Audience Dialogue

Findings about audiences

The main topic of this website is the methods of audience research, not the findings. However, a number of visitors to this site have been asking about audience data, and where they can find it on the Web.

Since we often get asked about generally applicable findings, and since over the last 20 years or so we've been involved with hundreds of audience surveys, this group of pages records our main findings about audience behaviour. Some of these pages don't have much content yet, but we'll gradually expand the amount of detail there.

Wouldn't you expect to find a lot of websites with results of audience surveys? In fact, we've searched extensively and found very little. Audience statistics are not easy to find. Some of the more interesting results do get published, but only in scientific journals that cost hundreds of dollars a year to subscribe to (and usually pay the authors nothing!) However, online access to these journals is often available in or though large libraries, specially university libraries.

Surveys are expensive to do, and broadcasters will pay a lot for audience data. They don't want their competitors to get that data for nothing. However, the most valuable data is current and specific. If you want to know how many people watch each TV channel at least once a week, in Vancouver, this month, that's commercially valuable information. If you don't want this month, but the average for the previous year, that's much less valuable. If you approach the company that collects TV audience data in Vancouver and tell them you're a student, you might even get last year's data free. (Vancouver is only a hypothetical example - we at Audience Dialogue have no idea which organization does TV surveys there.)

In fact, broadcast audiences seldom vary much, in any one market - unless there's strong reason for change. Other things being equal, the arrival of a new station in a market where there are no more than about 10 stations will tend to reduce the audience share of several other stations. But in many areas, you could exchange last year's for this year's figures, and a lot of users wouldn't notice the difference.

In our several decades' experience of audience research, we've drawn some general conclusions: some facts never seem to change, and some sequences of events happen over and over again. Though we wouldn't exactly call them "eternal truths" of audiences, they seem to apply widely.

So here are some of our more stable findings - sometimes known as "empirical generalizations." They are mainly from our work in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and southeast Asia, but to judge from other reports we've read, they also apply in most developed countries.

Findings about media audiences in general.

Findings about radio audiences.

Findings about TV audiences.

Pages on findings about print audiences, internet audiences, and audiences at events will be added here.

If you'd like to know how these audiences are measured in the first place, see the pages on audience measurement methods.