Shirky – End of Audience Theory





Shirky – end of audience theory.

What is it?

Audience behaviour has changed due to the internet and the ability for audiences to create their own content at home thanks to the lower cost of technology. This new audience doesn’t just consume media, but also produces it – creating the term ‘prosumer’.

Amateur content made this way has different values to professional media producers, in that it promotes a connection between other amateur producers – they both deeply care about the products they make and can help them work together.

When they work together in this way, audiences can make more content than producers – Wikipedia is a good example of this.

What is the advanced version?

In the ‘old’ media, centralised producers addressed atomised consumers; in the ‘new’ media, every consumer is now a producer. Traditional media producers would ‘filter then publish’; as many ‘new’ media producers are not employees, they ‘publish then filter’.

These amateur producers have different motivations to those of professionals – they value autonomy, competence, membership and generosity. User-generated content creates emotional connection between people who care about something. This can generate a cognitive surplus – for example, Wikipedia can aggregate people’s free time and talent to produce value that no traditional medium could match.

‘The Audience’ as a mass of people with predictable behaviour is gone. Now, behaviour is variable across different sites, with some of the audience creating content, some synthesising content and some consuming content. The ‘old’ media created a mass audience. The ‘new’ media provide a platform for people to provide value for each other.


What is the difference between the content officially produced by the owners of intellectual properties (such as Microsoft and Minecraft) and fan based content?

What would be lost if it was possible to ban fan based content and communities from the internet?

This could be applied to:

  • Stranger Things
  • The Killing
  • Minecraft (note that industries are not assessed for theory in the OCR Media Studies A Level specification – H409).

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