All media texts are made for a particular audience. Most of
the time we take this for granted – we know that we are likely
to enjoy some texts but be very uninterested in other texts.
Analysing a media text is much easier once you have
identified the target audience, because then you can start to
look for particular features of the text which appeal to that
The term ‘Target Audience’ for media
producers means ‘the audience we think
we are making this product for’.
Media producers identify the target audience during the
planning stage for a media text, because it affects the
shape of the text so much
The Audience and the Text
• Every media text is produced with the
intended reader in the mind. It is important
therefore that the producer considers both
• Content of the text – is it suitable/appropriate
for the audience?
• Style of presentation - is it attractive to the
audience and will the content be understood
• For example tabloids and broadsheets will
differ in content and style.
The different interests of men and women are the most
obvious factor in considering audiences, by
advertisers. Women are still assumed to buy most
grocery items, whereas technology is assumed to
The different interests of different age groups are
another obvious factor in considering audiences.
Children are interested in cartoons, whereas
pensioners are interested in documentaries.
• Advertisers have not been persuaded by the ‘classless
society’ in the UK. The social classes are categorised as:
• ABC1 – the middle class market
• C2DE - the working class market
• These categories are based on the occupational
groupings developed for the government census every
• A higher managerial and professional;
• B middle management
• C1 office workers
• C2 skilled manual workers
• D unskilled workers
• E unemployed, unwaged
Media Organisations sometimes seek to nickname
particular niche markets as an easy way to define
target audiences. Among the best known names are
YUPPIES (young upwardly mobile professionals)
DINKYS (double income no kids yet)
Star Wars was initially
intended as a kids film.
The target audience
The actual audience for
Star Wars turned out to
• Different audiences have different reactions to the
same text because of age, gender, social class, ethnic
group, lifestyle, politics, religion, values, taste, education
and so on.
A text may be targeted at a certain audience, but other
audiences will watch the text and have a different
reaction to the text from the creators’ preferred reading.
Preferred, Negotiated and Oppositional
David Morley found that there were 3 ways to read
1. A Preferred reading is the reading which the
media producers want the audience to receive.
2. A Negotiated reading is one where the
audience accepts the meaning the media
producers intend for the text but it changes
some of the intentions of the text to suit its own
3. An Oppositional reading is one where the
audience reject the preferred reading of the
text and interpret the text in a different way.
The hypodermic syringe model
- mass audience theory
• According to the theory the media is like a
syringe which injects ideas, attitudes and beliefs
into the audience who as a powerless mass
have little choice but to be influenced- in other
words, you watch something violent, you may go
and do something violent, you see a woman
washing up on T.V. and you will want to do the
same yourself if you are a woman and if you are
a man you will expect women to do the washing
up for you.
• The audience in this case would be seen as
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 (comics in the 1950s,
rap music in the 2000s), for fear that they
will watch or read sexual or violent
behaviour and will then act them out
This theory has been particularly popular when people have been
considering violence in films. There have been films such as The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Clockwork Orange which had
been banned partly because of a belief that they might encourage
people to copy the crimes within them.
Many people have therefore seen the theory as simplistic because it
doesn't take any account of people's individuality and yet it is still
very popular in society particularly for politicians looking for reasons
why society has become more violent which can't be blamed on
• The “Uses & Gratifications” theory of audience suggests,
unlike the hypodermic needle model, that the audience
determines what to do with the media rather than the
media simply influencing the audience directly.
• When an audience actively seeks media, they want to
gratify a need – the message of the media is not being
forced on them as such, they are choosing to interpret its
• The main idea is that media does not fully control a
helpless audience, but rather the media is subjective per
person as they use it to meet needs. (It is essentially the
opposite of the hypodermic needle model).
But what does this actually mean? What kinds
of gratification can we be getting? In general
researchers have found four:
Personal Identity- we may watch the television in order to
look for models for our behaviour. So, for example, we may
identify with characters that we see in a soap. The
characters help us to decide what feel about ourselves and
if we agree with their actions and they succeed we feel
better about ourselves
Information- Information gathering we want to find out
about society and the world- we want to satisfy our
curiosity. This would fit news and documentaries which
both give us a sense that we are learning about the world.
Entertainment - sometimes we simply use the media
for enjoyment, relaxation or just to fill time.
Integration and Social Interaction - we use the
media in order to find out more about the
circumstances of other people. At the same time
television may help us to get on with our real friends as
we are able to talk about the media with them – or
even substituting characters from films or TV
programmes for our own families.
You can probably recognise yourself in some of these descriptions and not
surprisingly uses and gratification theory has become quite popular
amongst media critics. It is important to remember with this theory that it
is likely that with any media text you enjoy, you will be getting a number of
Gratifications from it and not just one