience and make them feel that the media text is specially 'for them‘ (way in which you make your audience react-direct address, with T.V bards also lyrics, creating a relationship with audience).
AUDIENCE RESEARCH Measuring an audience is very important to all media institutions. Research is done at all stages of production of a media text, and, once produced, audience will be continually monitored.
!However people are going to react to your product in different ways !
Once a media text has been made, its producers need to ensure that it reaches the audience it is intended for . All media texts will have some sort of marketing campaign attached to them. Elements of this might include
promotional interviews (eg stars appearing on chat shows)
tie-in campaigns (eg a blockbuster movie using McDonalds meals)
In order to evaluate and discuss our audience reactions and feedback, we have considered several theoretical approaches:
The Hypodermic Needle
The Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that the information from a text passes into the mass consciousness of the audience unmediated , ie the experience, intelligence and opinion of an individual are not relevant to the reception of the text.
This theory is still quoted during moral panics by parents, politicians and pressure groups, and is used to explain why certain groups in society should not be exposed to certain media texts (shoot’em up films in the 1980s, rap music in the 2000s), for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent behaviour and will then act them out themselves.
The Hypodermic model quickly proved too clumsy for media researchers seeking to more precisely explain the relationship between audience and text.
Suggested that the information does not flow directly from the text into the minds of its audience unmediated but is filtered through "opinion leaders" who then communicate it to their less active associates, over whom they have influence.
During the 1960s, as the first generation to grow up with television became grown ups, it became increasingly apparent to media theorists that audiences made choices about what they did when consuming texts. Far from being a passive mass, audiences were made up of individuals who actively consumed texts for different reasons and in different ways . It was suggested that media texts had the following functions for individuals and society :
Researchers expanded this theory and published their own in 1974, stating that individuals might choose and use a text for the following purposes (ie uses and gratifications):
Diversion - escape from everyday problems and routine.
Personal Relationships - using the media for emotional and other interaction, eg) substituting soap operas for family life
Personal Identity - finding yourself reflected in texts, learning behaviour and values from texts
Surveillance - Information which could be useful for living eg) weather reports, financial news, holiday bargains
Since then, the list of Uses and Gratifications has been extended, particularly as new media forms have come along (eg video games, the internet)
Extending the concept of an active audience still further, in the 1980s and 1990s a lot of work was done on the way individuals received and interpreted a text , and how their individual circumstances (gender, class, age, ethnicity) affected their reading.
Stuart Hall's explored the encoding/decoding model of the relationship between text and audience - the text is encoded by the producer, and decoded by the reader , and there may be major differences between two different readings of the same code.
However, by using recognised codes and conventions, and by drawing upon audience expectations relating to aspects such as genre and use of stars, the producers can position the audience and thus create a certain amount of agreement on what the code means. This is known as a preferred reading.