The Digital Age Increases Audience Fragmentation

audience-fragmentationHave you ever wondered why you can get lost on Facebook for hours? Everything might seem interesting to you so you end up clicking on lots of links. Well, you might blame audience fragmentation. Audience fragmentation is defined by Oxford as “the breakup and dispersal of the mass-media audience since the shift to digital media.” In other words, it is division of audiences because of increasing media outlets and options for the audience.

So if you typically use Facebook, for example, to receive your news you may start to find that news articles are showing up in your feed more often. This happens because news outlets track which platforms you will pay the most attention to according to who you are as a consumer. So characteristics like demographics, media usage, device preferences, geographics, psychographics, and so on.

Circulation of daily newspapers during the week has dropped from roughly 63 million in 1984 to about 43 million in 2010 (Herrick, 2012). According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 44 out of 50 of the top news outlets had a higher mobile traffic than traffic on their website from a desktop. The constantly changing digital technology has allowed for the dissemination of news over several different platforms and outlets. Because of the shift people have several choices and may select their favorite sources to receive news from. With so many options out there and a continually growing audience, it is important to fragment the audience and target those that are most likely to choose your outlet/platform.

The idea behind audience fragmentation is that the separation of people into their most relevant groups will help with targeting. There is an assumption that if people think alike, they will also share a similar overall knowledge, opinions, and values. Similar people will become a part of a group that is specifically targeted. For example, someone from the baby boomer generation might still prefer to get their news from a newspaper because it is what they are used to.

There are three factors that are primarily responsible for shaping audience fragmentation. These factors include media providers, media users and media measures. The increase of number of media outlets and platforms have caused audience fragmentation. With several options available people do not feel compelled to buy a newspaper when it may be easier for them to access the news via social media or a website of a newspaper.

Jessie Damazyn is studying strategic communication at the University of New Mexico.

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