Audience Research and
By Jay Dobkins
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
So far I have already made comparisons to existing media texts. Our
group is now going to concentrate on producing a questionnaire for
a focus group.
In the development of our star image, we researched the
consumption characteristics of teenage music audiences in various
different genres, this helped with targeting our specific audience.
Now using a focus group, we are going to evaluate how successful
that was in helping construct our main products.
The industry uses a method of categorising known as demographics.Once
they know this they can begin to shape their text to appeal to a group with
known reading/viewing/listening habits.
One common way of describing audiences is to use a letter code to show
their income bracket:
A Top management, bankers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals
B Middle management, teachers, many 'creatives' e.g. graphic designers etc
C1 Office supervisors, junior managers, nurses, specialist clerical staff etc
C2 Skilled workers, tradespersons (white collar)
D Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers (blue collar)
E Unemployed, students, pensioners, casual workers
Depending on the genre of the music, an artist or a band could appeal to a
wide spectrum of people within this demographic chart.
Although, audiences are also looked at in other categories:
It is important they also consider
very carefully how an audience
might react to, or engage with,
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.
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'. (Stuart Hall)
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.
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
Posters – which would be sold in music stores or come as a free gift with some music
magazines for example.
promotional interviews - would be in similar music magazines as shown on this side of
this slide, which also print advertisements would be included in too. Also, interviews
would be carried out on the radio, for example, on Radio 1, on the Zane Lowe Show and
Dave Berry on X FM as the both look at new and upcoming acts on their radio shows.
Then there are Podcasts on iTunes, myspace pages and the bands official
webpage, 4music, NME music channel, iTunes, Spotifier, Late night with Jools
Holland, single of the week on iTunes (often new bands), Seatwave (advertise gigs –
both big and small up and coming bands), Gigs – supporting bigger bands on the
label, local festivals e.g. Guilfest (new bands), supporting bigger band on their label on
tours around Britain – these are just a number of ways in which promotional interviews
can be shown.
Tie-in campaigns – Bruises was originally used for the iPod Nano advert, so we would
suggest something for a similar advertisement, a soft product such as washing tablets
Merchandising - t-shirts, baseball caps, key
rings, posters, wristbands, badges, mugs, hoodies, plectrums.
Marketing campaigns are intended to create awareness of a
media text. Once that awareness has been created, hopefully
audiences will come flocking in their hundreds of millions.
Different types of media texts measure their audiences in different ways, below are a
few common examples:
Tickets sales for live gigs and sales of merchandise
Number of downloads
Number of sales from records stores published sales
Number of hits on Youtube
New Media – on Youtube, myspace, iTunes downloads, Spotify Downloads, official
website hits and downloads, polls on MTV, ring in to vote for music you want on a
number of music channels such as The Box.
Print Magazines and newspapers measure their circulation (i.e. numbers of copies
sold). They are open about these figures - they have to be as these are the numbers
quoted to advertisers when negotiating the price of a page.
Radio/TV Measuring the number of viewers and listeners for a TV/Radio programme
or whole station's output is a complex business. Generally, an audience research
agency (e.g. BARB) will select a sample of the population and monitor their viewing
and listening habits over the space of 7 days. The data gained is then extrapolated to
cover the whole population, based on the percentage sample. It is by no means an
accurate science. The numbers obtained are known as the viewing figures or
HOW ARE WE GOING TO COUNT
Youtube counts as it is our only source at
the moment. However, we are going to
also upload it to our Facebook sites and
even try and send it out by email, to try
and boost our viewings.
Over the course of the past century or so, media
analysts have developed several effects models, i.e.
theoretical explanations of how humans ingest the
information transmitted by media texts and how this
might influence (or not) their behaviour.
Effects theory is still a very hotly debated area of Media
and Psychology research, as no one is able to come up
with indisputable evidence that audiences will always
react to media texts one way or another.
The scientific debate is clouded by the politics of the
situation: some audience theories are seen as a call for
more censorship, others for less control.
The Hypodermic Needle
Basically, the Hypodermic Needle Model suggests that the
information from a text passes into the mass consciousness of the
audience unmediated, i.e. the experience, intelligence and opinion
of an individual are not relevant to the reception of the text.
This theory suggests that, as an audience, we are manipulated by
the creators of media texts, and that our behaviour and thinking
might be easily changed by media-makers. It assumes that the
audience are passive.
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 e.g. rap music
in the 2000s, for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent
behaviour and will then act them out themselves.
This theory supports the idea of technological determinism – a
theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the
development of its social structure and cultural values.
The Hypodermic model quickly proved too
clumsy for media researchers seeking to
more precisely explain the relationship
between audience and text.
As the mass media became an essential
part of life in societies around the world
and did NOT reduce populations to a
mass of unthinking drones, a more
sophisticated explanation was required.
The Two-Step Flow
This theory suggests 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.
The audience then mediate the information received
directly from the media with the ideas and thoughts
expressed by the opinion leaders, thus being influenced
not by a direct process, but by a two step flow. This
diminished the power of the media in the eyes of
researchers, and caused them to conclude that social
factors were also important in the way in which
audiences interpreted texts.
Uses and Gratifications
Katz and Blumler
During the 1960s, as the first generation grew up with
television and became grown ups, it became
increasingly apparent to media theorists that audiences
made choices about what they did when consuming
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 (i.e. uses and gratifications):
Diversion - escape from everyday problems and routine.
Personal Relationships - using the media for emotional
and other interaction, e.g. substituting soap operas for
Personal Identity - finding yourself reflected in
texts, learning behaviour and values from texts.
Surveillance - Information which could be useful for
living e.g. weather reports, financial news, holiday
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.
This work was based on Stuart Hall's 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.