Blumler and Katz Uses and Gratifications Theory
History of Uses and Gratifications Theory
One of the earliest research areas into the media was how the audience and producer engaged with each other during media consumption. A very popular idea in the early-mid-20th century was the effects model, which looked at what the media did to the audience.
Think of it as an early moral panic, which suggested audiences are passive at the mercy of whatever the media tells them. In this model, the power is with the media itself.
Uses and gratification is an alternative area of media research that takes audiences’ viewpoint as active participants in media exchange. In other words, they use the media to satisfy their needs.
Another model was the hypodermic needle theory, where the media passes on a message directly to the audience.
Harold Lasswell questioned this theory, and there is really an effect after all. Still, the main thing that less well was really interested in was this audience’s idea. The audience in his mind had much greater power than the high epidemic needle theory suggested.
Uses and Gratification Theory was first developed in the 1940s by a man called Harold Lasswell. It wasn’t until later in the 1970s, where the theory was built upon by Blumler, Katz, Guarevitch, and some other theorists.
The theory is one that has developed from ideas dating back as far as the 1940s. In 1974, researchers such as Blumler, Katz, and Guarevitch made links between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how people use the media.
Blumler and Katz published the Theory of Uses and gratifications in 1974. Blumler, communication and media theorist, and Katz, a sociologist and communication scientist, challenge other communication theories like the media effects model.
The media effects model saw the audience as passive media users, which focused the research on how media affected users.
Uses and gratifications look at the audience as an active user of media, which changed the dynamic to how we affect media as users.
In other words, how our basal needs, such a social connection, and self-esteem, are gratified by the media. Blumler and Katz (1974) detailed four primary needs the audiences could satisfy with the media.
The uses and gratifications theory are the complete opposite end of the spectrum to e hypodermic needle theory, which said that the media held a great amount of power over audiences,
Uses and Gratifications Theory definition
The uses and gratifications theory is a user-centered approach that focuses on how people use media for their own personal uses and gratifications.
Uses and gratifications theory emphasizes motives and the self-perceived needs of audience members. Blumler and Katz (1974) concluded that different people could use the same communication message for different purposes. The same media content may gratify different needs for different individuals.
This theory suggests that media has no power over audiences. Instead, audiences are highly active in their media usage, seeking out media to fulfill a certain need. Audiences create their own individual meanings after they seek out that media.
Uses and gratifications actually come from the idea that the media serves a purpose that if it feels a use and that audiences have certain needs, they need to be fulfilled or gratified. They turn to the media as a useful tool to gratify their needs.
The model they came up with uses and gratifications, or unlike the hypodermic needle model, it starts with the audience.
You have an audience member who is looking for a need that needs to be gratified, one of those four uses or four functions of the media that Lasswell pointed out once they find a need that needs to be gratified, they go and seek out a medium that will actually fulfill that need.
If that made has actually been gratified, and if it has, well, then they stick to that channel, they continue watching all that continue playing that video game.
If the need isn’t gratified, they go back and find a different media, and then they continue going through that process until the need is gratified, then that audience continues to use it.
Using quantitative data as Blumler, Katz, and Guarevitch did, we can actually think of several examples where the audience has forced a TV show or a movie to stop being shown.
There are countless examples of the media being canceled or pulled from broadcast due to audience backlash or disinterest.
5 Different Audience Needs inUses and Gratifications Theory
Audiences have cognitive needs, effective needs, personal integrative needs, social integrative needs, and tension free needs. Each need is satisfied by different media use.
Personal integrative need.
This need is based on self-esteem. We tend to connect with characters like us, and our favorite TV shows are in books. This allows us to compare our status and gain credibility by comparing ourselves to people or situations in the media.
Remember that time you were talking to your friend about that amazing movie you watch with a great actor, and then you realize you couldn’t remember the actor’s name, and it was driving you crazy?
You fulfilled your cognitive need or your need to acquire knowledge by taking out your phone and googling your answer.
Cognitive names are all about knowledge attainment.
Effective needs are all about emotions. Sometimes we feel like watching a scary movie or maybe relaxing with a good book. When you fulfill your effective needs, you’re satisfying the mood that you’re in by using media based on your emotions.
Social integrative need
As humans, we need to socialize with family, friends, and co-workers. Today we depend more on social media platforms to stay in touch and find it harder to get together with our busy schedules. But media helps mitigate that need with apps like Facebook and Instagram.
Although it would be nice to fly around the world as a way to escape, we also use media to relax. This need will feel different for everyone. Some might find it relaxing to watch a documentary, but that might cause a little bit of boredom for others. People use media to relieve tension in different ways.
Four Motivations of Uses and Gratifications Theory
The media has four different uses, and the audience has needs that they have to be fulfilled.
Surveillance or Seeking Information
Consider the text that you read and watch to learn more about the world. Needless to say, things tend to be factual texts. That our audiences need to be informed about what’s happening in the world, we can see this in the use of news bulletins watching sports, checking Twitter, checking Facebook.
From a personal perspective. It’s why I watch the news and documentaries. That’s why I read the Times educational supplement. That’s why I checked the game spot daily for gaming news. It’s not necessarily information that I need to know, but it just satisfies my curiosity.
We use the media to find out what’s happening globally and just keep up to date.
Audiences find models of behavior in the media, learning from and comparing themselves to others and discovering who they are.
When looking at interviews with people who respect, they take on some of those thoughts and feelings and bring them into their own personal identity.
They also do it when they’re looking at cooking shows, for example, and getting tips or gardening shows, or perhaps if you’re searching YouTube for makeup tutorials, things like that, we use the media to help us formulate our own personal identity.
These are information or texts which reinforce your own values or beliefs.
I find these particularly poignant, informative years where you’re discovering who you are, what it means to be a man or a woman in the 21st century.
Again, I dabbled with men’s magazines such as Geek and Men’s Health from my own experiences.
This is a category that acknowledges one of our most tragic truths in life. At times, we’ll get a bit lonely. Luckily, we have media.
Consider all those programs you’ve watched over the years where you feel like you actually know the characters on Worse yet, by the end of the series; you’re not sure how you live without them.
This is all evidence of the powerful bonds made with figures in the media, and it doesn’t need to be exclusive with fictional characters.
Consider breakfast Radio DJs columnist You love to read, and so on.
Another side of this category is how it enables personal relationships within our own lives. Consider all those TV shows you watch purely because everyone else is watching and talking about them.
When watching characters on our favorite shows, we gain empathy for them and form relationships with them.
The other people who have formed relationships with our flesh and blood piers can bond over the media and talk about what we liked in it.
The final way in which the media gratify audiences is through diversion and, to a degree, features in all the text that we watch.
The idea that audiences used media as a form of escapism and entertainment. It’s a means for passing the time.
Sometimes we just need something to pass the time, or perhaps after a hard day at work, we just want to escape by doing some.
Whether you end the day by browsing Facebook, reading a magazine, or playing games, you’re using the media as a diversion from the mundane ISS of the real world.
Like watching some of those action films that don’t require too much thinking, reading list tickles on Buzzfeed.
It’s just a way of creating our own diversion to just be entertaining tune out for a while.
This theorist sat on them for a few decades, and in 1974 Blumler, Katz, and Guarevitch expanded on some of Lasswell’s ideas.
They suggested that the audience has the power to determine what the media provides for its gratification.
A simple example of this is when a TV show doesn’t fulfill in audience’s needs; then the audience doesn’t watch it. And when the audience doesn’t watch it, the TV show doesn’t write well, and when it doesn’t right well, it gets canceled.
In the eyes of Blumler, Katz, and Guarevitch, it’s actually the audience who has the greater power here because when the audience doesn’t watch something, it forces the media to change it.
Uses and Gratifications Social Media
Using social media has become a favorite pastime for most people. Particularly for teenagers, interacting with peers through such channels has acquired singular importance.
Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram provide a virtual platform for individuals to present themselves, develop their social networks and establish or maintain connections with others.
Scholars have noted that new media includes several attributes that weren’t part of older forms of media. Users have greater control over what they interact with when interacting with it and more content choices. This opens up the number of gratifications that new media use could satisfy.
People have different social and personal needs, which may be fittingly served by using various Social media services.
While some proclaim its usefulness as a tool for strengthening existing interpersonal bonds and at the same time developing new ones, others criticize it for its negative consequences toward physical and mental health.
The introduction of new communication technology and its accompanying services are likely to be met differently by culture.
The influence of social media on its users has caught many researchers’ attention, and the recent trend seems to be toward looking at cross-cultural differences.
Fake news is also buzzed about when it comes to reinforcement and our beliefs, both political and nonpolitical. To the average reader, Fake news is false information or propaganda being passed off is accurate information.
Unfortunately, fake news is much too real in journalism to the bloggers and people who want to sway others from a certain viewpoint or people who are not industry professionals.
Like Joseph Klapper in the Effect of Mass Communication said, some people are even willing to make up information to go along with their beliefs.
Although there have been various criticisms on the uses and gratifications theory, there has been a recent emergence of its application. Mass media has found new platforms to reach audiences.
Everyone stays connected with their phones, tablets, and multiple apps to help facilitate communication. The uses and gratifications theory has recently been used to review the uses of different social networking sites.
New studies have developed 10 uses and gratifications for social media, such as social interaction, expression of opinions, information sharing, surveillance, and others’ watching.
As you can see, these new applications have further developed the work by Bumbler and Katz.
In today’s world, we stay connected. Wherever we go, we’re able to satisfy our needs at the touch of a button.
5 Key Elements of Uses and Gratification Theory
Blumler and Katz presented five core elements of Uses and gratifications. Namely;
- The uses and gratifications theory is that media use is perceived to be goal-directed. We know exactly where to find the information we need, whether you’re looking for that one cat video you love or searching for information for a research paper use. The audience is fully aware of the type of media you are looking for.
- The element of Uses and gratifications explains that the audience is responsible for linking the type of media to fit their mass communication needs. The media itself doesn’t look for you; instead, the user or audience is filtered through media types to fulfill your needs. You know when to use your phone for a quick search, or maybe to go to the library to find the original source in the textbook.
- The third element explains that media competes with other sources for needs satisfaction. There are multiple ways for you to satisfy your needs.
- Modern media competes with more traditional media. For example, if you feel like having a good cry, you could watch a video of puppies on YouTube, or you could pick up a romance novel and have at it. Both could fulfill the same need.
- It explains that audiences have a sense of self-awareness that allows them to share their media experiences as active media users. The audience is aware of their motives and needs. Most importantly, the audience can share their overall media experience because of their self-awareness.
- The last element of the uses and gratifications theory explains that the audience chooses the information provided and explores the content on their own terms. Only the audience can apply value judgment to the media because each experience is unique and fulfills different needs.
Criticisms of Uses and Gratifications.
- The theory focuses on the positive impacts of unconsciously the media and the positive impacts of changing the media. Therefore it fails to address the potential negative impacts. It fails to acknowledge things where people go out and commit crimes because of what they’ve seen in the media.
- Furthermore, the theory does not take into account the idea of channel surfing or mindless media consumption, where audiences are not necessarily as active, indirectly fulfilling a need. An example is when you put on the TV or the radio in the background while you’re doing some study; for example, it’s not actually fulfilling one of those functions that Laswell pointed out.
- It mainly focuses on people’s selectivity on media content rather than its unintended effects in their minds.
- The theory does not believe in media’s power and how media can unconsciously influence human needs and gratification.
- Media is powerful. Critics of the Uses and Gratifications theory explained that the media could be more powerful than the audience’s motives. Today we have a wide range of media sources. This criticism explains that most media that the audience comes across has a specific motive, and the user only thinks that they’re choosing what to consume.
- The other major criticism of uses and gratifications is that it is individualistic in nature. We’ve talked about how everyone fulfills our needs in different ways. This criticism explains that because research can vary depending on the group that is being studied, it is extremely difficult to generalize and use to explain phenomena.
- Finally, a major criticism is in the theory’s use of methodology, using quantitative data. It’s flawed because it just relies on statistics, and numbers don’t necessarily reflect the complexity of the audience media relationship. We don’t get some of that qualitative information where we actually ask audiences. Well, why did you turn out? Why did you change the channel at this point?
Advantages of Uses and Gratification Theory
The advantages /benefits of uses and gratification theory are:
- The uses and gratification theory shows the relation of mass communication and gives a better understanding of human needs satisfaction.
- It can be used by the audience of the media on their primary intentions of use.
- The uses and gratification theory also identifies the positive and negative aspects of media use on the media users.
The uses and gratifications theory was first put forth by Blumler and Katz in1974. The five major elements of uses and gratifications theory highlight how the audience are active media users instead of passive users.
As the audience, you know exactly what needs you are trying to satisfy, what media type to satisfy it, and each selection is goal-oriented. This is a user-centered approach to media.