The influences of media are growing exponentially along with the technology development in the last several centuries. Media evolves originally from the books, magazines, visual and audio recordings to television, radio and films, and now to the new media relying on the digital technologies. Nowadays, almost everyone lives with the support of new media in the daily life. Accordingly, the research of media is also dependent on the evolutions. Thus, this essay will discuss the impacts of new media on audience research from the respects of both values and challenges.
1. Audience Research
Audience research, in the qualitative research background, involves a relatively small amount of participants aiming to generate a more detailed and in depth interpretation of the participants’ attitudes and experiences with the respect of a specific topic (Kim Schoder, 2003). Besides, audience research is also regarded as a communication research method which is employed on the basis of a specific segment of audience (Livingstone, S., 1998) in order to get the knowledge of the audience’s attitudes, preferences and interests, etc. The segments of audience may vary on the researchers’ strategies of grouping. The audience can be segmented based on their race group, age, career categories, level of education and income, etc. The purpose to conduct an audience research is to better understand the target audience and provide an effective strategy for the project. It provides researchers an opportunity to acquire a heightened understanding of the audience’s meanings beyond their surface response, their motivations to take a specific action, feelings and experiences regarding to this specific incident. The term ‘audience’, based on the definition of John Hartley (2002), is a number of unidentifiable people who are grouped together according to their participation in media usage. Jane Brown and Laurie Schulze (1990) point out that selecting a specific group of target audience usually requires the researchers to ascribe the audience to some certain characteristics, desires or needs, desires, despite of the varieties in their demographic features. Besides, the audience is viewed as a construction that is motivated by the paradigm where the research is built.
There are basically three epistemologies in audience research, i.e. reception research, audience ethnography and constructionist research. Methodologies involved in the audience research vary from different subjects and research purposes. Traditional methods of an audience research can be interview, focus group and ethnography, etc., which regard the audience as a passive subject (Livingstone, Sonia, 1998). Meanwhile, the criticism of these approaches states that the results of these methods are highly dependent on the researchers’ expertise to interpret the participants’ response and reveal the truth of the topic. In the contrary, the recent trend in audience research tends to view the audience as an active subject...