Media Audiences: Gaining the Upper Hand

In the readings this week, I noticed that the notion of the ‘media audience’ is explored from two different angles. In Couldry’s article, we come to understand distinctions and developments in media audiences over time, and the features of these new emerging audience structures. In Haddon’s article, however, the reasons behind these changes is explored and we can gain an insight into what goes into our choices as being part of media audiences. It is for this reason, that the articles go hand – in – hand with each other, that I found them equally interesting and useful this week.

In reading about Couldry’s ‘diffused audience’, I couldn’t help but think about contemporary advertising. Given the increasing fall in television as a powerful medium for mass communication (now with Digital television we can fast forward ads watching pre-recorded shows, or even watch television online or on our mobile devices), advertisers now have to find creative ways to communicate to their target markets. Much in line with the notion of Couldry’s ‘diffused audience’, is the advertiser’s need now to communicate WITH the audience; by involving viewers and establishing a participatory aspect to suit the diversifying demands of the consumer, and of course the growing ‘immunity’ towards traditional marketing efforts in general society. Guerrilla marketing is a fabulous example of targeting a diffused media audience – take for example, an ad that has stood out in my mind for crime channel 13th Street:

The interactiveness of this campaign not only exhibits new movements in creative advertising as a response to changing consumer demands, yet in itself is a reflection of the contemporary, ‘diffused’ media audience. Of course, it is important to remember that Couldry advocates the opinion that mass media still exists and remains effective, however I personally disagree, feeling that audiences now ‘control’ (this word might be a little strong for what I’m trying to imply – perhaps ‘more significantly influence’ would be better!) marketers and advertisers; the result of which I believe to be from a growing desensitsing and awareness to corporate motives and marketing tactics. The more diverse, ‘diffused’ media audience of the twenty-first century has distinct and individual sets of demands, to which the creative media practitioner must cater for in order to retain interest from the consumer.

Touching now on Haddon’s article, I wanted to address his point of mediums like the internet, gaming consoles and mobile devices as being wrongly portrayed as instruments of “isolation”. I completely agree with this, and have always felt that with the rapid rise and widespread saturation of social media, I feel that society is more ‘socialied’ than ever. The private life of the individual is more publicised than ever now, especially with websites such as Twitter allowing users to broadcast their every move to the public, twenty four hours a day. Social media demands of the user – or ‘audience’ – a level of participation relative to their specific networks; much in the same way that Japanese youths have created a culture of social expectation in regards to their mobile phone use in Mizuko Ito’s article we looked at previously. There can be no doubt now that, despite often operating these devices in physical isolation, we are more integrated and immersed in social relations than ever before with new media forms of communication.

Finally, in what many people have condemned over time, Haddon argues that rather than “inhibiting” language and progression, new media limitations (such as Twitter or text message word/character limits) have only created a platform for creativity and imagination, rather than oppressing these values, thus shaping these new media audiences of the twenty-first century.

I found this week’s topic extremely interesting, being an audience member of traditional and ‘new’ media myself, constantly immersed in media in a inescapably media saturated world!

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