Media audiences

In this section students will develop their knowledge and understanding of:

  • how audiences are grouped and categorised by media industries, including by age, gender and social class, as well as by lifestyle and taste
  • how media producers target, attract, reach, address and potentially construct audiences
  • how media industries target audiences through the content and appeal of media products and through the ways in which they are marketed, distributed and circulated
  • the interrelationship between media technologies and patterns of consumption and response
  • how audiences interpret the media, including how they may interpret the same media in different ways
  • how audiences interact with the media and can be actively involved in media production
  • how specialised audiences can be reached, both on a national and global scale, through different media technologies and platforms
  • how media organisations reflect the different needs of mass and specialised audiences, including through targeting
  • how audiences use media in different ways, reflecting demographic factors as well as aspects of identity and cultural capital
  • the role and significance of specialised audiences, including niche and fan, to the media
  • the way in which different audience interpretations reflect social, cultural and historical circumstances.

Enabling ideas to support the study of media audiences

The content below identifies the enabling theories, key ideas and terms that constitute key theoretical aspects of media audiences. Students will develop knowledge and understanding of the following theoretical aspects.

Media effects

Media effects:
  • Uses and gratifications
  • Hypodermic needle theory
  • Moral panic
  • Cumulation
  • Media literacy.
Bandura's ideas and theories on media effects:
  • Social learning/Imitation

Cultivation theory

Cultivation theory:
  • Socialisation
  • Standardisation
  • Enculturation
  • Bardic function.
Gerbner's ideas and theories on cultivation theory:
  • Cultivation differential
  • Mainstreaming
  • Resonance
  • Mean World Index.

Reception theory

Reception theory:
  • Agenda setting
  • Framing
  • Myth making
  • Conditions of consumption.
Hall's ideas and theories on reception theory:
  • Encoding/decoding
  • Hegemonic/negotiated/oppositional.


  • Prosumer
  • Interactivity.
Jenkins' ideas and theories on fandom:
  • Participatory culture
  • Textual poaching.

'End of audience' theories

'End of audience' theories:
  • Digital natives
  • 'We the media'
  • Web 2.0
  • Convergence
  • Prosumer.
Shirky's ideas and theories on 'End of audience':
  • Mass amateurisation
  • Cognitive surplus