1 Audiences

Learning Objective: 
to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key media concept of audience

Success Criteria:
- to understand the role audience plays in the media process of production, distribution and exhibition (AO1)
- to understand the relationship audience has with institutions (AO1)
- to explore how audience is researched, gauged and measured (AO4)
- to expand and use terminology appropriately (AO1)

In media studies, the audience is any group of people who receive a media text, and not just people who are together in the same place.

They receive the text via a media carrier such as a newspaper or magazine, television, DVD, radio or the internet. It can also be a mobile phone, iPod or any other device that stores or receives media messages.

‘Audience’ is a key concept throughout media studies, because all media texts are produced with an audience in mind - that is to say a group of people who will receive the text and make some sort of sense out of it. Audience is part of the media equation – a product is produced and an audience receives it. This is where audience research becomes important. A media producer has to know who is the potential audience, and as much about them as possible.


Choose a TV show you enjoy.
Discuss who you think the for the show might be, and you think this.
What does it mean for a TV show to be successful?

Audience research is a major element for any media producer. Companies are set up to carry out audience research for media producers, broadcasters and advertisers.These research companies use questionnaires, focus groups, one to one interviewing, and electronic devices to find out about people’s life-styles, and television viewing habits as well as the type of products they want to buy.

Short extracts or trailers for up and coming programmes are often shown to focus groups to see how they react. If they don’t like something then the producers may make some changes. Hollywood films are regularly ‘trialled’ in front of cinema audiences in America. In some cases, the ending of the film is changed because the trial audience do not like it. Sometimes several endings are filmed and the trial audience asked to choose the one they like best.

Media producers spend a lot of time and money finding out who the audience for a programme or media product might be. It’s a serious business; media producers want to know how the audience is made up. A mass audience is very large, so ways of breaking it down into categories have been devised.


A new fragrance for teenagers is on the market called COOL.

The company has asked an advertising agency to create a 15-second television commercial, and full page, glossy, colour print advertisements for magazines. 

The audience for this new perfume is young teenage women.

The advertiser must make sure this audience is watching when the advertisements are broadcast. It must target the right audience for the perfume to succeed. 

If the advertisement was broadcast during an episode of Friends or during a romantic comedy film would this be the target audience?

Where would the print advertisements be placed for maximum target audience exposure?

Audience Research: Demographics

A common and traditional method of audience research is known as demographics. This defines the adult population largely by the work that they do. It breaks the population down into six groups, and labels them by using a letter code to describe the income and status of the members of each group.
These audience demographics are based on the National Readership Survey’s socio-economic grades see http://www.nrs.co.uk

Producers need to know the demographics of their potential audience so that they can shape their text or product to appeal to a group with known viewing habits. 

Producers of a television programme about DIY would have a target audience with a C2 demographic – what other demographic group might that programme expect to be in the audience?

This is not, of course, a complete picture. It does not tell the media producers some things they would like to know, such as how much money each group has to spend each week.

Some skilled manual workers, like electricians, earn more money each week than say a teacher, but they probably do not spend it in the same way. Also, demographics is only about the main earner in a household so young people at home – for example, are not included.

Audience Research: Pyschographics

This is a way of describing an audience by looking at the behaviour and personality traits of its members. Psychographics labels a particular type of person and makes an assessment about their viewing and spending habits.

The advertising agency, Young and Rubican, invented a successful psychographic profile known as their 4C’s Marketing Model.

The 4 Cs stand for Cross Cultural Consumer Characterisation. They put the audience into groups with labels that suggest their position in society

Try and work out which category you fit into and one which you would like to fit into.
This 4C’s Marketing Model is very useful for marketing a product as it can point to the most likely target audience for a particular product. This marketing model will be useful when you come to decide on the target audience for your practical project.


Working with this theory, create a psychographic profile of the audience for each of the following:
  • Buying digital camera
  • Watching a horror movie
Share your ideas with a partner. Were your ideas similar or not? Why do you think this is?

When you are studying audiences you will find that there are a lot of different theories about why some television programmes have a large audience and others do not, and why people buy certain things and not others.

There are also theories about the effect that ‘media’ has on audiences.

Here is one interesting theory that tries to explain why we consume different types of media.

Audience Research: Investigation
There are several types of research into audiences and what they watch and want. This is where a specialist company investigates audiences to give information about them back to the media producers.

There are some definitions you need to know.
 Primary research- direct investigation of the needs, desires and media habits of an audience
- involves contacting and talking directly to members of the target audience individually, on the phone, by email or questionnaire or in groups.
 Secondary research- looks at data and other research that has already been undertaken about the audience
- largely carried out on the internet, and by consulting books, magazines and journals
- consulting a wide range of opinions and sources means a sound critical analysis can be constructed
 Quantitative research- is about collecting facts and figures and other data to do with the size of the audience. This can be a breakdown of the number of people, including their gender, age and location, who make up an audience.
- TV audiences are measured in a quantitative way by BARB – Broadcasters’ Audience Research Boardhttp://www.barb.org.uk (see below and report attached)
 Qualitative research- is about investigating the reasons why audiences consume a particular text
- conducted through discussion and by setting up focus groups
- questionnaires can be constructed to establish audience preferences, opinions, tastes and desires, or to measure the success of a media text or product
Research alert: small scale questionnaires about a media product from a limited audience (such as a school) carry little weight or value in the real world 
BUT you may still want to conduct some to help inform your work

The TV Player Report is the first joint-industry, audited measure of online TV viewing that is being designed to meet the evolving needs of the UK television and advertising industry.

The report is BARB's first publication of data for viewing that takes place on laptop/desktop PCs, tablets and smartphones. It focuses on activity at a device level, rather than a person level. The viewing data are generated by a sophisticated online TV measurement system developed by Kantar Media.
© BARB Ltd 2015

What can these figures tell us about the way the UK audience consumes television in the 21st century?
What does it tell us about the split between on-demand and live streaming TV?
Which is the most useful statistic from a broadcaster’s point of view?
Which is the most useful statistic from a consumer’s point of view? 

In your media work you will need to be able to discuss what is meant by audience, the different types of research that determines an audience, the value of it and why it is undertaken, and what can be deduced by audience measurement. 

**WRITING: Audience**
Think about the product you produced for your portfolio work. 
Who is your audience?
Define it by demographic and psychographics - think about the best method of distribution and exhibition to reach this audience.
Write a well-structured essay explaining this - have a clear introduction, main body with appropriate number of paragraphs and refer to the theory and your work, conclude by summing up your main points.

Holly Fairbrother,
15 Nov 2015, 00:39
Holly Fairbrother,
15 Nov 2015, 07:02