Audience Response Theories


I will be examining various Audience Theories and analysing how they have been used in the past, what they suggest and also their effectiveness alongside real-life examples. I will be focusing on the Reception Theory, Hypodermic Needle Theory and the User and Gratifications Theory.

Hypodermic Needle Theory – Example: Orson Welles War of the Worlds Reading

Theories are merely an idea; some have more proof than others. Evidence is crucial to making something a fact or a theory, but the terms are often blurred. The Hypodermic Needle theory is an idea that suggests audiences are passive and thus absorb and copy ideas and opinions presented to them through media. This theory suggests that people have no choice to subconciously take in information given to them and therefore the theory is known to focus and be identified in areas of negativity- for example Grand Theft Auto- a video game aged 18 plus that has allegedly been a motivation or stimulus behind criminal activity all over the world. The idea is that information given can influence elements peoples lives and choices they make on a daily basis.

Promotional campaigns and charities influence people to make choices, and insinuate negative ideas to influence donations etc; for example:

The picture in question.

An environmental campaign used this image of a polar bear to suggest that his habitat was melting and he would die without living on ice- they forgot to mention that actually, polar bears have the ability to swim in deep water, and are known in zoos and also the wild for doing so; which proves that the insinuation made is a huge hyperbole. Another media example would be the television series The Big Bang Theory- a programme that many people may believe and relate to. Several of the ideas shared throughout include suggestions that; ‘all scientists are nerds’, ‘alcohol is needed to talk to women’ (as one character Raaj cannot talk to women without having a drink first, which may encourage audience members to drink), Aspergers syndrome is humorous (A main character Sheldon suffers with the condition and his OCD is a laughing stock in the show), social anxiety is a lighthearted problem, and the list goes on.
Overall, the theory suggests that everyone is the same, and audiences naively copy behaviour of people in the media, as they are passive and just wish to learn and talk about stories and elements of the media amongst peers.

In 1927, Harold Laswell, an american political scientist published a book named ‘Propaganda Technique in the World War’ and spoke about the idea that “industrious men injected into the veins of staggering people, until the smashing powers of allied armies knocked them into submission’. The idea is that vulnerable people are targeted and influenced by media forced towards them. The Hypodermic Needle Theory suggests that mass media has a extremely powerful and direct effect on the audience it aims to target. It is a long-running theory first developed in the 1920’s that has been used several times on mass scale throughout the years. Mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as an extremely powerful influence on behaviour change at the time, here are several examples from between the 20’s and now:

  • Hitler’s monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the Nazi party, using newspapers, posters and videos to dominate the media and ‘brainwash’ the public.
  • The War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 by Orson Welles, causing thousands of people to believe that America was being invaded by aliens, using a simple dramatic reading over radio broadcast:

As shown in the first example, the theory itself has it’s negatives, and can often be used in a negative way. If an audience member is rational and dissects every piece of information fed to them through the media then they would not be affected by the theory. Unfortunately, the theory is a much like gossip, and if you are compelled enough to listen to it and take in the information, then you are likely to believe it and live by it- Or so the theory suggests.

User and Gratifications Theory – Example: Geordie Shore (MTV Reality TV Show)

This theory differs slightly from that of the hypodermic needle. This theory suggests that audiences are active and use media for specific reasons, meaning that they usually get a positive experience from using media foreducational, leisure  and entertainment purposes. People can also use the media as an escapism from the real world, but not everyone absorbs it like a sponge (as suggested with the hypodermic needle ideology).

An audience can use media tosocially interact with friends and peers on platforms such as online gaming, that feature party chat and 2 player mode etc. This is alongside people being able to relate to certain aspects and characters portrayed through the media.A character example for this theory would be Effy from Skins, as personally, I could relate in some senses to her frustration of the world, and at one point idealised her lifestyle. In comparison, The Big Bang theory compared in this light would be positive; reflecting a positive outlook on the world through the use of colourful and lighthearted mis en sen and the issues throughout are all handled in a lighthearted manner. It could also be seen as educational, and it is humorous- therefore entertaining. To summarise, the key reasons this theory suggests an audience uses the media in short are:

  • to identify
  • to socially interact
  • to be educated
  • to be entertained
  • to escape reality (escapism)

Paul Lazarsfeld was a pioneering social researcher famous in the 1920’s for his ideas surrounding the User and Gratifications theory- then called the ‘Limited Effects Theory’. In the Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication (2011), Lazarfeld’s ideolody was mentioned: ‘Lazarsfeld’s conclusion from survey research in the 1940s stated that, contrary to popular assumptions, the mass media cannot directly change most people’s strongly-held attitudes or opinions. This is usually explained in relation to selective perception: viewers tend to select and interpret media messages in accordance with their existing attitudes and beliefs, and their use of the mass media tends to reinforce these. The limited effects view was later confirmed by Hovland, who demonstrated the importance of many intervening variables.’

A perfect example in which the User and Gratifications theory exists would be the MTV series Geordie Shore, based on the real lives of young people in Newcastle. This theory insinuates that audiences use television and film as an escapism; and the show reflects the idea of this theory due to it’s crazy themes and idillic party lifestyle that an audience may desire and enjoy learning about. It is an extremely popular show with audiences between the ages of 16-25, and consequently, social media also plays a huge part in the shows success. The theory is also reflected in this exampleas the audience can interact with the stars, and follow their lifestyle as they watch their rise to fame. Here are an example of two of the stars’ Twitter profiles, where you can see they have a mass following fan base that creates a further buzz about the show. Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 09.24.53Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 09.25.14

The show is a combination of entertainment, education and an insight, into the lives of this niche group of people that live such a hectic and somewhat unhealthy lifestyle. This, somehow is a lifestyle the audience of the target age often desire, and enjoy learning about. Again, the programme is a talking point not only among social media, but is also popular through word of mouth… This means that fans of the show in the audience category will discuss controversial topics brought up in the show, and compare opinions; this relates back to the theory. The idea of the theory is that people converse about the lifestyle portrayed throughout, which in turn, creates a larger buzz about the show, therefore making more people want to watch it. Here is the show’s trailer for it’s sixth season, which idolises a party life in Australia. This may be a feature that could influence the audience.

One negative point of the theory, especially with this example is that television shows such as Geordie Shore, can set a bad example for younger audiences watching the programme, as it encourages casual sex, excessive alcohol consumption and unhealthy lifestyles. It glamourises the idea of a lifestyle that is unrealistic and dangerous, and the stars are looked up to as role models by young people- which isn’t exactly suitable. The theory is positive in the way that it encourages people to converse and share ideas about the media they see, making it a social boost for a wide audience.

Reception Theory – Example: Drugs Live (Channel 4)

There are three responses that can be expected when the reception theory occurs surrounding a television programme, and Channel 4’s ‘Drugs Live’ provoked all three of it’s factors from various audiences. Preferred responsecan occur when the media effects someone in a way which the creator aimed them to, a rejected response is the opposite. A negotiated response is the main thing the reception theory highlights; where the audience sees both sides and has both reactions, and weighs up pro’s and con’s or ‘negotiates’ with the media product. An alternative example would be a McDonalds advert; a preferred response would be someone sees it and wants to buy the product, a rejected response would mean they would not want to and would think of the background issues, and a negotiated response would mean that someone sees the issues and still craves the product, and has to decide from that viewpoint.

The Reception Theory is a version of the reader-response theory that was originally used to indicate a specific readers response to a literary text. In Literature, it originated from the work of Hans-Robert Jauss (A german academic, famous in the 1960’s for his recognition of the reception theory as it were). In the 1970’s, a man named Stuart Hall from the University of Birmingham, developed a new ideology to depict the theory. He recognised the way that producers effectively ‘encoded’ information into a media product, for an audience to then later ‘decode’ it. He was the first to identify the idea of the preferred, negotiated and rejective responses.

The example programme I have chosen, was based on the controversial topic of the illegal class B drug marijuana; and Channel 4’s senior presenter Jon Snow found himself trialling the substance live on television to provoke a response and give the audience an idea of what the drug is like. I, myself am sceptical and feel that the show could have just aimed to used the hypodermic needle theory, as it (obviously and predictably) portrays the drug in a bad light as best it can; however many people could see it differently. The programme was aimed at a wide range of people, and could have attracted a range of audiences from different age groups. There was no cap, however it was aired at 9pm on a weeknight, making it stereotypically unsuitable for a viewer aged 16 and under. This reaction was mainly negative, due to the controversial topic the show was covering (this was their aim as the drug is illegal and they cannot endorse or promote it to meet legal and ethical broadcasting laws) and Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 22.41.54therefore the public took to slamming the drug and the effects it had on the presenter- who by the way is a man at the senior age of 67- alongside the show using the ‘frightening’ effect as a selling point of the episode to intrigue the viewer.  They also use a quote from Jon himself- a respectable figure in TV that a gullible audience may be in awe of and therefore have their opinions changed by such a statement. Here is an example from Twitter:

The programme provoked a range of ideas and responses that the theory suggests can be created. These ideas range from the preferred response; people such as the advertisers and the pictures that describe the events as ‘frightening’ and dark; the alternative response, from someone like my own mother for example who takes on board the content, and retains her own opinion alongside the one fed to her through the media; and finally there is myself, a both skeptical and open-minded person who, despite attempting to take on board the completely biased information, retains a rejective response, and disregards all negative views displayed throughout the programme.


To conclude, I have learnt that all of the theories exist in modern day programmes and media products around the world, and how an audience interprets a piece of information is effectively up to them. Although this fact stands, producers and creators in the media often think carefully about audience reception before creating a piece, and tailor products accordingly to create their desired response.

To quote Jim Morrison from The Doors – Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.


Hypo Needle Theory –
War of the Worlds story-
Brief History –
User and Gratifications
History quote –
Background on Lazarfeld –
Reception Theory History –
Stuart Hall Information –


Paolo Nutini Live – 25th October 2014


I have never travelled very far to see a gig before- 40 miles to Birmingham at most -and living in a small town with no major arenas or venues, helps to generate a lot of buzz for a concert anyway. So it’s fair to say I was literally buzzing in anticipation of seeing Paolo Nutini at the Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield.

My boyfriend and I travelled down on the train the same morning, and had a look through the town and several of the sights that it had to offer. I love old towns with a bit of character, and Sheffield was definetly one of these! Heaps of shops with the old tattooist or beautician here and there, it was a change from the limited amount of choice Stafford town has to offer! We killed time wandering around the streets in search of food and warmth but settled on raiding Poundland for confectionary and went back to the hotel (A HILTON HOTEL!!!!) to get changed, stuff our faces and relax.

We had arranged to stay in Sheffield for the entire weekend of the gig and he had bought the tickets for my birthday surprise (cute I know). After settling in at the hotel (did I mention it was a Hilton- eeek!) and venturing out in to the town for several hours (as previously depicted), we began our trek to the Arena, which was around a 10 minute taxi ride away, or 15 minute tram journey. The gig began at 7:30 with the support act (whom I have now forgotten the name of!) playing a short set from their EP/album. I found their music gave out quite an eerie aura, which helped to set the tone and stir up even more suspense for the man himself, who, was soon to follow on stage. They had a very unique sound and it made for quite easy listening, as we watched in awe at the Arena quickly fill! With the second support act presumably cancelling, Paolo proceeded to sashay onto centre stage at around 8:30pm, blowing us all away with his first song of the night.

I don’t feel there is a caption needed, just enjoy this picture of his face.

He skipped through several songs from his first album, with his classics such as ‘Jenny don’t be hasty’ and ‘Candy’, whilst throwing in a few covers here and there- including ‘MGMT – Time to pretend’ which I hadn’t before heard him perform. His new album is mind-blowing, with both the lyrics and sound seeming completely entrancing. My personal favourite of the night was a song called ‘Funk My Life Up (Scream)’ from ‘Caustic Love’, his third UK album which is a must-buy. Another that I will certainly be adding to my Christmas list this year. Here’s a snippet: 

Note- Paolo has an extremely broad Scottish accent, and a fuzzy microphone broadcasting to 13,000 people doesn’t really help make it any clearer to understand.

Apart from being unable to understand most of his speech, it was all pure brilliance- the whole performance, set up, lights, music, atmosphere, everything! He was bursting with energy throughout the set, which was interesting (and a little bit funny) to see, and portrayed true passion for every single that he performed. This was quite refreshing as (in my opinion) in this day and age, as long as it’s selling copies, artists generally don’t care what goes into the formula of their music- shame really. So yes, I was completely blown away that Saturday night, and following a mesmerizing and powerful gig overall, Lewie (the boyfriend) and I hopped in a taxi and collapsed in bed for the night.

Moral of the blogpost- GO AND SEE PAOLO NUTINI LIVE!!! He is a brilliant musician and artist all round with a real lust for giving his all when performing. He is a credit to himself, and I would definitely go to see him in concert again.

Even if you don’t like his music, just going to see his gorgeous (drop dead gorgeous) face again would be good enough for me!

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

On Thursday 9th of October, the majority of Digital Media students from BOA were lucky enough to have the opportunity of a trip to the Warner Brothers Studios, Watford, London. The studios are famous for many films, including some of the Harry Potter series, and recent films like The Edge of Tomorrow, and an upcoming remake of the movie Tarzan.

The grand entrance to the studios.

The Warner Brothers studio is the only Hollywood studio to own and operate a production facility in the UK, following a £100 million-plus investment into the re-building and expansion of the site. The entire busload of students endured a 2 and a half hour bus journey to the studios, to be greeted with heaps of friendly tour guides and staff, that would assist us throughout the day. We began the day with a brief from the guides and a showreel of Harry Potter moments that both educated and warmed the heart. It consisted of moments from the history of the books and films, with emotional clips of fans and producers. The main message conveyed to the group was that it all started with a boring train journey, a pen, and paper, for J.K Rowling to create the masterpiece. The tour was a blur of special effects, costumes and props but it was extremely interesting to learn about the thousands of different roles that are needed to produce a film. Our first stop was the great hall, where we learnt about some movie mishaps, that you wouldn’t think occurred on a set so advanced!

The mannequin of the character Dumbledore, dressed in the actual clothes worn by Richard Harris.

It was extremely interesting to see the thousands of different roles that went into the making of the films, but I think the role I admired and concentrated on most, was that of Chris Columbus, the director of the first film in the series (Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone). Columbus completely threw himself into the first film, kicking off the chain of magic throughout the rest, by completely re-writing the first script he was sent. Before even grasping the job as director, he threw himself into his work for 10 days and completed the finished script that was to be used in the actual movie- consequently landing him his job at Warner Brothers! – It just shows that hard work does actually pay off, and I admire that someone can put so much effort into a project that wasn’t even their’s necessarily to begin with. His directing style is one I find unique, as he pulled different aspects of many other British films he had seen to influence his work with Harry Potter. He got his inspiration to make the film heavily British in a ‘British World’, from films like ‘A Hard Days Night’, and horrors like the Hammer horror films heavily influence the comedic side of some of the scenes. Back to the tour- We wandered around the vast halls of winding corridors, creepily-dressed character mannequins and weaved through the sea of props and special effects gadgets in the main room of the building. Soon after, we were greeted by a gentlemen running a camera workshop for us in one of the classrooms behind-the-scenes. The workshop was run by industry professionals at the studio, who began to teach us all about the importance of planning camera shots, angles and techniques, and the processes behind doing so. We looked at paper models of the set that the crews would use to plan the shots for each scene, and they explained the use of a ‘lipstick camera’ (a small webcam on a stick basically) that would help them see shots in a more realistic perspective at a small size.  I never actually realised how much elbow grease and planning went into planning and discussing of even the camera shots, or angles, all before actual filming started. Soon enough we were all being rounded up to head back to our trusty steed (coach), and with a few timing mishaps and moany moments we managed to woo the bus driver- who was agitatedly waiting to leave- and we managed to stay till 5:15 and conclude the day with one final and completely amazing sight, which I don’t think I have completely got over yet. The Hogwarts Castle is beautiful. The

More poor quality photography from me. The Hogwarts Castle model in all of it's glory!
More poor quality photography from me. The Hogwarts Castle model in all of it’s glory!

dimmed lights and solemn purple backdrop, alongside the mesmerising detail on the set create the most amazing atmosphere in the last room of the tour. No bigger than your average car, the actual castle filmed for most of the establishing shots literally takes your breath away, not just in the movie, but in real life even more so. From lifelike, particular greenery that surrounds the castle from every angle to the LED- lighted windows, there are thousands of hidden details that make it look spectacular. The day was brilliant overall, and I safely say it was a lot of fun. The experience has definitely opened my eyes into the world of film and helped me find out more about particular roles in film that I had never even heard of before! Even though I’m not a hardcore Harry Potter fan, i thoroughly enjoyed the entire day and everything I saw on the tour! (I got back and watched the films lol). So Harry Potter fan or not, I would recommend the tour to anyone with even a

Chaos on the bus. We were all very excited as you can tell.
Chaos on the bus. We were all very excited as you can tell.

slight interest in the film industry, as it’s a huge eye-opener into the abyss of cameras, mic’s and actors! I loved every second of it, and would definitely go back again!

The Gadget Show Filming – iPhone 6 vs. HTC One (M8)

The hilarious Jason Bradbury, presenter of The Gadget Show, who was in favour of the HTC One (M8).

Last week,  a group of digital media students from BOA (including myself-hooray) had the opportunity to sit-in on the filming of an segment of Channel 5’s ‘The Gadget Show’, which would be related to a factual programme piece a group of my classmates and I were planning to produce. The episode was based on a competition between 2 new smartphones- the Apple iPhone 6 (woohoo), and the Android HTC One (M8). I have recently been an Apple fanatic, (purchasing my trusty iPhone 4 2 years ago, and recently a Macbook Pro) so I was intrigued to see the outcome of the debate for ‘Which is Better?…’ knowing I would pretty much be in full favour of the iPhone 6 that would sure enough dominate the debate right?…

The phones in competition.

There were roughly 60 of us in the audience and we were all being used somewhat as a focus group for the topics in question. We were asked to vote on a series of subjects and aspects of both smartphones including: Design, Camera, Battery, Keyboard, Siri/Google Talk and Cost. I was confident that iPhone would prevail throughout the poll compared to the HTC One (M8), but sure enough it has it’s downfalls. The majority of the audience (including me) immediately voted for the iPhone as best for aspects like Design, Camera and Keyboard, however you never really think about the important negatives to consider when buying an iPhone- no matter what model!:

  1. Battery Life- The bane of having an iPhone! Despite it’s ability to run hundreds of applications at once with lightning speed (apparently), the battery life is abysmal and literally lasts only several hours if used at a normal and expected level! No good if you haven’t got space for a charger in your bag – my daily problem.
  2. Cost- We may think we’re getting brilliant deals with billions of ‘FREE THIS, FREE THAT’ contract deals, when actually, to buy a new iPhone 6 as a phone only, the cost is just over a whopping £400 for the lowest GB of memory (16G)! Too pricey for me thanks.
  3. Durability- Even though this wasn’t a topic that was discussed, it’s fair to say that all iPhone users will undoubtedly agree that this phone is not for the clumsy. Or the not clumsy. Just don’t drop it. I see 3 smashed iPhones for every intact one, proving they are just not made for day to day use. In the office, at a desk, sending emails, playing games (apart from flappy bird) and other novelty task, yeah fine! But on a day to day basis they are a liability in our pockets- you have to admit.
A really blurry and unprofessional shot of the set (Sorry!)

So with that in mind we all voted through the various topics and of course, the iPhone 6 came out on top for most of us in the polls. The segment will be shown in a 7 minute feature of a show in November, so it will be very exciting to see the result (and to see if I get screen time #claimtofame). The filming was a brilliant eye-opener into the world of television for me, and helped me to realise the scale of technology and hidden tricks involved in filming for television! Joking aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the session, and learnt a lot about the aspects that go into making even a 7 minute long clip- the filming took nearly 4 hours, ugh. I enjoyed observing the roll of director, (whose name I have since forgotten- sorry!) and it was nice to see a balance of input from not only the director, but also the presenters, camera crew and audience to produce the final scene. The episode was released 24th November:

But overall, the debate was definetly a massive eye-opener to new technology for me. Many people in this day and age are brainwashed by the views of the higher-ups and the big-boys in the technological world and as Apple is an ever-developing brand and company, it was nice to see someone breaking the trend and speaking about the cons of some of the features they provide. With this in mind I actually questioned why I opted for the iPhone out of all of the smartphones out there, and realised I never really weighed up another option- consequently, getting an iPhone just because that was the trend. Social media is a huge influence with regards to technology nowadays, hense the development of tablets, newer smartphones, laptops and much more, as people feel they need to be in-the-know, wherever they go! Especially the teenagers! Saying all this I do love Apple and some of the personal features they provide in their products, and will most likely continue to buy from them in the future! It’s just important to make a well-thought-out decision about what phone to buy, rather than just grabbing the one all your mates have got!

Think carefully next time you’re thinking about buying a phone, will it be- Trustworthy Telephone? or Trendy Trash? The choice is yours.

About Me

Face for radio.
Face for radio.

My name is Amy Abercrombie. I am 17 years of age and attend the Birmingham Ormiston Academy studying an Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production. My ambition is to explore the broad world of creative media in every way possible, and pursue a career based around TV editing that challenges me and allows me to experiment with all kinds of media aspects. I hope to do this in a form of; music videos, advertisements and also other short films and clips! I enjoy all aspects of media, and love listening to all kinds of music, watching a diverse range of films television programmes, alongside following several radio stations digitally and online. This blog will be a portfolio of my projects from the start of my current course to the end, and will hopefully convey my deep interest in media alongside the high quality of work I take pride in producing.

I joint-hosted a weekly youth-based radio show on my local online station StaffordFM for several years, and played different roles in the production of the show and it’s other media aspects. Alongside the radio, we also were a part of the American TV network AwesomenessTV, therefore we produced real, live videos and comedy sketches on a weekly basis. Along the way I learnt some media related techniques which I will be able to apply in the future. Some of these include; Scriptwriting, Editing, Filming, Producing and Directing.

The work showcased on this website is all my own and I hope you enjoy.