Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is there anything being done in internet audience studies?

Almost the entire time I was reading Dallas Smythe's essay "On the Audience Commodity and its Work", I couldn't help but wonder how audience studies are being addressed nowadays with the medium of the personal computer equipped with internet connectivity; this is definitely an area where I need to do more research, for I'm sure there is information on internet audience commodity. I simply haven't read any yet, and the majority of the work on this topic seems to focus solely on television and radio.

Along with the radio and the television, the internet has become the most recent medium to provide in-home entertainment to millions of audience members, allowing them to access music (once only available on the radio), videos (once only available on television), and articles (once only available in the form of newspapers and magazines). The only means of the internet is not, however, entertainment, for it also serves as an information provider. I suppose that the television and radio can function in this way as well with their presentation of news stories, documentary features, etc.

While advertising on the internet is structured in a very similar fashion to the presentation modes on the television screen, internet advertising is not a mass medium; with access to personal information, preferences, frequency of sites visited, etc., advertisers online can hone in on a user's penchants and provide personalized advertising for them based on this information. I wonder what Smythe would have to say about internet advertising...I'm sure that Table 16.1 on page 240 would look incredibly different if internet audience studies were factored in to the equation.

Am I being completely naive here in assuming that all personalized, in-home media should be the subject for audience studies scrutiny? Or are audience studies only confined to the television and radio?

Also, what is the role of television channels that offer "commercial free" programming? I'm thinking here of HBO, Showtime, etc. I suppose the audience is still subjected to advertising in the form of previews and plugs for other shows and films shown on that channel, yet the audience pays more for these channels to be free from commercial advertisements.


Princess Leah said...

Considering the amount of money that is at stake, I think it's safe to say that someone is trying to figure out how to do just the kind of analysis you describe. Can't begin to imagine the technical aspects of this sort of study...

T Relth said...

That gal front row center (in the photo), might be your Aunt. Please check it. TR

deepthiw said...

I think audience studies for internet users are called user studies and click-through studies. Neilsen and Comscore do all kinds of stuff, but they're about as reliable as their numbers for TV (not very). Everyone in market research is still trying to figure out how to measure stuff accurately (click rates aren't turning out to be that informative).