April 22, 2010
Aging Media Fans
By: C. Lee Harrington
The world's population aged 65 and over is growing at an unprecedented rate. While the populations of more developed nations have been aging for over a century, this process is being compressed into a few decades in other parts of the world. For example, France took 115 years and the US almost 70 years for its proportion aged 65 and older to grow from 7% of the population to 14%. In contrast, China is expected to undergo this shift in only 26 years, Thailand in 22 years, and Singapore in 19 years (Kinsella & Phillips, 2005:15). Overall, the number of persons 65 and older worldwide is expected to more than triple in the next four decades.
What does this mean for media fans and media industries?
Consider, too, that the relationship between chronological age (age as a number) and subjective or psychological age (the age we feel) is becoming less and less predictable. Older adults typically don't feel old, younger adults either don't feel grown-up or feel TOO grown-up, and these trends are being documented in very diverse cultures (Barak, 2009; Foster, Hagan & Brooks-Gunn, 2008).
What does this mean for media fans and media industries?
Finally, consider the fact that while the global population is rapidly aging, the meaning and structure of adulthood is dissolving. Traditional timetables for major life transitions (such as finishing school, finding a job, retiring, etc.) are falling apart, there is increasing lack of synchrony among adult social roles, and there is a growing absence of clear life scripts Ð our cultural norms for how life is "supposed" to unfold. Says human development scholar Rick Settersten:
In the matter of just a few decades... the straight and narrow road into and through adulthood has all but disappeared. Roles, responsibilities, and expectations have been shattered, leaving a brand new world to navigate... The social scripts that once signaled a single right time and order for all of life's transitions have dissipated... The whole life course has undergone some dramatic changes (2007: 250).
What does THIS mean for media fans and media industries?
My research memo focuses on age, aging, and media fandom. A growing body of research in gerontology and human development points to rapidly changing definitions of what it means to be a child or adolescent, a young adult, middle aged or old. Age is not becoming irrelevant as a demographic marker but it is rapidly becoming differently relevant. Marketers are aware of some of these changes and their implications for media industries, as the close tracking of Baby Boomers (and their spending power) and the recent mantra "40 is the new 30" suggest. However, the impact of larger changes in the structure of the life course - particularly changes related to aging and adulthood Ð on media industries and fans is unclear.
In my research memo I will:
1. Draw on a forthcoming article (Harrington & Bielby, forthcoming) to explore how media fans' identities and activities over the past 20 years have been structured by age. There is growing interest in age and aging within fan studies and media studies more broadly, but scholars tend to discuss aging and the life course a-theoretically, ignoring a rich body of research that explores how lives unfold over time. In our article we make explicit what is typically rendered implicit in fan studies by drawing directly on life course perspectives to enrich our understanding of long-term and later life fandom. We also suggest concrete ways that fan studies might more fully account for fandom over time.
2. Suggest linkages between major demographic changes currently underway (especially the dismantling of normative adulthood) and the rise and normalization of media fandom. There are many explanations for the current mainstreaming of media fans and fandoms - I will suggest that demographic changes are an important part of the puzzle.
3. Bring together scholarship in marketing, gerontology, and fan studies to suggest specific implications of these changes for media industries.
While dramatic changes are unfolding across the life course, my research memo will focus on adulthood and later life, since these groups are under-studied in relationship to fandom and since media audiences are rapidly aging.
Barak, B. (2009). Age identity: A cross-cultural global approach. International Journal of Behavioral Development 33(1), 2-11.
Foster, H., Hagan, J. & J. Brooks-Gunn (2008). Growing up fast: Stress exposure and subjective "weathering" in emerging adulthood. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 49 (June), 162-177.
Harrington, C. L. & D. D. Bielby (Forthcoming). A life course perspective on fandom. International Journal of Cultural Studies.
Kinsella, K. G. & D. R. Phillips (2005). Global Aging: The Challenges of Success. Population Bulletin 60 (1). Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC.
Settersten, R. A. (2007). The new landscape of adult life: Road maps, signposts, and speed lines. Research in Human Development, 4(3-4), 239-252.
C. Lee Harrington is Professor of Sociology and Affiliate of the Women's Studies Program at Miami University. Her research areas include TV studies, fan studies, and the sociology of law. Her long research collaboration with Denise D. Bielby focuses on the daytime soap opera genre, its audiences and fans, and its global circulation. Their joint work includes Soap Fans: Pursuing Pleasure and Making Meaning in Everyday Life (1995, Temple U. Press), the edited collection Popular Culture: Production and Consumption (2001, Blackwell), and Global TV: Exporting Television and Culture in the World Market (2008, NYU Press). She has co-edited an anthology on fandom with Jonathan Gray and Cornel Sandvoss (Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, 2007, NYU Press) and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Survival of Soap Opera: Strategies for a New Media Era (2010, University Press of Mississippi) with Abigail De Kosnik and Sam Ford. Her current research focuses on aging and fandom, particularly in the context of adult development. She earned her PhD from UC-Santa Barbara.
Glancing at the C3 Blog
Don't forget: you can read and respond to our daily articles and conversations on the C3 blog.
Virtual Seminar: Advertising - Now Available Online!
At the beginning of the month, the Consortium team hosted our first virtual seminar, to connect directly about the ideas and concepts presented in our research papers. Our turnout was higher than expected: over forty members of the Consortium participated!
If you unfortunately missed the event, it is now available online via the Consortium website (access via your Consortium username/password required). The discussion is available in audio (.mp3) format along with the slides in Powerpoint (.ppt) format, and you can access all of these materials here
The Future of Advertising: Data or Emotions?
By: Ravi Inukonda
It is widely believed that data-driven online advertising exchanges are the future of online advertising. The claim is that decisions based on data lead to better results and can show the impact on ROI. Online display advertising which is not completely based on data and has been used as a brand building vehicle is now labeled as a future when compared to performance based advertising since the clicks can produce data that can be used for future advertising. There is no question that performance based ads changed the game and provided a clear picture to companies on the return-on-investment (ROI). However, display advertising has often been discounted even though many studies have been done now to show display actually engages with audiences in various emotional fronts leading a longer term ROI.
As we heard in the virtual panel on Online Advertising, it seems that the question on everyone's mind is "Is the future of online advertising going to be driven by data or emotions: brand building or pure performance based ads?" I don't believe it is going to be an either/or answer. I strongly believe (as we heard from the subject matter experts in the panel) that it is going to be a combination of data and emotions/behavior. Brand building and connecting with consumers on an emotional level are not going to go away any time soon.
This paper will examine the future of online advertising with a focus on the impact of data. This paper will examine the question of data or emotions from a case study perspective. We will discuss two real-life cases where companies have used one mechanism or other to build awareness for their products.
(If you have a case study and would like to participate - please send me an email.)
Ravi Inukonda is a Graduate Researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium. Ravi's research focuses on ad networks, ad exchanges and creating efficient marketplaces for advertisements.