literature review








team members


Reaching Your Audience:
Matching Media Channels to Target Audience

Review of Literature

Mass communication theory.
       Uses and gratification theory focuses on the receiver of the message rather than the message itself. In mass communication, the theory gives individuals control over media choices and uses. It contends that audience members are discriminating media consumers and examines consumer behavior based on individual experience. Media consumers are viewed as active users of content, not subjects being manipulated (as assumed under early theories of mass communication). The theory holds that how an audience member chooses to use a message is an intervening variable in the message effect (Littlejohn, 1996).
       In uses and gratification theory, the audience is active and goal-oriented. Audience members choose their media based on their individual needs, and media are only one way to meet those needs (Littlejohn, 1996). Harwood (1999) found support for uses and gratification theory in television viewing among older teens. Age identity was a key factor in predicting viewing patterns in a study of 236 college students.
       The value expectancy theory of mass communication states that people orient themselves to the world according to their beliefs and evaluations. Palmgreen (1984) discusses gratifications sought in developing the expanded theory. A person’s expected gratifications in using a medium is based on beliefs about what the medium can provide in addition to individual evaluations of the content. As people gain experience with a particular form of media, their perceived gratifications will feed their beliefs and a cycle of reinforcement will ensue.
       Individual beliefs about what media segments can provide are affected by culture, social institutions, and media in relation to culture and social institutions. Social circumstances such as the availability of media and personal traits such as introversion, extroversion and dogmatism also influence individual beliefs (Palmgreen, 1984).
       Mass media dependency theory as developed by DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1975) holds that the ultimate basis of media influence lies in the nature of the relationship between the social system, the role of media in that system, and the relationship of the audience and the media. According to the researchers, there is a high dependency on media for information in an urban industrial society, which increases significantly in times of social upheaval or change. The greater the need society has for the information provided by the media and the more functions the media serve, the greater dependence individuals in that society will have on the media and the greater the media’s influence will be on that society.
       Dependency theory predicts that mass media have cognitive, affective and behavioral affects on the society it serves (DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1975). Cognitive functions include ambiguity resolution, which can be accomplished quickly in times of social upheaval when the media present accurate information but which can drag on indefinitely if the media cannot service this function; attitude formation, which changes as new people become public figures through the mass media; agenda setting, which holds that media selects the topics about which society members think; beliefs, which expand and change as media informs society of other people, places, and belief systems; and values, or people’s beliefs about states of existence, which may change as beliefs change.
       Affective effects of mass media, according to DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach’s (1975) dependency theory, involve the feelings and emotions of individual members of society. As images of violence routinely appear in the media, for example, people may become desensitized to scenes of violence encountered in reality. They may experience different levels of fear, anxiety, hostility, frustration and related emotions as events are processed through media channels. Ultimately, the behavioral effects of mass media, according to the dependency theory, are described in terms of individuals doing something that they otherwise might not do if it were not for the influence of the media on which they are dependent.
       DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1975) contend that, when audiences are dependent on media to satisfy their needs, messages can alter all three states – cognitive, affective and behavioral. Littlejohn (1996) notes that the effect will vary according to how dependent an individual is on the media channel to fulfill specific individual needs. This is especially true when certain media are consumed habitually, as a ritual, to fill time, to escape, or as a distraction. As an example, Littlejohn cites housebound people who may become dependent on the television for company, commuters who may come to depend on their car radio for companionship on the way to and from work, or teens who may rely on music videos to fill certain needs. The more alternatives an individual has, however, the less likely that individual is to become dependent on any one media channel. Media dependency theory holds that "society produces broad strata of people with sufficient uniformity of social circumstances that they share many problems and concerns in greater or lesser degree in spite of individual differences" (DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1975, p. 268).
       The diffusion of innovation theory of mass communication and social change is less concerned about media channels than interpersonal networks. This theory holds that a new idea – or a communication idea – begins at its point of origin and spreads through the surrounding geographic areas or from person to person within a specific area (Littlejohn, 1996). A basic notion of diffusion theory holds that once a certain number of individuals (perhaps 15 percent) in a system adopt an innovation, it will continue to spread in a self-sustaining process. Rogers and Shefner-Rogers (1999) recommend it as a model for such health campaigns as AIDS awareness. Business professionals are also using the theory for research on franchising, comparisons between first and last adopters of new technologies, and organizational adoption of innovations (Koiranen, 1998; Martinez, Polo & Flavian, 1998; Frambach, 1993). The theory states that interaction through links has a greater affect on understanding than if the same messages are passed through media channels, and that the interpersonal interaction is essential to convergence or shared meaning of the message (Littlejohn, 1996).
       In agenda-setting theory, the relationship between the source and the media channel is more important than the channel itself. The theory states that the mass media does not tell a society what to think, but that it does tell a society what to think about as editors determine which stories are covered and reporters decide what information to include in the stories they send to their editors (Littlejohn, 1996). Agenda setting is an interactional process, according to DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1975); the media sorts and selects stories, and from that selection the public makes its choices about what to read or view based on individual and group concerns. For agenda setting, Littlejohn (1996) holds the relationship between the source (the public affairs practitioner) and the media gatekeeper more important than channel selection. It is the relationship between the two that often determines whether the outlet will even consider a story that is not hard news.
       Media richness theory postulates that the effectiveness of communication is dependent to an extent upon the channel that is used. The theory focuses more upon the interactive aspects of communication as a two-way process between the audience and the communicator. According to media richness theory, mediums that allow feedback are "richer," providing greater context and emphasis to the message. The richer the communication, the more uncertainty is reduced, and the more likely it is that effective communication will have taken place (Daft and Lengel, 1984). Media richness theory regards such media channels as newspaper, television and radio as "poor" because they do not allow for immediate and direct feedback.
       Schramm (1969) asserts that ‘know your audience’ is the first rule of practical mass communication. Messages must be structured to meet a target audience and delivered in a way the audience will receive. Schramm recommends using existing patterns of understanding, drives and attitudes to gain acceptance of the message. To reach a target audience, a communicator must determine the images and reference points already existing in the minds of the audience members (Brooks, 1969).
       Segmenting one public into many with separate interests presents a challenge to communications scholars, who may not even agree that separate publics exist. In fact, Littlejohn (1996) points to a theory of mass society in which there are depersonalized relations throughout society and people have lost their individuality in the global village. The opposing view, and one carried by business interests in addition to some communications scholars, is that there still exist highly differentiated communities with values, ideals and interests (Morton, 1998a).
Market segmentation.
       Market segmentation is one of the most common concepts in the field of marketing (Chaturvedi, Carroll, Green, & Rotondo, 1997). Although most market segmentation processes seek homogeneous partitions, researchers have found that customers can belong to multiple segments. Practical managerial issues and unavailability of sophisticated software to appropriately segment large market sample sizes may prohibit the multiple segmentation of large markets.
       The target audiences for public affairs practitioners to communicate military messages are much more fragmented today compared to the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, audiences have fragmented into small particles that expand far beyond the typical demographic classifications of age, gender, race, status and other factors. Russell (1990) fragments the market into 10 segments: parents, fathers, the fit, the unfit, downscale, upscale, workers, entrepreneurs, women in charge, and housewives. 
       According to Morton (1998a), it is imperative that public affairs practitioners obtain a thorough understanding of their target audiences in order to effectively communicate messages. In order to effectively tailor messages to target audiences, psychographics, (an individual’s personality and psychological factors) and sociographics (an individual’s social grouping and sociological factors) must be considered. Morton states that once demographics, psychographics and sociographics segment target audiences, other shared characteristics across several segments should be noted. Morton (1998b) includes generation, life stage, social class, lifestyle, gender, and race and national origin among these additional categories, then segments by different characteristics within a segment. For example, adaptive generation, baby boomers, reactive Generation X, and civic millennium generation segments are all part of the segment called "generation." Each segment has its own specific description. (For an example of how Morton segments audiences using demographics, psychographics and sociographics, see Appendix A, Figures 1 through 5.2.)
       Generation X tends to embrace new technology faster and change channels frequently compared to baby boomers. They are media connoisseurs, capable of browsing the electronic landscape to select their interests. Generation Xers are attracted to MTV’s quick-cut, fast-fade format, which is tailored to their short attention span. They will quickly discard messages that lack entertainment or involving information. Further, while Generation Xers do not dislike advertising, they dislike overstatement, self-importance, hypocrisy, and telemarketers (Ritchie, 1995). 
       Morton (1997) notes that Asian Americans share many values that make targeting them parsimonious: they respect older members of their family, the majority of them are married, their culture has a low divorce rate, often several generations live together and they value education. The most effective channels to reach this group are news releases that are written in their language and published in their newspapers because 94 percent of Asian Americans read newspapers while 82 percent read newspapers in their native language. On the other hand, Hispanics are better reached by door-to-door sampling versus the mass media. Less than 10 percent of Hispanics in the United States use mass media and only 50 percent read English.
       The degree to which behaviors and attitudes can be predicted on the basis of demographics alone is very limited. While it can useful to know the objective characteristics of an audience – ethnicity, age, and media consumption habits – attitudes and personal preferences are just as important (Scott & O’Hair, 1989). The two researchers recommend that public relations professionals consider three different characteristics of their audiences: "(a) an accurate description of the demographic make-up of the audience in question, (b) using psychographic information to focus on the individual’s values and lifestyle, and (c) determining the emotional reaction of audience members" (p. 205). (See Appendix A, Figure 6 for Scott & O’Hair’s (1989) Model of the relationship between these three elements.) Other studies confirm that the predictive value of demographic data increases when subjective or values measurements are added (Boote, 1981).
       Hansler and Riggin (1989) suggests that an effective market segment should meet certain requirements: homogeneous segments must be systematically identified, segments must be quantifiable because some segments have a higher opportunity to participate in the offering than others, and the system must be able to locate these segments.