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Audience Fragmentation a Myth?

Vin Crosbie has written a perspective piece at Corante, "The Myth of Audience Fragmentation." The central premise is that audiences have always been fragmented by both generic and specific interests. Therefore, the notion of new, technology-induced fragmentation of audiences is a myth. The real fragmentation, according to Crosbie, is occurring at the content level with access to increasingly narrowly defined media channels available for self-selection, thus satisfying more specific interests for audiences.

I like this perspective a lot, but I do think fragmentation is happening at both levels. It's undeniable that the new media landscape is characterized by splintered, on-demand content choices. Even within fairly specialized cable channels such as Discovery have leveraged opportunities to harness niche demand by offering Discovery Health, Discovery Times, Discovery Kids, Discovery HD and Discovery Espanol.

The same has happened in print with some 6,000 magazine titles on news stands today, growing at a rate of 440 new magazines per year.

Similar splintering has occurred within news organization, positioning their brands by driving implicit (or sometimes explicit) stakes in partisan territory. The spawning of Internet Television and convergent media devices will further empower the consumer to self-select content that most closely reflects their self-interest, values, or groups that comprise their social identity.

With regard to audiences, however, the net effect of self-selection and media fragmentation is a polarization of attitudes and motivations. What might be afoot in this new media landscape is the shrinking of generic interests among audiences. Media psychologists have demonstrated that exposure to perspectives that diverge from those already aligned with narrowly focused interests has a moderating effect on attitudes. The flip side may also be true where media fragmentation results in the further balkanization of audiences that demand more and more specific-interest programming.

November 16, 2005 | Permalink


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came to notice that even within specific niches eg a newspaper, the publications are fragmenting furthe and further.

Posted by: isaac | Feb 2, 2007 3:24:36 AM

Interesting, Josh. I hadn't noticed that it's obviously fragmenting on the the publishers' side, too. thanks for the insight.

Posted by: Vin Crosbie | Nov 16, 2005 10:53:27 AM

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