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Revisiting Audience Behaviour and Media

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Adrian Woolard | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

BBC R&D are looking for researchers and professionals interested in updating a critical internal study by a great colleague of ours - Dr Guy Winter (now ex-BBC) who in 2004 reviewed a wealth of evidence to propose a model of people's behaviour with media and media technology.

Its purpose was to understand what people do with media and why.

The perspective was essentially psychological, and focussed on the individual embedded within the context of wider social life. Underlying the model was the assertion that under the turbulence we see in everyday surface behaviour lies a consistent and stable set of human goals and drives.

By identifying these deep behaviours, we could understand the range of observed media behaviours and predict how we might exploit them via future products and services.

We will republish the original study shortly in the "Publications" area of our web site, however in summary, Dr Winter produced 5 core cognitive goals and 7 emotional drives:

Cognitive Goals

  • Relax. The need to switch off, mark a change from one activity to another, or simply escape from it all. Low levels of motivation and attention, and a common behaviour.
  • Stimulate. The desire to be interested and engaged, yet without much effort. Low levels of motivation and attention but a possibility to increase this. A common behaviour.
  • Challenge. An interest in media that questions personally held views and opinions, or offers an intellectual or physical challenge. High engagement and attention; highly motivated but quite rare.
  • Inform. The desire to be informed in order to make informed decisions. Refers to both specific and general information, but both are highly motivated and goal driven.
  • Discover. A basic hard-wired urge to discover and learn. Highly motivated and engaged activity, though less common.

Emotional Drives

  • Stability. The urge to add structure to complex everyday life, and cope with normal life stresses to provide anchors, watersheds/transitions and reinstate personal control over events. Refers mostly to small scale day-to-day behaviour, but also in the bigger sense of global 'security'.
  • Isolation & Company. The drive to use media as a source of company when alone, but also as mechanism to isolate and cocoon. The result of individual's desire to control their interactions with the world and the people in it.
  • Aesthetism & Pleasure. The seeking of simple pleasure, happiness and a sense of well-being.
  • Self-realisation & Identity. The development of personality as a consequence of experience to refine understanding of oneself, and ones thoughts and attitudes.
  • Contextualisation. Testing and distinguishing personality and identity by exposure to the wider world. Understanding key commonality and difference, and adding context to the individual.
  • Socialisation. Recognising the human as a social animal with an urge to be in company, share moments and feelings and be part of a group. Understanding the strong tendency to identify and change personality to suit the group's key traits, as may be evident through media.
  • Self-actualisation. Desire to grow emotionally, cognitively, and socially and to develop self esteem and sense of worth. Commonly seen as contribution and creation activity.

It was a different way of understanding of our audience and complimenting the drive the BBC has to work for its audience.

BBC used this model as a method of analysing the BBC's Internet services and as a tool for understanding how behaviour is changing, why it is doing so, and what we can do to exploit it for a couple of years but with many changes and people working with it having left, it is in need of an update.

We want to understand what has changed, are new behaviours relevant in and around mass media? Have YouTube, iPlayer, Facebook, Twitter, Wii changed audiences dramatically or have they just evolved their core behaviours?

For those interested, this challenge is also being discussed on the Connection Factory knowledge exchange network set up to support research between media professionals and academics.

We would welcome your thoughts and ideas on how to undertake this new study, so please drop us a line in the comments below, or get in touch via the 'Contact Us' area of the website

cheers
Maxine Glancy, Adrian Woolard

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