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Audience Research

James G. Webster

Subject Communication Reception and Effects » Audience Research

Key-Topics audience

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Audience research is a broad term that, in principle, denotes the systematic study of any →  audience for any purpose. In practice, the term usually connotes efforts to describe and analyze patterns of media consumption, often for some commercial or administrative purpose. Such research became commonplace in the early twentieth century as new forms of mass media were introduced (e.g., film and radio) and those media became increasingly intertwined with the business of advertising and marketing. Contemporary audience research uses a wide range of theories and methods, which can be organized using the familiar labels of theoretical vs applied, quantitative vs qualitative, and, somewhat less conventionally, syndicated vs custom research. Theoretical audience research operates on two conceptual levels; micro and macro . The former tends to look at audiences from the “inside out,” adopting the perspective of an individual audience member. Of theoretical interest are questions about what motivates media selections, what stimuli command attention, how media are used in everyday life, what meanings and/or pleasures are derived from use, and how people engage media as consumers and fans. The relevant bodies of theory run the gamut from the social scientific (e.g., Blumler & Katz 1974 ; Zillmann & Vorderer 2000 ), to the humanistic (e.g., Morley 1992 ; Hills 2002 ). The latter, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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