Consider your audience

Posted: October 30, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13

The most important element of any programme is the audience. If no one is watching, there really is no point. All media is about communication, which is a two way process

So, we need to know a few things about them – how do they consume the product, and what are they interested in? 

A recent Guardian Article claims that Teenagers would rather lose TV than internet or mobile based on an Ofcom report. It points out that a large percentage of viewing now happens online. This means that our definition of TV is changing – and I suspect that these teenagers are still watching Iplayer and programmes that we would define as being TV shows, but just on a laptop instead. 

So, we need to know why – why do we want to watch shows at our own convenience? Why do people watch shows and surf the internet at the same time? What are they actually getting out of these shows and this way of viewing?

The old way of looking at the media was known as the “hypodermic” model. People would passively accept whatever the medium would throw at them. This led to concerns over the effect media had on us – if we passively accept what is transmitted to us, does it change our behaviour? Now, has this changed? We may be interacting with our choices, but are we still passively accepting what we end up with? Is the nature of programming changing to accommodate this – fast editing, shorter shows – to encourage this more passive model?

Or are we becoming our own gatekeepers? Traditionally, a studio or channel would decide what will be broadcast, and how information would be communicated – those with the control over what can and can’t be said are the gatekeepers. But with more choice, and less control over channels (Youtube, Vimeo, international hosting etc), and more access than ever before, can we truly say that the audience is not a passive consumer?

Hint – X-Factor still gets 8-12million people watching it.

Maybe this is because, above all else, our audience is interested in Belonging. A shared experience with 8 million other human beings – that is vital to our nature. But we can do this on a smaller scale – all programmes show that someone else is interested in that thing you like – be it politics, skateboarding, the local swimming pol being closed own – you are not alone. All programmes need to show that connection to the rest of the human race, some form of human contact.

So, for example, when an artists does a project asking young people about their concerns, it gives us as programme makers an idea about what the audience is interested in. We just need to package it in some way, knowing what we do about how it will be watched – so, a discussion show with a  twitter element, a docudrama, mission doc or news show – we just need to consider what the audience actually wants.

Update: Download this set of booklets from JISC about Audeicne research.

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