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A factor analytic search for dimensions of audience exposure to a mass medium Jones, Vernon

Abstract

The object of this study has been to investigate dimensions of aggregate audience exposure to a mass medium (a daily newspaper). A mass medium such as a newspaper has a variety of content and an organized structure. Individual audience members are expected to be selective in their exposure to the medium using both its content and structure as a basis for their choices. Moreover, audience members are expected to act similarly in their selective use of the medium, resulting in dimensions of audience exposure which are determined by its content and structural organization. Such dimensionality has implications for the managerial use of the medium as a vehicle or, more precisely, a set of vehicles for the delivery of specific news and advertising information. The principal research method employed in this study was factor analysis. A critical review of related factor analytic applications in advertising research was undertaken. However, unlike these previous studies, prior expectations concerning the factor results were introduced into the analysis. This was accomplished through the construction of a model which stated that selective exposure is a function of the content and structure of a medium (or media). The model was used to predict aggregate audience exposure on a content and/or structural basis and these predictions were investigated using factor analysis. The procedure was replicated across samples and the results were validated through relation to external variables thought to be associated with mass media exposure. The results clearly indicated that the dimensions of audience exposure to the news content of a daily newspaper were determined by the latter's content and structural organization. Accordingly, it was concluded that the internal "managerial" sections of the newspaper represented vehicles for the delivery of specific news and promotional information. These results confirmed the argument that conventional audience assessment procedures, presently calculated on the basis of exposure to the entire newspaper, should recognize internal content and structural selectivity of the newspaper's internal "managerial" sections.

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