Imagined Crowds? Real Commodities? —An Analysis on the Institutional Construction of Audience Images


Chun-Fu Chen


commoditization, media institution, media industry, audience, dual-product market


This study is intended to unravel the ways in which various institutions construct “audience images” and their social and cultural implications. Focusing on the broadcast media organizations, the analysis draws upon neo- classic economics and cultural theories to examine the formation of media audiences, the logics of “audience commodity” trade, and the production of the utility value of audiences in most contemporary societies.

The study argues that audience is a fluid concept that exists as imagined entities in the presumptions of different communication theories. Nevertheless, the concept of “media audience” is mainly constructed and manifested as commodities that have exchange value through a series of institutionalized processes in the contemporary societies. Therefore, the meanings of “media audience” nowadays are further apart from the “mass audience” concept addressed in many communication theories.