Assignment 1: Media Audiences (Human Universe)

The new five-part BBC2 series Human Universe sees Professor Brian Cox exploring the history of mankind and our place in the galaxy. It is vital that media producers and those involved with the making of this show have a precise understanding of target audience for their product so that it is marketed accordingly and made with a core audience in mind.

Audience Profiling first originated in radio were presenters talked directly to ‘Doreen‘, a fictional individual, yet Doreen‘s traits, characteristics and tastes were made flesh by the presenter to personify their listeners.

By using Quantitative and Qualitative research, alongside the use of audience research specifically designed to identify Doreen for Brian Cox’s Human Universe, we can narrow down who exactly consumes this media product.

Looking at the content of the show firstly will allow us to widen our search to give a more detailed description of Doreen. The documentaries central themes revolve around areas such as science, space and the history of humanity amongst others in great detail, thus making the show informative and educational. Presenting the series is Professor Brian Cox; well-known for his appearances on other shows such as Stargazing: Live and Wonders Of The Solar System. Although Human Universe is a new media product, one avenue to find  Doreen will be to investigate Brian Cox’s audience as his appeal will draw their interest and the genre of programmes he presents are similar in style. By using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, qualitative research can be gathered on the habits and audience traits of those people who follow him.

With 1.47 million followers on Twitter, a large majority of those seem to be male. To support this statement, out of the 600 people/organisations followed on my personal Twitter feed, 38 follow Professor Cox and all of them are either male or male affiliated e.g Jeremy Clarkson, Tim Lovejoy and Ferrari. From Facebook of the week the first programme aired on BBC2, Brian Cox had 303,557 likes and his interest spiked on that particular day, with 103.7% new page likes compared to the previous week. Again, out of 133 friends from my personal account there is a 50:50 gender ratio.

Being a professor of Physics and Relativity at Manchester University, we can deduce that he would connect with a younger audience and in relation to University, areas covered in Human Universe such as Physics and Science can be looked at for quantitative data on the gender those topics would appeal to more. Taken from statistics published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority (Hesa), the number of males completing undergraduate courses in 2011-2012 in Engineering & Technology and Physical Science were 85.7% and 57.4% respectively.

Statistically, Twitter’s larger range will account for why Doreen will be male. Age and location will be determined from Facebook’s data on the people liking his page. With the most engaged insights stemming from London, this is where Doreen will be from. Narrowing down the 25-34 age group will mean looking at other trends followers like and other factors including the audience demographic for the channel it is shown on, which will all impact on the overall age.

From finding similar shows people liked on Facebook an average of Doreen‘s age can be compiled; common interests included Star Trek, Mock The Week and BBC Earth. Apart from BBC Earth which had an average age of 25-44, the demographic for the other 2 shows are young adults between 18-24. As a byproduct of this, we can see Doreen enjoys other genre-specific, intelligent television which coincidentally all happen to be on the BBC. IMDB’s demographic scoring for Stargazing: Live is similar, with an 18-29 audience.

Ofcom’s Channel Demographic website shows however BBC2’s average viewer statistically is male and over 35, bringing Doreen’s age up higher than the lower end of the 25-34 age bracket. Therefore Doreen will be 30 years old. Quantitive data supplies the information on Doreen’s ethnicity and religion; taken from the 2011 Census, 86% were white and from the 25-49 age bracket, 42% declared themselves to have no religion.

The target audience will be educated to degree level due to the shows content, but also taken from the sample of Facebook users who liked Brian Cox’s page. In turn, their social class will be middle-class, in employment and earning £20,000 based on an average, taken from ‘The Complete University Guide’ of professional salaries in careers following graduation from University.

One downfall recognised by using social media alone is that not all demographics are represented equally based on individual accounts, as older generations are less likely to be using social media than their younger counterparts, and could possibly affect our overall findings. To accommodate this, questions were put towards the people of Chester to ask in more detail their viewing habits.

Confirming our belief that students relate to Brian Cox due to his calm, knowledgeable presenting style, as well as his aesthetic appearance and youth which they can relate to, two male musicians in their 80’s provided useful insight into the profile of a person who watches Human Universe. Listing their other interests as reading, jig-saws and walking, Brian Cox’s appeal to them comes from his straightforwardness and the ability to express complex ideas in plain language. Our early notion of viewers with subject matter from the show was confirmed as the gentleman spoke of a book called ‘Sapiens’ by Yuvai Noah Harari which covers the same theme as Human Universe. Openly admitting that they didn’t connect with technology and with one of the men confirming he was Catholic, these stances did not conflict with their enjoyment of the show as Brian Cox discusses issues relating to them.

So in conclusion, by using critical analysis, from the 2.73 million people who watched Human Universe, Doreen’s profile is a 30 year-old white male from London with degree-level education and in employment. He enjoys documentaries of that ilk and shows such as Mock The Week which have an intelligent wit to them and interests that span the themes explored in the programme.


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