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Audience Theory

Audience theory is concerned

with how audiences interpret Who will your text be aimed at?
Mass-produced - made for the 'mass' of
people. There is a downside to this, of
course, in that it can also be interpreted
as 'commercial' or 'trashy'.

Niche - a small target audience that is

highly specific

Alternative – outside of the

mainstream. Going against dominant
ideology includes minority groups,
perhaps with subversive values
Passive Active
• Audiences accept media •Audiences are involved in their
messages interpretations of media texts
• Audiences easily influenced •Audiences create their own
• Do not make own use of texts
or interpret in own way •Audiences question and
respond to institutions
The Hypodermic Needle
• Dating from the 1920s
• One of the first attempts to explain how audiences react to mass
• Suggests that audiences passively receive information transmitted
via a media text
• Suggests that audiences do not try to process or challenge the
• Developed when mass media was still fairly new
• The message is entirely accepted by the audience
• The audience has no role in interpreting the text
• Is considered mostly obsolete today
• Still quoted during moral panics (computer games, violent films etc)
Uses and Gratification
This theory suggests that media texts have to fulfil one of
the following:
• Identify- being able to recognise the product or person
in front of you, role models reflect similar values to yours
• Educate - being able to acquire information,
knowledge and understanding
• Entertain - what are you consuming should give your
enjoyment and also some form of ‘escapism’ enabling us
to forget our worries temporarily
• Social Interaction - the ability for media to produce a
topic a topic of conversation between other people
Stuart Hall, 1980
Reception Theory • Encoding / decoding model of the relationship between text and
audience - the text is encoded by the producer, and decoded by the

• There may be major differences between two different readings of

the same code created by situated culture - social class, gender,
ethnicity etc.

• Using recognised codes and conventions and drawing upon audience

expectations relating to aspects such as genre and use of stars, the
producers can position the audience and thus create a certain
amount of agreement on what the code means. This is known as a
preferred reading