Audiences rarely define themselves. Rather, they can be considered to be the product of research procedures implemented by media/advertising industries and by academics. In spite of the evolving nature of these research procedures – which is due to methodological variations, market competition, and paradigmatic disputes – there existed in past decades a certain degree of consensus on how to count, and how to account for, media audiences. This fragile consensus has been challenged in recent years as a result of the prominence achieved by online media. In consequence, the media/advertising industries have had to reconsider measurement procedures in order to adapt to the characteristics of online media and audiences, and even the very nature and necessity of measurement has been questioned. In turn, academic researchers have had to reconsider their conceptualization of audiences, to the point of putting into question the very idea of the audience. The present chapter examines this dual attempt at reformulating the ways in which audiences are counted and accounted for in the context of online media.
The concept of the “audience” as it is commonly used today belongs to a set of ideas that refer to human collectivities.1 In spite of this, the collective nature of the audience is rarely expressed directly. This is, of course, a historically bounded assertion, since, as Butsch (2000) has shown, the behavior of ...