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Media Audiences

Media Audiences
Effects, Users, Institutions, and Power

Second Edition

August 2019 | 368 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Whether we are watching TV, surfing the Internet, listening to our iPods, or reading a novel, we all engage with media as an audience. . Despite the widespread use of this term in our popular culture, the meaning of "audience" is complex, and it has undergone significant historical shifts as new forms of mediated communication have developed from print, telegraphy, and radio to film, television, and the Internet. Media Audiences: Effects, Users, Institutions, and Power 2nd Edition explores the concept of media audiences from four broad perspectives: as "victims" of mass media, as market constructions and commodities, as users of media, and as producers and subcultures of mass media. The goal of the text is for students to be able to think critically about the role and status of media audiences in contemporary society, reflecting on their relative power in relation to institutional media producers.
Chapter 1. History and Concept of the Audience
What Is an Audience?  
History of Early Audiences  
Audiences and Notions of Power  
Conclusion: Constructing Audiences Through History and Theory  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 2. Effects of Media Messages
Origins of Media Effects Theories in the Early 20th Century  
Mass Society Theory and the Payne Fund Studies  
The War of the Worlds Broadcast and the Direct Effects Model  
Mass Propaganda Concerns and World War II Communication Research  
Postwar Communication Research: The Rise of the Limited Effects Paradigm  
Effects of Media Violence  
Conclusion: Enduring Concern Over Media Effects  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 3. Public Opinion and Audience Citizenship
A Brief History of Public Opinion  
Survey Methods and the Public Opinion Industry  
Public Opinion and the Limits of Audience Constructions  
How News Shapes Public Opinion  
Conclusion: The Construction of Public Opinion and Its Implications for Democracy  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 4. Media Ratings and the Political Economy of Audiences
The Political Economic Approach to Communication  
Political Economy and the Commodity Audience  
Ratings and the Construction of the Audience Product  
Measuring Audiences: The Ratings System  
Ratings, Market Research, and the Audience Commodity: Assigning Market Value to Mass Audiences  
Conclusion: How Effective Is Institutional Control Over Audiences?  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 5. Uses and Gratifications
Early Examples of Uses and Gratifications in Communication Research  
The Uses and Gratifications Approach  
Expectancy-Value Approaches to Uses and Gratifications  
Social Uses of Media  
The Uses and Dependency Approach  
Conclusion: Refocusing on Audience Power  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 6. Interpreting and Decoding Mass Media Texts
The Rise of Critical Cultural Studies  
Interpretation and Semiotics  
Ideology, Screen Theory, and the Critical Paradigm  
The Birmingham School and the Encoding/ Decoding Model  
The Nationwide Audience Studies  
Gender and Media Interpretation: Soap Operas, Romances, and Feminism  
Cross-Cultural Reception of Popular Media  
Race, Ethnicity, and Audience Decoding: Viewers Interpret The Cosby Show  
Open Texts and Popular Meanings  
Intertextuality and Interpretive Communities  
Revisiting Encoding/Decoding in the 21st Century  
Conclusion: Interpretation and Audience Power  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 7. Reception Contexts and Media Rituals
Media in Context: Notions of Space and Time  
Media Reception in the Domestic Sphere  
Media and Everyday Life in the Domestic Context  
Media Rituals: Another Reception Context  
Conclusion: Audiences in Context  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 8. Media Fandom and Audience Subcultures
Defining Fan Cultures  
Fan Cultures and Interpretive Activity  
Fans and Textual Productions  
Fans and Cultural Hierarchy: The Limits of Textual Reinterpretation  
Conclusion: Fans, Creativity, and Cultural Hierarchy  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 9. Online, Interactive Audiences in a Digital Media World
Digitalization, Fragmentation, Platforms, and the Rise of Audience Autonomy  
Big Data and Online Audience Metrics  
Audience Agency, Creativity, and Democratic Participation  
Crowdsourcing Media Production: Wikis and Blogs  
Questioning Audience Power in the Networked Information Society: Issues of Media Ownership, Surveillance, and Labor Exploitation  
Conclusion: Networked Creativity Meets Undercompensated Labor  
Discussion Activities  
Additional Materials  
Chapter 10. Conclusion: Audience Studies in an Era of Datafication
The Rise of Mobile, Transmedia Experiences in the Post-Network Era  
The New Economics of Audience Aggregation  
Rediscovering Media Audiences in the 21st Century  
Charting a Course for Audience Studies: The 2030 Agenda  
Additional Materials  
About the Author

"Great introduction for Level 4."

Paula Hearsum
University of Brighton

"The best book in the field right now."


"Good primer for students, you can’t go wrong with this."


"Yes, it links theory with examples and research. The only thing close is Abercrombie and that book is hugely dated. I see it as a successor to Abercrombie."

Robbie Smyth
Griffith College – Dublin

"Sullivan has written a lucid and challenging introduction to the study of media audiences from both scholarly and industry perspectives. The complex conceptual material will stimulate and engage the most curious students while providing practical directions for emerging scholars and professionals."

Robert Huesca
Trinity University

For instructors

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