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Activities for Studying Media Audiences


Center for Media Design: study of 15 adolescents' daily media use


Screenagers Documentary: Movie Explores How Screen Time Can Harm Kids. San Francisco Chronicle


Internet Influences Film Audiences: How social networking shapes film choices and responses


Infographic: The Digital Diet of American Teens  


Interactive TV: Viewer's avatars assume a role in a new TV series


Television Without Pity: Audiences responses to current TV programs


Advertising Age: How Twitter influences movie-going marketing


New York Times: Fall 2009 TV shows reinvent viewers seeking to redefine their lives


Difficulties determining audience participation with new media


Perceptions of TV as a necessity in decline


Media Ethnography Studies


The Future of Children: Children and the Media (chapters on media use/effects)


Pew Research Center - Internet and American Life Project


Pew Research Center - Internet Typology Quiz


Annenberg School - Individual and Social Effects of PC/Internet Technology 


Podcast: Panel discussion: New Media, Civic Media


Leander, K, & de Haan, M. (Eds.). (2015). Media and migration: Learning in a globalized world. New York: Routledge


Independent Television Services video: Hip-hop


MIT online course: Media in Popular Culture: Studying Readership


Teens Vastly Prefer YouTube and Netflix to TV, Don't Mind Ads, Report Finds. Mashable 


Machinima Awards for 2007: online videos based on games


Media saturation isolating family members from each other


JustinTV: live "lifecasting" of people's lives


New York Times: Justin TV: "lifecasting" video productions of people's daily lives


Multi-Tasking Media Consumers Are Merging the Internet with Other Media



BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Internet users, more than ever before, are multitasking and incorporating different and new media types into an interconnected experience, according to a recent survey by Burst Media. The study found that over four-fifths (82.4%) of respondents are involved with another media, activity, or device while online. Among these multi-taskers, nearly one-quarter (23.6%) are “super-taskers” juggling four or more tasks while online. Watching television (58.3%) is the most common offline activity connected with Internet consumption.


In this hectic, multi-tasking environment, the consumer’s attention span is fragmented. Whether doing work, talking on the phone, listening to the radio or playing video games, consumers are simultaneously pulling information from an array of sources. The implication for marketers will be to simultaneously direct ad dollars into an array of media choices to capture this fragmented attention.


In October 2007, Burst Media, a leading provider of advertising representation, services and technology to independent Web Publishers, conducted an online study of 2,700 web users 18 and older about activities they engage in while online. This web-based survey also examined how media fragmentation impacts the ability to market to people online.


The survey also revealed several interesting findings about how consumers’ online habits are changing television viewing patterns. Some of these findings include:


Online Content and Television Programming  is Often Complementary: Burst Media found that three out of four  (75.6%) respondents who watch television while online visit websites directly  related to the program they are watching; and 6.2% of respondents combine  online and offline “all the time”. The segment most likely to view web and related  television content are men between the ages of 18-24.  


Series TV Drives Consumers to the Web:  Entertainment programming drives respondents to the web. Three-quarters  (75.5%) of the survey respondents who visit websites about programming they  are viewing have done so while watching a TV comedy or drama. Women are more  likely than men to do this – 79.2% versus 72.1%,  respectively. Sports programming on television drives one-third (37.1%) of  respondents to the web. Men are twice as likely (49.5% vs. 24.5%) to visit  websites about sports programming they are viewing than women; and one-quarter  of both men and women visit websites about music/music video programming they  are viewing.  


Time watching television is flat at  best: A plurality (42.4%) of respondents indicates they watch less  television today than one year ago. Of all respondents, one-third (36.9%)  watch “about the same amount.” The decrease in TV viewership is most pronounced among  respondents 18-24 years. Among this group, half watch less television today  than one year ago. Additionally, nearly one-half of women 25-34 years (48.3%)  and 35-44 years (46.7%) watch less television today than they did one year  ago.


“The shortening attention span of consumers poses a challenge to marketers,” said Jarvis Coffin, CEO and co-founder of Burst Media. “But, expanding media diversity can solve the problem for advertisers. It provides them with countless combinations to deliver coordinated messages across different platforms and get consumers attention. This is particularly true between television and the Internet –it’s a tactic that has been used by many marketers to great success, and is a cost-effective way to reach target audiences.” 



Media Audiences

Jennifer Sellers and Theresa Haider


Have the students got to a variety of media shows, choosing at least 3 from a list: an artsy film, a kid's movie, a art galery showing, a rap concert, a rock concert, a classical concert, a club, a ballroom dance club, etc. They should choose two that are not their normal place to hang out. They are to first record their expectations about what kind of people attend these events. While there they should note what ages seem to attend, which gender, what type of clothing they wear, etc. Then reflect as to how this type of media reinforced these types of people's beliefs or senses of themselves and how they felt about being in that place. After reflecting on all of these, discuss in class how media choices reflect a group's sense of themselves and why different types attract different people.


Media Audiences: Assumption vs. Reality

Abbey Weiss and Karen Keller


Begin class by having students group into fours. Pass out pieces of butcher paper (about 2' x 2'). Have student groups pick out of a bowl or hat a slip of paper that identifies a specific media audience they will be focusing on for the activity. Include in the bowl slips of paper that have audience types such as:

reality show (romantic)

reality show (adventure)

reality show (creative process)

video game







television news


Each group is to draw a picture on the butcher paper that represents the way they perceive that particular audience type. Then they should list FIVE descriptors they feel that apply to this audience type.


Have groups share their posters.

For homework, each individual in the student group should arrange to interview three people that fit into the audience type for which they are responsible. This will be a learning experience both in media studies and interviewing techniques. As a group, students should (before leaving class) compile a list of interview questions that will best help them understand this audience.


Give them some help with example questions, such as:

What is the appeal for participating in this activity?

What are your favorites within this genre?

In what ways do you interact with the text?


In addition to the interview, have students logon to a chat room or fan page to find out what dialogues the audiences are having with one another about the text. They should be able to share with their groups findings not only from the interviews but from the web site as well.


Once students have conducted interviews, they should return to their groups where they can share their findings with fellow group members. They should discuss parallels, patterns, surprises, and what assumptions they may have been correct or wrong about. Finally, have each group, then, share their overall findings with the entire class.


Out of Place

Mary Voigt, Alma Mendez, and Pat McGurk

Have students camp out infront of a store/cafe/restaurant of their choice for a specific amount of time, like an hour or so. Have them identify people who did not belong in the store/cafe/or restaurant. Have them explain what the people looked like, what they had on, etc. and what about this made them not belong there. In class have students who looked at similar places come up with what someone looks like who would go there. Now have students imagine they are going to advertize for that restaurant/store/or cafe. Where will they place ads? How will they get the "right" people to come to their store/cafe/or restaurant?


Horror Movie response: Media Audiences

Ligia Hernandez and Andrea Larson

This activity is geared towards 14-16 year olds. Most teen-agers love to go to the movies to watch Horror flicks.

This activity would work well on a Friday night.

We would have our students go to one or two horror movies and observe their peers in terms of:

1) How they dress for teh ocasion.

2) Who do they go with?

3) How do they behave before the movie?

4) What they say before the movie?

5) How do they behave, and what do they have to say AFTER the movie?

Then, I would have them all go to a pizza parlour and discuss the movie and their feelings about it.

They would have to go home and write their responses to the movie as well as that of their peers.

They would have to reflect on those answers and try to come up with the answer to "why" did they respond that way.

If there are several students who dislike horror then that group cpuld go watch a comedy or a Drama movie, and do the same.

Then on Monday, they would share with the class.


Study: Adolescents Spending More Time Multitasking with Media



Movielens: A movie recommendation system developed at the University of Minnesota. Enter in ratings of whether you like certain movies and it recommends movies the you may like!


An interesting TV viewing practices



As the debate heats up surrounding the definition of commercial minutes – and what it means for advertisers, agencies and the media – the latest report from the CMD unveils new behavioral research based on observing how people actually watch TV during prime-time TV hours.


Using a method derived from the same highly-regarded method as the CMD's Middletown Media Studies, researchers recorded behaviors like channel-skipping, use of electronic program guides, the concurrent use of other media, leaving the room or chatting with another person as they occurred during TV viewing. "Remotely Interested? Observing Television Viewers' Advertising-Related Behaviors" seeks to shed light on the truly complex business of "just watching TV" and the implications for advertising exposure and media planning.


CMD researchers shadowed 49 Muncie and Indianapolis area residents in their homes as they watched three to four hours of prime-time television. The average observation was 3.7 hours, resulting in 179.2 observed viewing hours.


Researchers gathered data via touch-screen devices that allowed observers to record, in five-second increments, changes in channel, television content types, use of the electronic programming guide (EPG) and other behaviors.


The study found:



* The average ad break exposure was 2.2 minutes with 32.7 percent of the study's ad breaks watched in their entirety

* Nearly half of the ad breaks were watched for one minute or less with 15.4 percent of commercial blocks viewed for 31 to 60 seconds before interruption; 12.1 percent lasted 16 to 30 seconds; 11.8 percent were between 6 to 10 seconds; and 9.1 percent lasted 5 seconds or less

* About 45 percent of advertising breaks were interrupted by scene-shifting behaviors, including channel changes (50.5 percent of scene shifts), EPG use (31 percent) and leaving the room (18.5 percent)




Problems with TV show Fan Sites: Henry Jenkins, MIT:

When Transmedia Goes Wrong: Studio 60 and DeFaker


Through the work of our Convergence Culture Consortium, CMS faculty and students have been monitoring ongoing experiments in transmedia storytelling, trying to help our client companies to better understand when entertainment producers are creating something valuable for their consumers and when they are antagonizing them. In a recent newsletter, CMS student Ivan Askwith wrote about Studio 60 on Sunset Strip's failed attempt to build a fictional blog set in the world of the series -- an experiment which was shut down in only a few days time. I asked Ivan if I could share this post with the readers of my blog.


I am reminded here of the long-standing complaint from fans that official websites are often less satisfying than fan-generated sites: for one thing, they tend to be relatively static, built once and rarely updated, even on shows that have fairly dynamic character development or elaborate and unfolding story arcs. Kurt Lancaster made some of these points contrasting the official and fan websites for Babylon 5 in his book about the series, for example. For another, those who produce official content often do not pay attention to the details which matter most to fans. Janet Murray and I wrote an essay some years ago (published in Greg Smith's On a Silver Platter) which compared the kinds of details included in the early cd-roms about Star Trek with those which cropped up most often in fanzine stories. We found that the official materials supported some kinds of fan interests (those of male technologically inclined fans) and not others (those of women fanzine writers interested in the relationships between the characters.)


Those official sites which have broken out of this trap -- such as Dawson's Desktop, which I discuss in Convergence Culture -- have been real labors of love, often created by tapping the fan community for potential collaborators in their production.


Of course, those of us who have regularly watched Aaron Sorkin's series through the year know that his characters wage a running battle against online fan communities: Josh Lyman ran into trouble with a discussion list on The West Wing and we've already heard the characters opine negatively about bloggers on Studio 60. So, the conflict Askwith describes here seems almost inevitable.


Online Content Experiments: The Fate of Defaker


By: Ivan Askwith


In May, speaking before an audience of advertisers and television executives, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker declared, "No longer is content just for the television screen!" This might as well have been the official slogan of this year's upfront week, where many network executives spent more time promoting their new online strategies than previewing their new on-air programming. In their coverage of the event, the New York Times reported that "analysts are calling this upfront week a watershed because the networks are significantly expanding their presence in the new media, whether through Webisodes, video downloads, podcasts or mini-series created for cellphones." (Elliott, 5/16/06)


Of course, the upfront announcements themselves weren't much of a watershed -- they simply articulated, for the benefit of the press, a trend that has been accelerating over the past two years: the television industry's growing awareness of the importance of compelling online content. Over the past year, almost all of the major networks have made arrangements to distribute their broadcast content online. Now that the core programming content is online, however, the more interesting (and dangerous) step begins: networks must begin to understand their audiences well enough to provide meaningful online-only content.


I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss an notable online experiment: Defaker, an "in narrative" blog that NBC launched to promote their much-anticipated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.


Defaker went live shortly after Studio 60's premiere on the evening of September 18. Designed to look almost identical to Defamer, a popular Hollywood gossip site, Defaker

presented itself as a source for "insider, behind-the-scenes information" for fans of Studio 60's fictional show-within-a-show.


In theory, this isn't a bad idea: a show like Studio 60, which focuses on backstage

relationships and network politics, would actually lend itself beautifully to an irreverent gossip blog. A site like Defaker could be used to generate audience investment in the show, reporting "rumors" that provide resolution on throw-away moments seen in previous episodes and foreshadow the action of future episodes. Fictional "interviews" or "news articles" could provide details and anecdotes that flesh out the show's characters, elaborate the events that led up to the show, hint at future guest stars, and more. This, in turn, could deepen a viewer's engagement with the show -- readers of Defaker would become "local experts," capable of reporting to casual viewers on the significance and implications of the (in-narrative) online rumors. Did I say Defaker wasn't a bad idea? I take it back: Defaker has the potential to be a

brilliant idea.


In practice, however, Defaker turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Rather than delivering on its claim to offer an "insider's" perspective on the show, the site's first entry was nothing more than a mediocre recap of the events that took place on the show, and a series of HD screen captures presented as "behind-the- scenes photos." (As several visitors pointed out, the recap got some details wrong.) The writers also seeded the entry with a handful of meaningless, enthusiastic "in character" comments, from fictional fans, to set the tone. The design logic behind the site was clear: Defaker didn't need to offer any new content to viewers, because the gimmick of presenting the old content in character was so clever. Fans of the show would love it, right?


Wrong. The attacks began within minutes.


A sample of the feedback:





"This is lame, you can't even get stills from the set? You had to use screengrabs?"

- "Whoever they hired to write this horrible blog didn't even understand the show."

- "This site is awful. An ounce of effort could have made it all right."

- "You must be kidding. This is the worst fake I've ever read.

- "The show is OK but this writing is a mess and the whole thing's a turn-off! BOO!"

- "This blog is sh*t."


Some visitors went so far as to declare that they had enjoyed the show, but shared the sentiments of one commenter who declared that "out of protest against this ridiculous, lazy and unoriginal marketing attempt, I'm going to boycott the show."


So, where did Defaker go wrong?


Well, as one of the most astute commenters pointed out, Defaker "is a laughably bad attempt at viral marketing. Not since the Flinstones rappin' about Fruity Pebbles has a major corporation so completely misunderstood the phenomenon they're trying to cash in on." Despite the apparent assumptions of the show's promoters, a show cannot simply go online and expect fans to be impressed -- it has to offer visitors something new, and create opportunities for engagement that the show alone can't offer.


Many of the posts were proactive, offering clear advice to help improve the project.


One viewer wrote:



"if you want to make a fake blog like this, don't just give us a summary of a show we already saw, with lame screen shots right from the show... give us stuff NOT on the show we just got finished watching, and make it worth our while to come back."


Another was even more articulate, pointing out that:



"this blog isn't giving us any new perspective on the show. It's just rehashing everything we already saw on the show. Take a page from HBO, their blog for Big Love wasn't much to write home about but they posted a blog from one of their character's point of view. It gave some insight on her character which wasn't portrayed in the show. You could do a blog from {a PA's} point of view. Now that would be something worth reading."


So what lessons are we supposed to take away from this?


1) Know who you're developing online content for, and design it accordingly.


In the case of Defaker, NBC failed to recognize that the most likely audience for the blog would be the viewers who were most invested in the show -- and as such, the viewers who would be the most knowledgeable and critical.


2) Online content should add something new to the experience.

Successful online content -- as so many commenters pointed out -- has to offer the audience something new. It's tempting to see this as a hassle, since it requires additional time, effort and thought. Instead, I think we need to understand it as an opportunity: online content gives us the ability to expand and deepen the narrative world depicted on television, which in turn allows viewers to immerse themselves far more completely in the show and the characters. Online content extensions should help transform a show from passive viewing into an immersive experience.


3) Listen to what your audience is telling you.

The comments posted to Defaker, harsh as they were, offered direct, articulate advice that the blog's author(s) could have followed to improve the site. Instead, however, they chose to post a second (and final) entry, which included this tragically misguided response:



"To my detractors... who think that this is 'viral marketing bull' for NBS, viral marketing (I just looked up what this means on Wikipedia!) only works if people with nothing better to do jabber on about the thing in question, so apparently, the more you talk, the more I grow stronger.... insert evil laughter here."


...which leads us to a fourth important lesson...


4) Don't ever insult your audience or try to tell them they're wrong.


The response posted above simply blows my mind: the writer is not only dismissing the(admittedly harsh) criticism from the site's visitors, but insinuating that the show's most invested viewers have "nothing better to do {than} jabber" about the show. This response all but dares the viewer to stop watching the show. If someone didn't lose their job for posting = this, I'd be surprised; in any event, the blog was taken offline the day after this entry was posted.



One final detail worth noting: while Defaker illustrates precisely what not to do when developing online television extensions, Studio 60 has had more success with a second blog, launched at the same time.


On this "official" non-fiction behind-the-scenes blog, writer- director duo Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme have been posting interesting (if short) responses to viewer-submitted questions, as well as occasional entries hinting at their own thoughts on the evolution of the show. Eschewing the half-baked gimmick of Defaker, the official Studio 60 blog re-affirms that the best online offerings don't need to be clever; they simply need to add something new, and help transform television watching into an engaging experience.


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