Audiences have long been considered as a collection of receivers, an attentive but passive listener, a spectator in a public setting. They can easily become more specific when looking at the people targeted, the content, time, form of distribution (e.g which T.V channel/ platform) and place. However, no matter the above factors, audiences are mostly seen as passive consumers and a market often referred to as “media market”. According to Dallas Smythe (1977), audiences are a form of free advertising for companies since people are offering their free time to them. Forty-four years later, and it could be argued that the above statement is still relevant today, possibly to an even greater degree.
For the media to exist there needed to be an audience and ever since it was discovered people are actually willing to spent their time endlessly watching the news and passively browsing through fancy advertisements it became clear who had the power. A new world order started to exist. Individuals were being defined by the media; often seen as a product of media content. The way of communicating things changed in perhaps, a more controlled but also entertaining way. People started seeing things in advertisements (e.g luxury items) they had never seen before, learnt about the news in the near city, near country and ultimately around the world. With the rise of globalisation, the rise of what is now called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) came, where people focused on imitating and keeping up with others. Falling behind on trends was a sign of “social decline”. The earliest someone had a hold of what was coming the higher the status of them was perceived. Ultimately, all because that is what the media said.
In our generation and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, audiences have become mostly digital. The consumption of digital media has risen like never before. At the same time, globalisation is now part of our every day life. A phenomenon which carries new ideologies and new norms. However, when it comes to sports the above statements may not be as harmful, since sports were mainly a form of pure entertainment. In sports, we now see wider audiences and fans are able to follow their favourite team no matter where they are. As Petersen-Wagner (2018) mentioned, fans can now show their support in ways called “together-apart” (physically here-metaphorically there) but also“apart-together” (physically alone-metaphorically together) both online and offline, and a new phenomenon referred to as “transnationalism” started to exist. Fans are able to feel more connected with athletes and teams they follow, for example through on-line fan meetings, conferences and live broadcast which are now easily available through different platforms (e.g Amazon PrimeVideo, skySports).
However, sports companies need to survive as well, and currently it seems they are looking to thrive. Through deals, partnerships, advertisements and providing the latest news available only to entertain and keep these audiences engaged, the balance of being pure entertainment might easily be lost.
Nowadays, a noticeable change with audiences could be how more demanding these audiences have become. About the quality, interaction, type of content but also the amount of information they want to know, arguably leading to the question, is there a need for this overload of information and are athletes still admired as hard-working role models or is their privacy being invaded to a greater extend? How much control do people still have of what they see online and are they being valued as audiences or seen as a free way to make money for companies and even sports teams. If you are interested to find out more, feel free to click and read my previous blog.