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Week 4: Critical Approaches/Lenses

Audience Analysis Summary and Examples

When analyzing media text through the audience analysis approach, one is determining which population the media is addressing and how that population would interpret various symbols and signs. The media outlet targets one or more of three areas with which the population can interpret – identification, participation, and socialization as consumers.

In my search to find an example of a media outlet analyzing its target audience through interpretation, I looked no further than the evening news. When one watches a major network news show during the six o’clock hour, one is inundated with ads catering to 50’s age male: insurance, vehicle, and most abundantly, medications directed at men who experience erectile dysfunction. This thoroughly annoys me because I enjoy watching the nightly news as I prepare dinner: I get caught up on what’s going on in the world while accomplishing the feat of getting a healthy meal on the table. Clearly, the medication companies take advantage of this time when men are coming home from work, not thinking of the hot, delicious meal that is being prepared for them (yes, there are young women who cook dinner and work full time) but of their ensuing evening foray. The most comedic one in my opinion is that of the man who is working in the kitchen; I think he’s preparing a meal. The man can identify with helping out with household chores because many a married man knows that a little bit of housework goes a long way with his wife. His wife begins hitting on him, then the sink springs a leak! This is a great example of Freud’s phallic symbol and it makes me crack up almost every time! Of course, because he’s taken the ED medication, he can fix the leak, cook dinner, AND have sex with his wife.

Media outlets also target audience participation by creating something in which their audience can get involved. I think the “hottest? audience participation media is currently American Idol. The creators of the show take advantage of the “15 minutes of fame? idea by holding a musical contest in which it is theoretically possible that any person in America could be on the show. While thousands and thousands of people participate by actually going to the audition location, many more people participate every week by voting via cell phone for their favorite contestant. Even Fox 9 News has blog on which Twin Cities locals can post their thoughts of the show.

The third and final way that media analyze their audience is through “socialization as consumers? (Beach 35), meaning they try to sell the product or service based how cool or popular one can be if one owns the product or uses the service. I think that Apple, Inc. has the corner on the market with their abundance of electronic gadgets. They advertise their newest product, the iphone on TV using a single person against a black backdrop demonstrating how the iphone helped a man remain “cool? when he forgot a person’s name whom he was about to meet at a restaurant: he simply looked it up on the internet using his iphone. Apple, Inc.’s ipod product also has television and print ads with cool- looking youngsters dancing to the tunes on their ipods.
Semiotic Analysis Summary and Examples

Semiotic Analysis focuses on the audience’s interpretation of a sign or code; for instance, the media understands that most people interpret the color red to mean stop and the color green to mean go. I remember an Olive Garden commercial that showed its very happy chefs training in Tuscany, Italy, to make their new dishes. The ad consisted of many shots of the warm, romantic- looking countryside, olive trees, and juicy, red tomatoes bouncing out of a colander. The chefs were laughing heartily and deeply inhaling the aromas emanating from the piping hot pasta. The images of the scenery were be interpreted by the American audience to mean that the food served at Olive Garden is authentic Italian food. The images of the olive trees and the bouncing tomatoes are to be interpreted by the audience that Olive Garden uses extremely fresh ingredients, and the happy, laughing chefs are to be interpreted that the Olive Garden has a fun, relaxing atmosphere.

I don’t know for sure if the Olive Garden chefs really trained in Tuscany, how much fresh vs. frozen food they use, or how relaxed one feels there, but DO know this: it doesn’t compare with a lunch on an Italian piazza!