TASK 3 – audience research

1. What would a media company like to find out about its audience?
Audience research is treated as an essential objective for the media research industry because all media products and created with a particular audience in mind. For media companies, discovering who exactly this audience is will both ensure that their product reaches the audience who will most likely want to buy their product, and therefore, bring in the most profits. As a result, a lot of time and money is often spent to find out their basic target audience. Research, often in the form of questionnaires and focus groups, is also used to understand how audiences interact with other media products and what audiences expect of certain media products, depending on genre. Despite the importance of audience research, the final target audience identified will always be a generalised grouping of certain people and, as a result, will never provide concrete evidence to reinforce the way in which advertisers target their audiences. This still applies even if the research includes demographics and psychographics.

2. How are audiences defined?

To identify the basics of their target audience, media companies class audiences using certain categories known as demographics. The main categories include: age, gender, race, income status and location. Marital status and number of children can also sometimes be included. Media producers also tend to describe audiences using specific letter codes based on income:
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Once a media company understands these categories and audience descriptions, they can tailor their product to their potential audience. For example, certain TV programmes are tailored to ABC1 adults because they are believed to have a particular amount of education and generally consist the middle and upper classes, the middle class also being the largest social class in Britain.

Despite the basic usefulness of demographics, they are often regarded as too ambiguous to make target audience deductions from. For example, a group of adults in their 60s who live in the same borough are still bound to have different purchasing preferences from each other. As a result, media producers use psychographics to achieve more detailed definitions of their target audience. Psychographics work by dividing the population into groups based on personality, lifestyle, beliefs, social interests, habits and social class. If the media company is involved in marketing, then shopping orientations (such as how price sensitive a person is) are also taken into account. Below are the main psychographic categories used in the UK and US:
Audience Psychographics

Whilst demographics are very useful for a media product that can appeal to a wide audience, such as action thriller movies. However, for smaller, niche audiences groups, the detail of psychographics is required. For example programmes aimed at ‘Explorers’ will most likely not appeal to those who are ‘Resigned’, no matter what age, gender or race they are, although these demographics will affect who is an ‘Explorer’ or who is ‘Resigned’, to some extent.

3. Examples of TV audiences
Within Thinkbox’s Men 55+ audience description, the demographics of course concentrate on age (55+) and gender (male). However, the psychographics used are only spawned once the description assumes that most men over the age of 55 are retired. This factor refers to lifestyle as the group are expected to have more free time and so their media consumption reflects more of there special interests. Their interest in social issues is represented by their “high proportion of news content”. Entertainment programming and shared viewing experiences are identified as classic psychographic traits of this audience group.

I find thinkbox’s description is too generalised and too limited by the retirement factor, particularly as the state pension age is between 61 and 68. I know a member of this audience group who is in his mid 60s but still isn’t retired and still leads a very busy life. As a result, he gets very little time to watch programs which are of special interest to him and so usually settles for action films or TV dramas for ensured entertainment and relaxation. Although he does watch a lot of news content when he can, he never watches Soaps, chat shows, game shows or gardening shows and he doesn’t enjoy sport. Although the description is generalised for the sake of 8.2 million men, it doesn’t take into account the massive diversity and differences in demographics that would be found in such a group that has lived for over 5 decades.

Advertising figures

When looking at ITV’s average advertising spot cost table, the huge expense of advertising is very apparent, for example, it would cost an advertiser approximately £60,390 to screen a 30 second advert during an evening (21.30) broadcast of a movie or drama in all of the 12 broadcast regions in Britain. The price is highest for this slot because ITV expects to receive the most viewers at this time of night and for this type of content. This can also be applied to Coronation at the 19.30 slot because it is known to attract large viewing figures. As a result, the higher the potential viewing figures, the higher the advertising price, a price advertisers are willing to pay in order to get their product across to as many people as possible.

Prices of £60,000 a day may be affordable for a large corporation, however smaller companies may only be able to afford advertising for certain regions at certain times of the day. For example, an advert shown in the Border area between England and Scotland would only cost £50 for the 11am slot. This is due to the fact that this time of day has the fewest viewers and the Border area is sparsley populated. London, on the other hand, as the most densley populated area in the UK, has the highest advertising costs. The 11am slot for London costs £1,690 whilst the 21.30 slot costs £13,270. As well as the population size, the price is influenced by the fact that London is also the wealthiest area in the country and so, the more expensive products and brands are more likely to be purchased and so are more willing to be advertised there. Intrigingly, Central London is listed as its own region. This may be due to its sheer population density as the well as the fact that a lot of London’s wealth is concentraded in its centre. As a result, the most expensive advertising slot in this region, is the 21.30 movie or drama slot with a £16,540 advertising slot.

4a) According to BARB, Coronation Street recieves of 8 million viewers each evening it broadcast throughout the week, where as a single film, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, recieved over 4.5 million viewers and the News at 18.44 mid-week over 4.3 million viewers. This is reflected in ITV’s spot cost list where the advertising slots where the evening news slot, which generally pulls viewer viewings, is cheaper than the other three slots. However, although the Harry Potter film pulled half the viewers that Coronation Street did, it still has the most expensive advertising slot. This may be due to the fact that the number of viewers for films and dramas are, whilst generally high, more unpredictable where as Coronation Street has a large, loyal audience. This slot has to be cheaper (£51,320) because not all programmes that fill this slot, when Coronation Street isn’t on, will pull in the same viewing figures.

4b) As the Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board, BARB is responsible for collecting the official viewing figures for television audiences all over the UK. It does so by commissioning 3 specialist research companies: Ipsos Mori, RSMB and Kanter Media. The latter provideds special metering equipment into over 5,100 homes, each one representing 5,000 homes, which have agreed to participate in the BARB panel. These devices also monitor the viewing of recorded programmes. The metering equipment works by registering the prescensce of someone, as young as 4, in a TV room as a television set being turned on. The television set is registered as turned off once they have left the room. The information gathered is then enlarged so as to Every morning, between 2am and 6am, the information from each device is automatically uploaded to BARB. At 9.30am the same day, the TV industry recieves the data as overnight viewing figures.

BARB is a crucial asset to broadcasters and advertisers because the immensley detailed viewing figures allows them to realise the success of their programmes, channels or advertising campaigns. It is this information which influences the costs for advertising slots which ITV display on their table.

5. – measure the success of a programme – important of cast & crew
– advertising slots – big names won’t pay for unsuccessful programmes
– looks bad for channel as a whole
– best channels + slots to advertise
– BBC – is it serving the public – mission statement?
– re-commissioned?

Audience research is seen as absolutely vital in the media industry, the TV industry being the best examples. Audience figures, first and foremost, are used to assess the success of a programme. It is very important for all of the cast, crew and producers that their show is well recived because if audience figures are low, the show could face being taken off air and all the hard work and money put into it will have gone to nothing. For a moderatley successful programme, a Drama in particular, viewing figures will help determine whether a second series is commissioned. Poor ratings generally look bad on a channel as they may gain a reputation for producing low quality content.  As a publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC has a particular responsiblity to respond to viewing figures in order to create a variation of programmes that cater to the public needs.

Audience research is also crucial, financially. As previously mentioned, its the viewing figures provided by BARB which influence ITV’s, and all other channels for that matter, advertising spot cost list. A broadcaster must understand how many viewers it attracts at certain parts of the day, in certain regions, to get as much money from advertising companies as possible, which is important for all commercial channels, apart from the BBC. If a programme, or a channel in general, begins to suffer poor viewing rates, big brands would not be willing to keep paying out, for example, £60,000 a day to advertise to small numbers of people.

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