Every media product (containing text, sound or image) is called a ‘text. In media studies when you consume a text its often called ‘reading’ it even though it could be a film that you’ve watched or a website that you’ve visited its still called ‘reading’ it.

Audience understanding

Meaning in media texts aren’t always interpreted the same way, some peoples interpretations differ based on opinion. Some filmmakers deliberately leave an open ending to a film to make its audience think about what would happen next, whereas some try their best to make everyone understand the ending in the exact same way. The more descriptions given the more the audience will interpret the text in the same way, give the audience less then they are given room to imagine what the text is meaning. However some producers try and force their own ‘preferred readings’. Preferred readings is the meaning that the producers intended the audience to make of the text. There aren’t just preferred readings, there are oppositional and negotiable readings too. Oppositional being the meaning the audience interpret is significantly different to what the producer meant. Negotiated readings is the idea that meanings are created from both the text and the audience once the two meet.

Participatory Responses

This response is when the audience take part and interact with the product. This could be through call in programmes, text, phone calls, emails, competitions or polls on the audiences opinion. There will be someone moderating such things by removing content that is libellous or malicious. Media producers understand that when a debate on a subject gets heated or someone shows their strong feelings for something that their product gets recognised more. Media producers may invite this type of behaviour in order for more recognition.

Cultural Competence

An audience will read a text and interpret it based on previous experiences and their knowledge gained through their life. For example we all know what pain feels like, so when we see it in an text we can all relate to it.  We cant all relate to everything though, i.e women cant understand man-flu. The collection of feelings we have when reading media products is called ‘cultural reserve’. Peoples cultural reserves will differ because not everyone lives through the same events and experience the same things.

Fan Culture

In fan culture media products can entice strong responses from their target audience because they have become fans of the subject. The subject could be a TV programme, presenter, film star, newspaper columnist, and you could also say a website. Some media producers knowingly entice strong reactions from their fan base because they are usually prepared to buy merchandise which would obviously increases profits. Merchandise is also good advertisement. For an example a Marvel T-shirt would usually have ‘MARVEL’ written on it or the logo displayed somewhere on the merchendise which encourages interest as well as making the brand more widely seen.

Audience Theory

Not everyone who sees and advert or a brand will actually go out and purchase the product just because of the advert or brand. However research has shown that young kids respond more to adverts than adults and teenagers. There is still no definitive answer to how people respond to media products, there are only theories and some of them contradict each other because they cant all be correct. Two key terms used are ‘Passive consumption’ and ‘Active consumption’. Passive consumption is a theory where the audience doesn’t really pay attention to the text making it passive and the audience all respond in the same way. Active consumption is the opposite. It states that an audience are made up of individuals who all react accordingly to their own opinions, experiences and personalities.

Hypodermic Needle Model 

The hypodermic needle model is an explanation of how audiences respond. It compares the way an audience responds to the way a doctor may inject a stimulant into a human muscle. The stimulant would make any (fully functional) muscle react the same way. The comparison is that the media text could ‘inject’ the information into the minds of the audience and it being likely that they would give the same reaction. This is passive consumption.

This is seen as an inaccurate explanation of how audiences respond to texts.

Say there was an advert of concerning a field of flowers in the summer there would be a range of reactions. Some people would think of their allergies, some people would think about having beers in the sun, some people may remember a somebody they lost last summer etc. Basically there are a proportion of negative responses as well as positive responses. This is evidence that not everybody react the same way to a text. Sales figures relating to an advert could possibly prove that the advert has had its intended impact and is a success but it is very unlikely that everyone who consumed the advert will actually go out an buy the product.

Uses and gratification theory

This is the most popular model, it considers people in an audience to be independent thinkers that interpret media products in different ways. These different ways are depending on a range of factors that are as follows:

  • Their experiences
  • Their values
  • Their understanding

This type of response is active consumption.