•To reinforce audience theory
•To have a basic understanding of
how to evaluate your coursework
against a consideration of your
Key terminology: Audience
Theorists: Karl Marx, Theodor Adorno, Blumler
and Katz, Stuart Hall
Uses and gratifications theory
Questions to consider for Audience 1b
1. Who is your target audience (social
2. How have you created your video/ digipak/
advert to attract/ appeal to your audience?
3. What are the different ways your audience
will ‘read’ into your digipak/ advert and
video? Will it be the way you meant them to
or will they interpret meanings differently?
A bit of background
• Julian McDougall (2009) suggests that in the
online age it is getting harder to conceive a
media audience as a stable, identifiable group.
• An audience can be described as a ‘temporary
collective’ (McQuail, 1972)
Mass, Niche, Mainstream, Alternative
Mass VS Alternative
1. Write down the details of the social
demographic of your target audience.
Would your video appeal to a mass/ mainstream
or alternative/ niche audience?
You gained audience feedback from your target
1. How did you do this (eg social networking site
2. Make a list of some of the comments they
made about your product. What might these
comments show about your target audience?
Now let’s apply some theories
Passive and active audiences
There are basically two different schools of
thought concerning how audiences consume
media texts. Those that believe audiences are
PASSIVE and those who believe audiences are
Audience theory: the PASSIVE
1. What does the word PASSIVE mean?
Passive audience theory (the hegemonic model)
The idea that the media ‘injects’ ideas and views
directly into the brains of the
audience, therefore controlling the way people
think and behave.
Can you think of any examples of this in the media
today or in history?
The Frankfurt School’s Hypodermic
Needle Theory (1930s)
Started with Karl Marx (we will come back to him)
This theory was championed by theorists such as
Theodor Adorno who believed the power of the
media was ‘enormous and very damaging’
This theory suggests that the media injects its
messages straight into the heads of the passive
audience. This audience is immediately
affected, believes these messages.
ALSO called THE EFFECTS THEORY....coming up
Problems / criticisms of this
Assumes we don’t have our
own minds/ opinions
Media effects theory
‘Passive’ audience/ hypodermic theory are
sometimes referred to overall as ‘Media Effects
Theory’ ie the media has a direct and powerful
effect on it’s audience. For example with your
music videos you can talk about the negative
effects of rap/ gangster videos,
Are there any possible effects that might be taken
from your video? Write them down now....
Hypodermic Theory: The ‘Effects’ model-The
Frankfurt School (early studies of audience
• What the media do TO their mass audiences.
• Meanings are ‘injected’ into the mass audience’s
minds by the powerful syringe- like media.
• The idea is that the media works as a drug and the
audience are therefore, drugged/ addicted etc
• The audience is PASSIVE
• The mass audience is usually assumed to consist of
the ‘weaker’ members of society eg women and
The Active audience (Pluralist model)
By 1960s/ 70s researchers found too many
limitations/ failing with Effects theories so
went in a totally different direction. They
argued that audiences use the media to satisfy
certain psychological needs. ACTIVE audiences
choosing media to fulfil needs.
The ‘uses and gratifications’ theory
McQuail, Blumler and Brown (1972) defined 4 major areas
of need which the media in general seek to gratify:
Diversion: an escape from routine and problems, an
Personal relationships: companionship, feeling part of a
Personal identity: exploring or reinforcing our own values
through comparison through others values (this would
include the values of the media producers and of
Surveillance: the need for a constant supply of information
about what is happening in the world.
Can you apply the ‘Uses and
Gratifications’ theory to your media
IN SUMMARY: ‘Uses and gratifications’
• Emphasises what the audiences for media products
do WITH them.
• Power lies with the individual consumer of media
who is imagined as using particular
programmes, films or magazines to gratify certain
needs and interests.
• The audience is made up of individuals free to
reject, use or play with media meanings as they
• THE AUDIENCE IS ACTIVE
Stuart Hall (1980s) Reception theory
:Encoding and Decoding
Stuart Hall claimed that audience members
share certain frameworks of interpretation
and that they work at DECODING media texts
rather than being ‘affected’ in a passive way.
Media producer ENCODES meanings into text
Media consumer (the audience) DECODES
meanings (relies on our own
experiences, social demographic etc)
Media producer has ENCODED
meanings in to this image
(depending on their ideologies/
How would the
Would we all
decode it in the
Hall’s 3 types of reading:
• DOMINANT- where the reader recognises what the
programmes ‘preferred’ or offered meaning is and broadly
agrees with it…eg flag waving patriot who responds
enthusiastically to Presidents speech.
• OPPOSITIONAL- where the dominant meaning is recognised
but rejected for cultural, political, or ideological reasons…eg
pacifist who understands the speech but rejects it.)
• NEGOTIATED- where the reader accepts, rejects or refines
elements of the programme in the light of previously held
You are the producer of your media
How have you ENCODED messages/ meanings for
List 5 examples.
1. How do you think your audience will DECODE
these messages (in different ways?)
2. Will they agree with the preferred meaning?
3. Will they make an oppositional reading? (to
Audience theories in summary
1. The passive/ hegemonic theories are:
Hypodermic needle and effects theories. We
believe what we are told and the messages
could have effects on our behaviour
2. Active, pluralist theories say that we choose
what we want to believe and read into texts
differently depending on our backgrounds/
An essay question
“Media texts will never be successful unless they
are carefully constructed to target preestablished audience needs or desires.”
Evaluate the ways that you constructed a media
text to target a specific audience.
Another audience question
The relationship between producer and
consumer is complex. Using one of your
courseworks explain how you have fulfilled
and challenged audience needs and
A possible plan for the audience
1. Intro- which coursework are you writing
about? Purpose of essay.
2. Audience the concept. Who is your target
audience? Briefly mention the theories.
3. Passive model- theories and how far does
your video apply?
4. The active model- theories and how can they
An example introduction
At A2 I produced a music video, digipak and
advert for the song....This is an indie/ rock
.....song therefore will bring a number of
audience preconceptions with it. In this essay I
am going to relate my production to audience
theory to show how I have fulfilled and
challenged these pre- existing audience
Your target audience.
My choice of song........largely appeals to
......mainstream/ niche....describe what
happens in your video in 3 lines....As a result
of audience feedback some people said that
they....other people.....This shows how I have
managed to fulfil and challenge expectations.
Describe where the passive audience theory
School...Adorno...power of media is
“enormous and very damaging” Hypodermic
needle theory....My video can be read
passively by an audience .....examples....more
reception theory states that the audience is
active and we decode texts according to own
our experiences, values, etc....
Examples from your video of how things could
be interpreted in more ways than one. So how
you are challenging the dominant reading