An audience can be described as, from a business standpoint, a demographic who only hold monetary importance. Given the importance of audiences it is no surprise that there are countless theories that discuss how audiences consume media texts. The primary debate amongst audience theorist is on whether audiences are passive or active. I realised that it is vital to understand audience theory as we’re making a teaser trailer and film poster as part of our coursework, and so in order to be as professional as possible and to produce an effective trailer and poster we have to understand how audience consume and interpret media texts.
Effects theory- Packard:
The Hypodermic Needle Theory, also known as the Magic Bullet Theory, was the first major theory concerning the effect of the mass media on society. The theory connotes that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’them with appropriate messages designed to trigger a desired response and that audiences just accept what is presented to them and are passive in their consumption of said messages. Packard developed this approach in 1958 to explain how advertising uses psychological tricks to get the audience to buy products or services
Two Step Flow- Lazarsfeld:
The Hypodermic model proved too clumsy for media researchers seeking to more precisely explain the relationship between audience and text as the mass media became an essential part of life in societies around the world and did not reduce populations to a mass of unthinking drones, a more sophisticated explanation was required. Lazarsfeld analysed the voters’ decision-making processes during a 1940 presidential election campaign and published his results in a paper called The People’s Choice. His findings suggested that the information does not flow directly from the text into the minds of its audience unmediated but is filtered through “opinion leaders” who then communicate it to their less active associates, over whom they have influence. The audience then mediate the information received directly from the media with the ideas and thoughts expressed by the opinion leaders (e.g. on Twitter) thus being influenced not by a direct process, but by a two step flow.
Uses and Gratifications theory- Blumler and Katz:
It became increasingly apparent to some media theorists that audiences made choices about what they did when consuming texts and that they were far from being a passive mass, audiences were made up of individuals who actively consumed texts for different reasons and in different ways. Researchers Blumler and Katz expanded this theory and published their own in 1974, stating that individuals might choose and use a text for the following purposes: Diversion, personal identity, personal relationships and surveillance. The idea behind audiences consuming texts as a ‘diversion’ from life is very simple. Most people work shifts from 8 in the morning to 5 at night most days, falling into a dull daily routine. Ergo, they desire to get lost in the fantastical world of cinema in search for relief. Personal identity relates to the idea of audiences consuming texts in order to develop their personalities and relationships with others. I.e. a group of friends watching a film together. Personal relationships link quite closely with diversion, given that it discusses the concept of audiences consuming texts they can relate to, and the further an audience can relate to a text the further they will fall into that virtual world and the further their attention will divert from reality. And finally, surveillance is the concept that audiences consume texts that they believe to provide them with information.