Defining “audience”

It is interesting to think about the term audience. Is it appropriate to use this term to describe today’s online users or is there another word that would be a better fit? The term audience implies that there must be performers who are showing or displaying a message of some sort to a crowd of people. But with a free and open Web, who are the real performers? Introverts, extroverts, outspoken leaders and quiet followers can assume different roles online. Anonymity makes it possible for anyone with an idea to present issues or ideas as frequently as the user desires. An opinionated blogger who posts multiple times a day and encourages feedback and discussion may be a person of few words in the material world.
In many ways, we are all performers, each acting out a different scene and constantly adding our own lines to the script. The audience is becoming obsolete. While many Internet users take on a more passive role, they are still playing a role of some kind.   Many producers are well aware of lurkers and inactive users who enjoy absorbing information and learning without giving much personal input. These individuals are even target audiences in some markets. Therefore, everyone plays a part in content and conversation on the Web, whether it be directly or indirectly.
While designers and writers must understand that not all users wish to participate and influence content, all users are individuals. These individuals have different backgrounds, morals, skill-levels, interests, education and goals for the future. Anyone looking to promote a product or a message online must carefully study a target audience and cater content accordingly. In terms of a substitute word for audience, “latent contributors,” and “audience with intent” are strong alternatives. The term latent refers to the “potential energy” or promise that an audience possesses to choose and control how they receive information and which content they take an interest in. In many ways, this reference from the sciences is applicable to then idea of modern audiences. Interactivity helps transitions audience from potential energy to kinetic energy. It gets the ball rolling, (no pun intended), by encouraging individuals to push the envelope and become active participants in the online communications process.
“Audience with intent” is also another good term because it speaks to producers, reminding them that they are no longer marketing to a largely passive crowd. Instead, audiences are becoming more educated about products and their expectations for quality services and products are rising daily. The audience has intent to invest their time online wisely and to speak out when issues (positive and negative) arise.
The term “audience” may never become obsolete, but the meaning behind it is changing quickly. Producers and media outlets should recognize this and use it to their benefit to create and promote stronger, more user-specific messages.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under COM530

2 responses to “Defining “audience”

  1. steveearley

    I’m intrigued by the concept of marketing to lurkers. Do you have any examples? Do marketers try to convert them to active users, or are they fine with letting them stay lurkers? By the way, the potential –> kinetic energy metaphor is brilliant.

    • Hey, glad you like the metaphor! I found a couple of things about marketing to lurkers. They are informal but interesting. A lot of bloggers actually write to lurkers, specifically addressing them like here, for example: http://wendy.kinesisinc.com/2006/03/12/hey-lurkers-come-out-come-out/. Also, Here is an interesting post from an e-mail marketer who has been able to see a transformation in lurkers, watching them become activists: http://www.clickz.com/3627414. There are a lot of interesting things out there just like this. It would be interesting to find a specific company who does this and do a case study on them because I wonder how easy it would be to identify who your lurkers actually are. No easy task!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s