- There are a number of psychological and social factors that are thought to affect people’s choice of media. Briefly describe each of these. Are there any factors that are becoming more important (or less important) in the age of anywhere anytime digital media? Explain why.
In order to answer the first question, the Uses and Gratifications Theory will be applied. It is a special sociological approach that explains peoples’ motives and reasons, which guide them when they look for the specific media to satisfy their social, psychological, cultural, scientific and other needs. This very approach is extremely audience-oriented, so it probably explains the existence of a unique set of mass communication guidelines.
Among Uses and Gratifications theorists, there must be mentioned such eminent researchers in the field of communications as Elihu Katz, Michael Gurevitch, and Hadassah Haas. These theorists managed to identify the mass media as an implement by which individuals communicate or segregate from each other. Therefore, the following five main psychological and social factors that influence the choice of media will be discussed. All of them have been developed by these researches and are outlined from 35 basic human needs. They are:
- Affective necessity. According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, psychological needs are those when individuals take care of themselves physically and share their feelings with the others. Such relations appear within families and with friends.
- Cognition necessity. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicates that when a human being has been already gratified with physiological, safety and relational needs, the next level for him appears to be the level of cognition. At this level, the individuals stimulate themselves intellectually and explore the essential meanings of the surrounding objects. For instance, people may watch some documentaries on television or read various useful newspapers.
- Personal Integrative necessity. The essence of this specific guideline is the individual’s desire to evolve by consuming and accumulating specific information in order to broaden one’s horizon.
- Social Integrative necessity. This very factor is represented by a process of mutual rapprochement and relationships formation with family and friends by improving one’s social status.
- Tension Release necessity. The last psychological/sociological factor that influences the choice of a mass medium acts by allowing a person to “escape” from one’s frustrative reality.
Concerning the media importance in the current era of constant information and technological developments, the paramount importance of the Internet must be emphasized. This very medium permanently increases the number of its users, making the border between traditional media and the Internet media more and more blurred. The convergence of the Internet and the traditional media creates the preconditions for a consolidated complex network that will include such media units as television, radio and print (newspapers and magazines) within it.
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Currently, there is an obvious migration of various media forms to the Internet, where the appropriate information finds its relevant audience. For instance, the impact of new digital technologies on consumers is quite obvious within the newspapers’ media, where readers have already stopped reading printed newspapers. Instead, they started using the information from their gadgets and smartphones by simply downloading necessary newspapers or magazines.
- Media industries have used audience measurement since the beginning of the 20th century, but the old ways of doing things are being challenged. What are those challenges? What do you think are the most consequential changes in the creation and use of audience data in the digital media marketplace? Explain why.
The audience measurements usage appeared in the media market in the middle of the 1990s. It has remained the most popular and practically the only mechanism of products and services popularity measurement via the Internet for more than ten years. The counters of attendance were the most popular form of the Internet audience measurement and remained so for quite a long time. Almost everything in the field of digital media industries is based on such indicators as hits, hosts, clicks, cookies and others.
The attendance indicators collect and analyze the following information regarding the attendance of any particular Internet resource:
- The number of page views, probably even from a single IP address (the term “hits” is often used);
- The number of different addresses from the views were made (the term “hosts” is often used);
- The number of unique users who have made views (the term “users” is often used).
At the same time, it is clear that such a correspondence will be exact only under certain circumstances:
- If only one person will use one computer/relevant device;
- If the cookies will not be disabled by the user and he/she will not delete them during the measured period;
- If a personal computer will not have any viruses or other adverse soft programs.
For quite a long time, until the middle of the 2000s, it was believed that the method of the audience calculation with the help of cookies will provide acceptable accuracy for estimating the absolute audience quantity.
However, the situation began to change significantly during the last 4-6 years for several reasons. On the one hand, significantly increased the number of different devices by which users browsed the Internet. On the other hand, the programs diversity, which are used for web browsing, has also increased. Thus, in the first half of the 2000s, the Microsoft Internet Explorer was actually a monopolist on the software market of browsers, while, at the moment, there is a variety of similar Internet browsers with similar qualities, such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Moreover, these programs are quite often used simultaneously or alternately.
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All these factors increased the number of unique identifiers, and this growth significantly exceeded the real growth of the Internet audience. A research firm Comscore, a special Internet audience measuring company in Australia, calculated cookies and came to the conclusion that the cookies’ amount exceeded real audience quantity for 2.7 times. Therefore, as for today, these audience measurements can not provide the real quantitative picture of audience due to a number of reasons.
Firstly, as it was previously noted, the current technology only allows counting requests from the same devices with a unique identifier. Furthermore, with any technology improvements, the quality approximation will become even more significant, and its accuracy will only deteriorate. Such a drawback appears because when the very first audience measurement system has just developed, it was assumed that the majority of the Internet resource visitors will use only one device. Thus, the number of unique identifiers will respond to the approximate number of unique visitors correctly.
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Secondly, the above-described method of the audience measurement has a number of significant limitations and disadvantages from a sociological aspect; in particular, it has the lack of verification filled in by the visitors (respondents).
Thirdly, there are some measuring problems with banner advertisements indicators, which calculate the number of banner adverts displays. The problem is that quite often, people accidentally click on the advertising banner, and even if they open the advertiser’s website, the users immediately turn it off. Nevertheless, a person becomes one of the target audience. Moreover, in such a case, this person is considered as a unique user that is interested in the particular advertisement, and, in this regard, advertising is considered more effective than it actually is.
In summary, such audience measurements nowadays are quite often oversimplified and limited, so they can produce only a shallow view of the audience complexity and describe the real situation on the media market.