Audience Analysis

Reading the audience

I was thinking about the first time I encountered “audience analysis” in school. It was my second writing class— persuasive writing. The instructor had the class bring several popular magazines to class so that we might guess what the “target audience” for these publications were. The easy way to do it is to look at the advertisements. Trends were easy to spot, with little actual reading involved.

Watching the History Channel this morning, I was enlightened by the troubled story of the M-16. I didn’t realize that it was created by a man with the surname of “Stoner” and built by the Armalite Rifle Company. Who watches this stuff? Non-stop stories of new and better ways of killing each other. Ah, maybe the ads provide a clue. The first ad was for the Q-Ray Bracelet. Perhaps the same people drawn to weaponry as a talisman of power are also drawn to mystical ionic ray bracelets that relieve all pain. The commercials found on these cable stations seem to have a big overlap with a publication that the instructor made some guesses about in that persuasive writing class— The National Enquirer.

The general consensus of the class was that the audience for supermarket tabloids is women with less than a sixth-grade education. I wonder how the History Channel’s marketing reps sell to these companies? Ozzy Osbourne is a big fan— perhaps there is a connection between ritual healing and ritual destruction? The question of audience is complex though, because the station does have many quality programs besides the constant barrage of war pornography. TV advertising is not nearly as monolithic as print advertising. Next to the ads for diabetes test equipment, teenagers cavort with day-glow cell phones. But there is an overwhelming tone of machismo to the bulk of the History Channel’s programming, so I really do wonder at the presence of the miracle bracelet. Do guys really buy this stuff?

But I wonder more about the statistics that Ampersand posted about our so-called “representative” government. I wonder if the typical member of Congress wears a Q-Ray bracelet to match their M-16? With all the talismanic saber-rattling these days, it would make a lot of sense.