Ratings and Revenues: The Audience in Mass Media Social Systems - Business - Sales

This chapter is about money. Specifically, it is about how sellers (the mass media) and buyers (advertisers) determine the price to be paid for advertising in the print or broadcast media. This chapter is also about the ways that mass media systems function. As we discussed in Chapter 1, the primary function of the mass media is to attract and hold large audiences for advertisers.Here we examine how audiences are measured and how advertising rates are set. Because the price of an ad is determined Breitling Replica Watches by the size and makeup of the audience, this chapter is also about ratings. Ratings services measure and describe the audiences of radio and television programming and the readership of magazines. Circulation size and intensity serve a similar function for newspapers.

Wherever they exist, the mass media are complex systems composed of interrelated elements or parts.1 because mass media in the United States are wholly or partially commercial, measures of audience behavior (what audiences watch, hear, or read and what they buy) and revenues (the results of audience behaviors) are central to the system.

Audiences, as measured by ratings, determine the success or failure of programming or content. Content reaches the audience through distributors-outlets such as the networks, individual stations, wire services, theaters, magazines, and newspapers. Producers of content (including subsystems of reporters, actors, camera crews, labor unions, and publishers) are financed by advertisers or backers who in turn depend on advertisers for their money.

Advertising agencies connect advertisers with distributors (outlets), with content producers, and with audience- and market-research organizations such as Nielsen and Arbitron, which gather data on audience behavior (ratings and purchasing patterns).

Government regulators include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which licenses distributors and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the courts, which set limits on advertising, news, and program content.

Citizen regulators, which generate political pressure, include watchdog groups such as the Coalition for Better Television. Self-regulatory mechanisms arise to forestall government or legal regulation or to defuse political pressure; some of these are newspaper readers' advocates, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Electronic Media Ratings Council, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, and the National Advertising Review Board.As social systems, the mass media are part of the larger social system of our society. U.S. social norms are expressed in laws, moral codes, conventions (what we find entertaining, appropriate, or offensive), and values (what we believe in, such as the efficacy of free enterprise, the legitimacy of the profit motive, and the importance of freedom of speech). These norms influence audience behavior and underlie all forms of regulation.

All social systems seek to survive, to maintain their stability and equilibrium. In the United States, the chief requirement is commercial: to survive, mass media must generate profits or adequate financing, which requires Breitling Replica attracting substantial audiences. Ratings measure how well the mass media do this, and revenues depend on such ratings. Audience behavior (what is listened to, watched, read, and bought) and audience norms (what entertains, what offends) are fundamental to mass media systems. These in turn reflect how the mass media have developed in the history of this society.


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