Saturday, February 28, 2009

Audience and Media Use

What are we seeking from media, and are we getting what we want? (Baron and Davis 228).

Stepping away from the effects the media has on us, this week focused more on the uses and gratifications approach, which Baron and Davis defined as an “approach to media study focusing on the uses to which people put media and the gratifications they seek from those users” (232). We all “use” the media for different purposes, and I think by now, we all know what medium to turn to to get exactly what we want.

An important aspect of the uses and gratifications model was illustrated by Katz, Blumer, and Gurevitch in “Utilization of Mass Communication by the Individual.” They brought up the point of how “the audience is conceived as active, that is, an important part of mass media use is assumed to be goal directed” (164). All audience members choose what medium to turn to at any given time, and “use” it they way they would like. Personally, if I want to hear about Obama’s latest stimulus plan, I turn to If I want to find out what’s going on locally in Connecticut, I would turn to a local news channel. If I want entertainment, I turn to or E News.

On the subject or celebrity gossip and Perez Hilton, why are we so interested in the life of the rich and famous? What are trying to get or accomplish from reading gossip like this? Don’t we all have enough going on in our own lives to actually care about a celebrity weight gain, or new hair cut? This article by Paul Steinberg seems to answer some of those questions, but what do you think?

I thought it was interesting to think about though, when Baron and Davis discussed the problems that can arise from this, and the confusion of media uses and functions that occur. Every media source serves a different purpose for every individual. Our authors state though, that “they might not necessarily be the purposes they serve for the people who consume the media, and these functions can be different from the intended uses of audience members” (235). When I read this, I immediately thought of crime shows, such as Law and Order or CSI. A use or gratification from watching these shows may be to see drama, or see bad guys in action. It’s odd and scary to think about, but I would propose that most people who watch these types of shows a lot, can cover up their own crime scene, or even know how to shoot a gun. These shows inadvertently teach us things like this, even though we are watching them to be entertained. Or, perhaps people are watching crime shows or horror movies to let out their own type of aggression, without actually performing any illegal acts. What do you think of this? Agree/disagree? Is this where uses and gratifications of media gets blurred with media effects?


  1. I believe we search for an escape from reality when we watch TV shows. It is as if we just want to watch someone else’s life and their issues to make ours not seem as bad. TV shows represent a place where we can get away and relax without having to think or deal with any problems.

    Just like when we catch up on the latest entertainment drama. We are watching other people’s lives and how they are dealing with their issues. We focus in on their life so we don’t have to deal with our own troubles. We also tend to believe celebrities are higher than us and kind of invincible. So to see them dealing with problems like the everyday person, it kind of gives us satisfaction that it is not just our lives that have off days.

    I also believe we use media as a learning tool. Like Herzog said in our Baran & Davis book there are three types of gratification; listening “merely a means of emotional release,” wishful thinking, and “the advice obtained from listening to daytime serials” (232). For example, when we are having a horrible day most people do not really want to talk about it, instead we want to forget about our issues and let something else consume our mind. That is where the listening part comes in. We turn on the TV to fill our head with other thoughts in an attempt to overlook our day.

    Therefore I think we seek multiple things from media, the main one being an escape from our reality. This gratification that we seek from media might have a negative or positive aspect on our lives, but it is how we use it that really determines that. Yet, I believe the majority of people use media in a positive light to please themselves in their everyday situations.

  2. The uses and gratifications of media is an interesting topic to look at and discuss because there is no doubt that there are certain things being placed in the media that they want us to look at. For example, when the Chris Brown and Rihanna incident broke out into the news, almost every media outlet was covering the story. It didn’t matter if it was a local news station or if it was a celebrity magazine or gossip website.

    One of the things that one of my classmates mentioned about in her blog was how she saw the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” and she talked about how she was able to connect to every single one of the characters in the movie and their experiences. I thought that this was interesting because I also saw the movie and felt the same way. I was able to connect these stories to my own personal life.

    In this week’s readings, Baran and Davis talk about a theory called entertainment theory. They state that the entertainment theory, “seeks to understand what entertaining media content does to us-often without our awareness” (Baran and Davis, 249). I thought that this was interesting theory to look at because there is no doubt that media does do something to us whether we realize it is happening or not, especially while we were are consuming the media. When we are consuming media, we aren’t thinking about these sort of things. We are more concerned with getting the information that we are looking for. However, it is clear that there are certain techniques that are purposely being done such as product placement. Product placement is constantly being used in television shows. I used to watch the show called The Hills faithfully every week when it was on television and I am 100% positive that they definitely use some type of product placement in their show. They do this by dressing the girls in certain clothes with certain accessories, which naturally make every girl who is watching the show want to own the same clothes and accessories. I know that when I am watching these young girls driving Mercedes convertibles and showing off their fancy Chanel quilted purses, there is a small part of me that wishes I could be driving a Mercedes convertible and carrying around a Chanel purse also!

    -Marlaina Luciano <3

  3. I agree with the idea illustrated by Katz, Blumer, and Gurevitch, when it is explained that “the audience is conceived as active, that is, an important part of mass media use is assumed to be goal directed” (164). The goal for the media is to sell something, and that is the media’s main concern, whatever the form may be, and the goal for the audience is to find some sort of purpose or pleasure in what they pursue to gain from their media experience. Certain radio stations play different genres of music, television stations play specific shows, and news shows practice gate-keeping and agenda-setting by revealing certain information and often swinging in a certain direction. What sells is what is appealing to a certain demographic, and that is why the audience is active and mass media use is goal directed.
    The rich and famous are the idea of glamour and Hollywood living in the flesh. Because they are perceived by the media and society as immortal and fabulous, almost as though they are a different species, we are intrigued and interested in how they live these big lives with what appears to have no limits. Although I admit that I sometimes read about lives of the rich and famous, I personally believe that nothing is gained from reading this gossip. If anything, a person may become dissatisfied with their own life in comparison to that of a celebrity, or oppositely, they may find gratification in their own life when reading about a situation such as Jessica Simpson’s weight gain, or Rihanna getting beat up by Chris Brown. Whatever the case may be, I don’t read this because I don’t have enough going on in my life, it’s just that this takes me away from the reality I live in and momentarily informs me about the ins and outs of different lifestyle. Although there are people who become far too consumed with this information, it is a different form of news and it is meant to be entertaining. It entertains me.
    Baran and Davis explain that during a movie, “in the course of watching you might also inadvertently learn how to use a pistol. The filmmaker’s aim was to entertain, but the use to which you ultimately put the content was much different” (235). I agree with this idea, but isn’t the purpose of watching still for a certain type of use and gratification, even if we may not realize exactly what it is at the time? I think it can become a problem if someone unstable or angry is watching these a murder shows with the direct intention of plotting murder themselves, and that is more likely due to some lack of mental stability and personal problems within that particular person. Even if we watch Law and Order to see the violence factor, we are still watching it because it is what entertains us. I know that if I don’t like a show, I am changing the channel. If it does not entertain me I will not continue to watch it. I think it works more on a person-to-person basis, rather than a blur between theories.

  4. I believe that the lines between the uses and gratifications of the media and the effects of the media have always been blurred. Every individual gets their own gratification from different sources of media, and the media’s effects also differ depending on the individual. Like everyone else, I consume different forms of media for different purposes, and I feel that one of the effects of this system is that I’m usually left wanting more. Now this is a lesser effect than other cases, but its still an effect nonetheless. But I think that many people turn to the media as an escape.
    This specifically applies to celebrity gossip and when an individual finds a deep interest in another’s life. Whether we like to admit or not, we seem to hold celebrities on a pedestal, so when drama occurs in their lives, it makes them appear more human. And some people may even find that by tuning into the drama-filled lives of others, allows them to escape the drama that is occurring in their own lives.
    This quote taken from Baran & Davis gives what I feel an accurate description of the “uses-and-gratifications approach”: “First, listening was ‘merely a means of emotional release;’ ‘a second and commonly recognized form of enjoyment concerns the opportunities for wishful thinking;’ and the ‘third and commonly unsuspected form of gratification concerns the advice obtained from listening to daytime serials,” (232 Baran and Davis).
    There are so many examples of today’s media that can help support this explanation. The first of “means of emotional release”, can apply to almost any genre of film or television series. When we want to laugh we might turn on TBS or a movie on Comedy Central or when we want to cry “Lifetime” is the go-to-network. We can fulfill almost every emotion through different sources in the media. The second approach of “concerning the opportunities for wishful thinking”, may apply to how the media seems to highlight the riches and luxury that Hollywood gets to enjoy. On VH1 they air a series every so often that has a title of “Fabulous Life of Teen Celebrities” or “Fabulous Life of Hollywood’s Most Famous Couples”. The third part of obtaining advice from daytime serials is best compared to Oprah, Dr. Phil or even the new show “The Doctors”. People turn to these almost as a form of therapy; all of my friends tune into Oprah at 4 everyday, and will use her as a reference in daily conversation.
    So attempting to answer the original question of “What are we seeking from media, and are we getting what we want?” I think both of these questions depend on the individual. But with the amount of coverage the media has today, I find it hard to believe that someone would not be able to have their needs met.

  5. This discussion of uses and gratifications has caused me to examine my habits concerning the media. Up until this discussion, I had never really bothered to question whether others interpret media in the same way as me. After truly dissecting this concept, I have decided that what I take away from various forms of media may be extremely different from the person next to me. As Baran and Davis state on page 234, "As an audience member you may have certain purposes for reading a newspaper, and this activity will gratify some of these purposes. But you are only one of many people who will read that newspaper on a given day." As a whole, we are a very selfish society. It is extremely hard for many to recognize they are only one piece of an entire population, and aspects of life, especially media, are not carefully crafted to be pleasing to you, as an individual. For example, my entire family is overly obsessed with American Idol. My sister only watches the beginning rounds to hear the horrible singers, my father only watches the final 10 because that is "when the real competition starts," my mom watches the show in its entirety because she thinks that she will be able to fully predict the winner, and I watch the show in its entirety to discover the talented and gorgeous men who enter the competition. We all watch the show, yet we all interpret it in very different ways. Something as simple as a reality show serves many different purposes for a wide array of people.

    In regard to the question of why we are so interested in the lives of the rich and famous, I believe that it allows people to be distracted from their lives for a bit. It is not so much about being "concerned" about a weight gain or a new haircut, it is more about consuming media that is easy to process and satisfies us in a very un-intellectual way. It has been proven that during difficult economic and political times in this country, more people venture to the movies in order to escape from the concerns of their lives for a couple of hours. This same concept applies to the present day enthrallment with celebrity. It is easier to make fun of Jessica Simpson's "mom pants" (by the way, she is now coming out with her own plus-size clothing line) than the fact that your own bank-account is dwindling.

    Baran and Davis make a very convincing argument on page 256 as they discuss "mood management theory." This says that we seek out different forms of media in order to improve our moods. This differs for everyone. While scream-o music may heighten my stress levels, for someone else it may be soothing. I watch shows like The Office, or Family Guy to put myself in a better mood, or pop in my favorite Disney movie. For others this may seem ridiculous. Watching a lifetime movie may be painful for some while soothing to others. We all use media in different ways, and in this day and age, there is something for everyone.

  6. I agree with the last point that is made, television shows such as CSI, Law and Order and all the other crime dramas out there today are basically giving their audience a 'how to' guide for committing crimes and getting away with it. There is now, almost no crime you can commit that has not been shown on one of these shows, and shown you all the mistakes that can lead to your capture. It is terrible to think that there is a generation of children growing up, inadvertently learning how to become a serial killer.
    I also agree with the fact that television shows such as this are the places were uses and gratifications get blurred, they are the places where people are learning things they never really needed to know. The uses and gratifications theory is one which shows how people use the media, learning to become a successful killer is not a way the majority of the public (or at least the people I know, including myself) use the internet. Baron and Davis state, "As an audience member you may have certain purposes for reading a newspaper, and this activity will gratify some of these purposes. But you are only one of many people who will read that newspaper on a given day" (234), it is the same thing with television, you may have a reason to watch television that night, perhaps wasting time, boredom or any other reason, but you are not the only one watching television. You may be watching a program such as Law and Order for entertainment while other people are watching to learn ways to not get caught when they commit a crime. All types of media mean something different to everyone who consumes them, sometimes it is for the better and sometimes it is for the worse.

  7. John Devlin
    “What are we seeking from media, and are we getting what we want?” (Baron and Davis 228). I think that McQuail, Blumler and Brown made a very clear statement concerning the ideas that Laswell (1948) and Wright (1960) originally created. McQuail, Blumler and Brown stated in 1972 even before the internet was created, stating that the four-functional interpretation of the media consisted of the following categories: “Diversion (including escape from the constraints of routine and the burdens of problems, and emotional release); personal relationships (including substitutive companionship as well as social utility); personal identity (including personal reference reality, exploration, and value reinforcement); and surveillance.” (Katz, Utilization of Mass Communication by the Individual, 166). That is helpful; it gives researchers a sense of what media provides to people. Katz’s article continued and stated the functional similarities between, “Books-news-papers-radio-television-cinema-books.” (Katz 168) Katz stated that all of the mediums provide information and gratify people, but they do so in different ways. Books function like news-papers on one hand, and like cinema on the other. Radio can function like news-papers on one hand, and to television on the other. What I believe to be very important about this article is that it explains that media can be broken down and studied by the gratification that it fulfills and the information it can provide. Similarities can be found between different types of media. But, the most important idea that I got from this article is when Katz stated that, “Certain bodies of content serve certain functions or that one medium is deemed better at satisfying certain needs of another.” (Katz 168) Basically, a lot of research has been done about uses and gratifications of the media, and what has been found is that all media is used, and all media satisfies. What is hard to do is to try to compare these different media outlets. Each media outlet must be studied individually to see exactly how it is used and how it provides information, and how it satisfies. I think the most important statement that Megan Finnegan stated was, “Every media source serves a different purpose for every individual.” All of these different types of media can be considered ‘infotainment’, because people want to be informed, and people want to be entertained. I think the biggest blind spot here is that media can do both and it is fine. I do not see a problem with shows informing and entertaining, like the comic-infested news of The Daily Show. I do not see a problem with CSI entertaining people with criminal stories, and at the same time teaching criminals to be smarter. If a criminal is going to base his actions off of a television show and not continue his research, then that is his problem. If a criminal wants to get informed about how not to get caught while commiting a crime, then he will go somewhere else for that information. That person does not need CSI, even though they do learn from it all of the information that they learned from CSI could easily be found on an on-line blog. Basically what I am saying is people might as well be educated while they are informed. What about the History channel on television? People see documentaries about wars, become educated about those wars, see how battles were fought, see how guns were assembled, see how men died; they learn a lot about this violent past, and they are entertained, and I see nothing wrong with people becoming educated. But, doesn’t everything in society educate, even advertisements. People are going to learn no matter what; that is why I think it is okay to learn while being educated. But, to study uses and gratifications, I think the most important fact is that each different type of media must be studied separately to determine uses and gratifications and weather they are negative and positive. Comparing television to newspapers is like comparing apples to oranges; it does not work. Each type of media is so different that they must be studied individually, and comparisons and differences must be considered carefully.

  8. i think that is true we know how to use different mediums out there for media, but i say "we" meaning our generation. There are a few generation gaps in the world right now and each have their own way of getting information. I feel that our elders use the radio and newspapers a lot more, and our younger siblings use the internet more. I would stick our parents more towards the elders where they use newspapers and internet while we use internet and television. in the end, we all use a different medium but generally get the same type of information, unless we are searching for something specifically. our technology changes so fast now that it is hard for even the most tech savy person to stay with the game, nevermind thinking about the older generations to keep with it. People like to learn something that they agree with and use it forever. Baran and Davis use downloading files as an example saying that "The Internet music-file phenomenom provides a dramatic example of how availability of a new media service can bring about widespread changes in what people do with media." (pg. 229) This aspect of the internet completely fits with my theory of generational gaps in media. How many grandparents do you know that download music off of limewire or bearshare, while our generation created it and our younger brothers and sisters will perfect it. Many media moguls have already accepted that the internet will be used to share files such as music and video and have finally stopped trying to stop us from doing so. Television is the same idea, with before there was cable/satellite/digital. Many older generations i know still just have basic cable or barely more than that. They are happy with their 6 stations and rabbit ear antennas while we need 100's of channels plus an extra 100 for digital music. the majority of each generation is just consumed by an aspect of media while also following the latest technology. we want things faster and easier compared to what it used to be. for these reasons we will be able to learn what ever we want, whether it be through radio, newspaper and books, television or internet. Everything is available and ready for us to consume any way we want or know how to.

  9. In my senior seminar Audiences class last semester, uses and gratifications research was prevalent in readings and class discussions. When Baron and Davis said that functions “might not necessarily be the purposes they serve for the people who consume the media,” (B&D, 235) they were responding to the confusion of media functions and uses. They shed light on the assumption that functions are equal to the aims or goals of the media industry (B&D, 234). What if “functionalism is concerned with overall functions for society” (B&D, 234)? This question takes the notion that Meagan and I follow that as individuals we use the media in our best interests or expect a need will be met (B&D, 233) to another level.
    I immediately ask other questions: What are these functions for society? How does an individual contribute to these functions? In order to answer these questions I must apply an example of how I use the media. As a film buff, for years I was an avid reader of Premiere Magazine. By subscribing to a function that was a collection and distribution of information (one of four functions of media, B&D, 234) I fulfilled my need to be constantly updated on film trades. The day I received a letter in the mail from the publisher that it was no longer going to be published I also found out it would continue online as a website (
    In a broader perspective I recognize I am a media user part of a time when print media is falling to the Internet, like the San Francisco Chronicle in recent news ( Given current events it is our first reaction to blame the economy, but maybe these changes in the media have been brewing for a while. For instance the diffusion of the Internet, a factor that Baron and Davis believe began the second revival of uses and gratifications research (237), gives users instant interactivity, a diverse selection, and mediated messages over time (237-238).
    Whatever the exact reasons for Premiere’s departure in print, it just goes to show that the media and its audience influence each other from changes in society to our own personal preferences.

  10. There are many gratifications people are looking for when they read celebrity gossip. The article the blogger posted talks about how some people read celebrity gossip because it makes celebrities more real or human. I read it more as a distraction. The gratification I get from celebrity gossip is it’s a good break from reality. It takes no effort or brain power to read this stuff. Gossip sites are usually formulated simply and there are a lot of pictures. The distraction is the reward I get from reading celebrity gossip. The text talks about how the mediums we choose also reflect the gratifications we are looking for. They give the example of getting the news online, or from TV. They said it was easier for people to get news from TV, than the internet, and then you are able to watch another show after the news. I think most of my friends get their celebrity gossip online. When we are online we are doing many things at once, including work and talking to friends. So I think maybe for 5 minutes we switch over to reading Perez Hilton and it is a distraction and convenient, and that’s why we do it so much.

    When the media produces a show they want us to get gratification from it, but mostly they want us to get the conveyed idea and messages. I think the producers of crime shows want us to see the program as clever and provocative, and they want us to learn from them. But as the text states, “The aim of the source is not always the ultimate function”(Baran 235). Of course they do not want their show to be liable for teaching a child to use a gun; this was not their intended effect. I think most people when watching these shows realize that although it is based on real life, it is not in fact reality. Most of these shows have disclaimers at the beginning saying that while the case may be based on real events it is not in fact real. This gives me more gratification, because I know this didn’t really happen, and it is comforting, although it might be the opposite for others.

  11. -Nick Sardone

    What are we seeking from media, and are we getting what we want? (Baron and Davis 228).

    i start my comment with that quote, because it sums up the whole idea of why we use media. We want it to solve answers for us. We have become so dependent on media, that i if it were to all disappear we would all cease to exist. There would be an uproar and we would all kill each other. We have become so obssesed with the lives of the rich and famous, that we now have groups like TMZ and Perez Hilton. Ordinary people turning their obsessions into other peoples obsessiosn. Do you get it? We are obsessing over Perez Hilton's blogs...he is just a normal guy talking about his opinions on celebrities and now i can name 10 girls who follow his blog everyday. Why? because we eat up media. We look for it to solve problems, it makes us happy. It may be unhealthy, but it seems to keep alot of people alive.
    We all use a different mediums to find our media fix, but generally get the same type of information. Technology changes so fast now that it is hard for even Bill Gates to keep up with the latest. This is why older generations havent really been sucked into this whole movement of media dependency, although there are some. People like to learn things, even if it really doesnt mean much, they stick to what they agree with and use it.