The influence of traditional mass media institutions is being challenged by an unprecedented level of audience participation and co-creation in online media production, which has blurred the lines between consumer and producer, audience and public. There are signs suggesting that this convergence has permeated into traditional market areas such as the tourism industry and the music industry respectively. Internet-based social media tools like blogs, podcasts, online video and social network websites, have given voice to the opinions of millions of individual consumers worldwide. And while traditional mass media (namely television, radio and print) continue to be central to the dissemination of (mainstream) information, these traditional channels are increasingly being influenced by those online conversations taking place in the social media. This working paper is based on my ongoing doctoral research on the same topic and emphasises the need for a multidimensional approach to understanding the social media phenomenon. This paper postulates that ‘generative audiences’ are behind this convergence and contends that generative audiences have given rise to newer approaches to marketing and the engagement of audiences using social media network sites that are characterised by conversation and community. This paper discusses the generative phenomenon whereby individuals and organisations today are able to use those social media network sites to extend their sphere of influence to engage and/re-engage successive generations of audiences.
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