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Media consumption of target audiences

Last edited: August 12, 2020

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Identifying the media consumption patterns of your target audience(s) will be critical for designing the communications strategy and interventions.  Media consumption can be vastly different within countries, communities or families. For example, young people are far more likely to use social media and mobile phone or tablet applications (e.g. online streaming services) to play games, receive news and enjoy entertainment. Understanding the media consumption habits of target audiences provides insight on which media channels and organizations to engage and begins the process of untangling what is feasible in any given context vis-à-vis available resources and objectives. Although it depends on the context, there is a considerable amount of research and information available about media consumption and audiences that can be drawn upon.

Media Consumption Sources

BBC Media Action regularly publishes and collates the latest research on media consumption habits in low and middle-income countries.  Their reports and data portal are available online:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/research-and-insight and http://dataportal.bbcmediaaction.org/site/ 

Internet searches can provide valuable information using queries such as:

-        what are the most popular radio stations in X

-        how many people listen to / watch….

-        what proportion of people in X have internet enabled smartphone

Questions can also be broken down by different groups of people, ‘how many women… young people… people with low incomes…’, etc.

Wikipedia often maintains a directory of media outlets, types of media and their audiences by locality. Queries for various countries can be conducted by typing ‘communications in X’ in the search bar- https://www.wikipedia.org/

Media consumption is determined by a variety of factors, including: consumers’ interests and preferences; affordability; accessibility; gender and other social norms that proscribe use. Factors such as radio or television ownership or access to them in the community; mobile phone ownership and internet access; the prices and availability of print media and literacy rates; among others are all important to consider when deciding the type of media to be engaged in prevention work.

Media use is not simply determined by affordability. Other factors may have an impact, including:

  • Professional activity, as small traders, for example, might prioritise having a mobile phone because it is essential to their business, while broader parts of the population may rely on radio reports for weather alerts and agricultural information.  
  • Media diversity, as the range of media options and plurality of voices heard can limit access to information and participation in media, particularly for marginalized groups;
  • Gender, as gender stereotypes can determine the kind of information available to both women and men. For example, women in low and middle-income countries are significantly less likely than men to own a mobile phone, and when they do own one they use them less than men (GSMA 2016), or;
  • The position individuals occupy in the family, as women and young people may have less access to the household phone or radio.

This information can play a crucial role in designing appropriate interventions, resisting the temptation to target only traditional or like-minded media partners. It is critical to expand messages and communications objectives to media organizations and audiences that could have a catalytic impact on social norms change.

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