Audiences and the audience business by ewghwehws


:Week 34

Geoff Lealand
Audiences and the
audience business
‘Audiences’ are …
Socially constituted and institutionally-produced
  categories or groupings of people (television
  viewers, film-goers, newspaper and magazine
  readers, radio listeners, theatre-goers etc). We can
  simultaneously be an individual member of an
  audience, and part of a broad, undifferentiated
  audience (the collective).
It is probably best to speak of

.. because we simultaneously belong to a number of
   audiences as we daily encounter a range of media
   in our private spaces and in public spaces
  [cf. Shuchi Kothari ‘Questioning the audience’ in Media Studies in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 2004. P.46]
Audiences are essential to the
media ….

Because the media wouldn’t exist
 without them
It is vitally important that the
media is able to:
 identify its audiences
 describe its audiences (demographics and
 build, retain and expand its audiences
 ascribe value (cultural and/or financial value) to
  its audiences
… different areas of media have different ways of
  doing this ….
Measuring FILM audiences
The box office is the primary means of measuring film audiences.
   It is based on the amount of money spent on admission to a
   film (nationally and globally). These days, the potential film
   audience is greatly enlarged through television screenings, pay
   channels, video and DVD (rentals and sell-throughs)
Film audiences are temporary phenomena ie groups of strangers
   who gather, in a specific place at a specific time, then disperse.
   Nevertheless, ‘tracking’ strategies can provide additional
         [OHT: New Zealand b.o.] + video Watching Movies
As it is a domestic device, television enables continuous
   measurement of the viewing characteristics of an identified
   audience. More specifically, television ratings (expressed as
   percentages of the potential viewing population) enable a value
   to be put on the audience, and thus become a commodity to be
   sold to advertisers, or used to justify broadcasting fees.
In most cases a sample of viewers serves as the ‘official’
   television audience. In NZ, it comprises 500 households
 ( representing 1150 individuals)equipped with Peoplemeters.
         [OHT: New Zealand ratings (AC Nielsen)]
See : Lealand ‘The Television Audience’ in It’s All Done With Mirrors for a critique of ratings
Measuring RADIO audiences
Like TV, radio is a broadcast medium, but presents particular
  problems for audience measurement eg radio listening is based
  on recall, radio use tends to accompany other activities or is
  frequently mobile, listening is about ‘flow’ rather than
  programmes. Nevertheless, in highly fragmented,
  commercially competitive radio markets (such as NZ),
  evidence of station loyalty is vital. This is gathered via six-
  monthly radio surveys of listening recall, which are often
  accompanied by aggressive marketing by radio stations and
  networks (eg competitions and stunts)
Other perspectives on audiences (1)

Social science researchers (including Media Studies
  academics) provide numerous alternative
  perspectives on media audiences. Generally, they
  are more interested in in addressing the WHY,
  HOW And WHAT aspects of audience
  behaviour, rather than the WHO [is watching,
  listening or reading?] and WHERE? [are they
  doing this?] questions which interest industry
Other perspectives on audiences (2)

For example, social science research investigates:
• WHY Do people use the media? Why do they choose
  specific media, or specific content in the media?
• HOW is the media organised? How does the media work?
  How do audiences respond to media messages?
• WHAT are the ‘effects’ of the media? What do viewers,
  listeners and readers do with media texts? What is the
  purpose of advertising? Do political debates inflence
  voting etc etc
Other perspectives on audiences (3)

In broad terms, media industries employ quantitative
   research methods (quantity, measuring and
   counting),whilst social science research employs
   qualitative research (quality, relationships, motivation,
   emotional and intellectual insights). Industry research
   treats audience members as autonomous individuals;
   social science treats the audience as members of social
   groupings (eg families; interest groups; ethnic groupings
 [NOTE: more on this in SMST207-06B Media
A social science research example

From: Geoff Lealand, New Zealand Children and
  Media: Revisited (2002)

•   Focus group conversations
•   Focus group drawings

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