audience research

audience research
   Audience research has developed in two main interlinking strands: research by those working in the industry and research by academics. Industry research developed as a mechanism by which media producers and advertisers could both understand and shape media products for a knowable media audience. Such research has come to be dominated by a conception of the media user as part of homogeneous mass audience, one with similar uses, tastes, wants and desires that could be easily quantified. Those working in the more critical academic paradigm have come to problematize this notion, preferring instead a view of the media audience as heterogeneous and segmented. However, as the industry finds its notion of the mass audience questioned, the two strands have come closer together.
   Industry research, either undertaken in-house or contracted out to independent research companies, is often coordinated by joint industry research boards, such as the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) for radio, Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) for television and Joint Industry Committee for Poster Audience Research (JICPAR) for posters. These produce audience data for their respective media, broken down into such divisions as social class, age, gender and geographical location. Such audience data is used by the industry, amongst other things, to improve the provision of its media output, to help fix advertising rates and to find the appropriate placing for advertisements. The methods used to collect such data tend to fall into two categories: random surveys of media users and ongoing panel surveys. While random surveys provide an instant snapshot of a media audience, panel surveys are able to offer a long term view by studying the same sample of media users.
   Against these more quantitative approaches, many working in the academic strand (for example, David Morley’s work on the family audience) have come to problematize the notion of a passive unsegregated audience. By using more qualitative styled approaches, attempts have been made to understand how different audiences understand and make use of the media. Thus, a more active view of a segmented audience has been obtained. Recent developments have seen a move away from studying the reception of the media by the viewer towards more ethnographic methods to study the way the media is used within a specific socialcultural context.
   See also: BARB
   Further reading
    Ang, I. (1991) Desperately Seeking the Audience, London: Routledge (critical account of the experiences of European and American broadcasters to conceptualize the audience).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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