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b.) Audience feedback: e.g. focus groups, audience panels, trialing and testing, reviews,
What is Audience feedback?
The main incentive for audience feedback is to create interaction between the
producer and the consumer of media products. If a film maker has a greater reception of
people who enjoy the film they will generate better revenue; the main aims for a director or
producer or an editor is to please their target audience and generate interest so that more
people will watch the film. An audience can no longer be denoted solely as a mass (which has
been suggested in past theories), studies prove that audiences are complex and no matter what
the intended message encoded in the product was initially, it can change with audience
response. It is best to look at an audience as a group of individuals with singular minds
meaning that they can question what they are being exposed to leading to a diverse reception.
James P. Zappen (professor of communications and media) stated "[Technical
communication] involves users who may not be readers but who are, or ought to be,
participants in communication and decision making" meaning that the audience ought to be
crucial in the decision process of a film.
A popular method of gather audience feedback is test screening; this is previewing the
product to an audience before the release to gauge reaction. Test screenings will tend to be
diverse in their selection of viewers to generate diverse feedback which is normally in the
form of a questionnaire. One of the most famous screen tests in the history of television was
the Batman TV show of the 1960’s, receiving the worst scores in the history of screen testing,
scores were in the high 40’s with the screen test average for other shows being the mid 60’s.
Even after revision of criticism and making changes it was still rated as low and only aired
due to the amount of money spent during production.
Focus groups are widely used as a means of qualitative research, as opposed to giving
an independent answer, people are free to discuss with other group members. Focus groups
rose in popularity during the First World War in order to review the effectiveness of
propaganda. A problem with focus groups is that, more than often, the setting can be
intrusive, normally there will be a person of authority questioning people with a means of
recording that audio leading to people holding back possible responses or giving a bias
answer based on what they believe should be said; along with this the participants have no
means to anonymity, thus leading to a lack of confidentiality.
If media producers decide to look at audience panels then they could either be looking
at how many people are watching or who is watching. In the early 20th century audience
panel results were gathered by diaries, these were, however, unreliable as people could often
forget and data was extremely hard to collate, but with the introduction of new technology
and the introduction of digital media it became easier in the 21st century. Third parties are
now primarily responsible for gathering audience feedback from a panel, one of these
companies is BARB who collect data from viewing habits in British homes via TV, PC,
tablet or smart phone; this data allows producers to see who their audience demographic is
and how many viewers they have. Audience panels essentially give producers an illustration
of their specific target audience once the product is released, meaning that they can measure
how accurate their audience research was.
As well as audience panelling, another means to gathering feedback after a
publication, is through reviews. Reviews are critical evaluations of the product from a
singular source or a compilation of sources; alongside a review a consumer may give a rating,
normally in the form of ‘stars’ from 1 star to 5 as an indication of how well received the end
result was. When a movie is reviewed it is normally in the form of web journalism, an
individual will upload their opinions as a means of educating other people in their opinions,
normally in the form of a blog entry or to a website such as IMDB.
To conclude, audience feedback is crucial to determining whether a film meets its
specific criteria for the proposed target audience; it is the only means by which they can get a
review from the consumer that they can improve from in order to boost profit and reviews.
Zappen, James P. 1987, Rhetoric and Technical Communication; An Argument for Historical
and Political Pluralism,"
IMDB, 1990, Batman: Trivia,
Wikipedia, 2014, Test Screening,
BARB, 1981, FAQ,