See Campbell and Huxman
Ways to Characterize the Audience
- Empirical Audience. The people that the speaker faces and interacts directly
- Mediated Audience. The people who witness the message as it is being delivered
but beyond the immediate proximity of the speaker. (Note Campbell and Huxman
combine these first two types.)
- Target Audience
- Agents of Change
- Constructed Audience
Ways to Describe the Audience
Generalizations about categories of social affiliation. Demographic analysis is an approach to
understanding the character of an audience. Demographic characteristics can be easily observed
or inferred. Among the important demographic categories are:
- Educational Level
- Geographic (including region of the country and urban/rural/suburban)
- Socio-economic status
Generalizations about the audience's thinking. Notice that generalizations about
the psychometric profile of various demographic groups is a basic pattern of reasoning
about audiences. Consult Campbell and Huxman for definitions of these.
Begins by identifying the public with whom the audience will engage in discourse.
What is their media of communication? Who will they listen to and talk to in
response to the situation/topic? This public may constitute a subculture or
the more general culture. It may be particular to this topic. Then ask:
- Framing: What are the typical ways the culture responds to situations like
- Authority: To whom does the culture turn for help in interpreting the situation?
- Public Commitment:: Is this viewed as a public or private concern? How active/passive
is the culture in responding? How active/passive are particular members of
- Good Reasons: What reasons are usually given for the various possible actions?
The answers to these questions are to be found in the way in which the culture
talks about rhetorical situations similar to the current one.
What will an audience do with the message? Audiences do things with messages and
power of message depends on what they do after the speaker is finished. Campbell
and Huxman talk about this as "decoding."
Which Audience is Analyzed?
Think of all these audiences as you do audience analysis and remember there will be similarities
- The audience that exists before and after the speech. An
empirical audience and in the analysis the target audience. Cultural analysis
and/or Demographic analysis are often used.
- The audience changed by the speech. Identify the agents of change. An understanding of
the target audience based on psychometric analysis.
- The audience created by the speech. The constructed audience. Analyzed with elaboration
The Interpreters' Use of Audience Analysis
Questions to guide your analysis:
- Who is susceptible to the speaker's message? Who does the speaker address? The target
- How can the speaker form an appeal to the audience? What are the obstacles to be
overcome in this target audience? How can they be overcome? Location of strategies.
- Who does the speaker seek to lead? How can the speaker activate an audience? A Public?
How can he construct an audience?
- Was the speaker successful in his/her strategies? Do the strategies appeal to his/her audience? Why or why not? What characteristics of the audience did the speaker miss?
The skill you have now acquired as a critic is the ability to understand audiences with more complexity. You can think in terms of who will encounter his/her message and/or who the people are that the speaker wishes to influence with the message (the target audience). And you will be able to characterize that audience to understand the characteristics the speaker must address in formulating his/her strategy. Thus, you will be able to evaluate the speaker's effort to design a message for the particular audience.
Bases for Valid Descriptive Claims about Audiences
Of course, critic's conclusions about audiences must be supported. So, on what evidence do you draw conclusions about audiences? And, how can you support your claims?
The primary method is simply observation of the empirical audience. The mediated and target audiences, when they differ from the empirical audience, are more difficult. Generally, one must rely on polling of various kinds for information on these audiences. Remember that once the demographic groups are identified, then psychometric analysis follows.
- The most direct evidence comes from simply listening to the members of that audience and inferring the beliefs, attitudes, needs, and values in what is expressed. The psychometric analysis takes shape in understanding how the normal interaction in communication is shaped by the psychometric categories.
- Alas, we do not always have the opportunity to listen to the empirical audience prior to or even after the event. We may need instead to call upon our experiences of similar audiences. This is always dangerous since it relies on our own experience, and we must approach it with some skepticism, but nonetheless it may be the required stategy.
- In the mediated audience, or empirical and targeted audiences we cannot access, it is common to use opinion polling to indicate elements of a psychometric analysis. Of course, the closest the population measured in the poll comes to the relevant audience, the more reliable the evidence.
The evidence for a sound cultural analysis comes from a knowledge of the frames, authority structures, construction of public matters, and good reasons that structure that culture. We gather this knowledge from our participation in, or observation of this culture. A particularly useful way is by studying the rhetorical discourse of the culture to see the frames that structure the messages, the authority structure in the communication, the definitions of public matters, and the good reasons that motivate action in the culture.
Things to remember about audiences
- Audiences may be multiple. That is, an empirical audience may be addressed as assembled
target audiences. Each has different characteristics. If the speaker can construct a united
audience, agents of change can be created.
- Audiences can be viewed as groups of individuals or as constructed publics:
|Audiences viewed as collections of individuals
||Audiences as constructed publics
|A group of similar individuals listening to a message
||A community of people working together
|A persuader seeking to reach an audience member
||An audience seeking to come to terms with a situation
|Responders to the stimuli of a message
||Actors upon a message
|Agents of change
||An agency for change
|Demographic analysis; Psychometric analysis
||Cultural analysis; Elaboration analysis