Audience Analysis

Class Activity                                     Audience Analysis                                         Ed Lessor

Preparation: Before we do this activity we have read “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked” by Ede and Lunsford. We have discussed the role of audience in “The Rhetorical Situation,” and in understanding rhetorical context. Students are preparing to draft the Audience Analysis portion of their Targeted Convincing Arguments. I bring in six magazines that will probably be unfamiliar to most of the students in the class—a good range of magazines works well here. (Cookie, Bust, Reason, Tricycle, Harpers, Mother Jones, National Review)

Objective: The goal of this activity is to get students to conceptualize a targeted audience in a manner that is both concrete and at the same time imaginative. The first part of the activity involves gathering data, and the final part relies on the students to creatively imagine the targeted audience for the magazine that they are analyzing. I make it clear that when they are creating their own Audience Analysis for their essay, they are focusing a bit more on the values and beliefs of the targeted audience. This activity is more about stretching the ability to imagine that audience.

Activity: Students first gather some demographic information about the audience for the magazine that they are working with:

Basic Information

  • age:
  • gender:
  • economic status:
  • race:
  • political orientation:
  • special interests:

For each bit of information they need to have supporting evidence. For example, all those ads for rascal scooters could indicate that the age of the targeted audience is over 60.

Next they gather information about the content and layout of the magazine. Once again including specific examples to support their choices:

Style Matters
Word Choices

Types of essays
Length of essays
Tone of essays
Political slant of essays
Special Interest of Essays
Types of products
Logic of ads

Once they have a concrete sense of the targeted audience, I ask them to write a short narrative that captures a day in the life of the targeted reader of the magazine. I let them know that it is ok to caricature here as the marketers tend to do this for the publications—they often have fun with this. I want them to be as specific as possible in this description—what does the reader eat for breakfast? What kind of car do they drive? Where do they work? What are their politics?

Finally, the students use these sketches as a basis for projecting how the targeted reader for the magazine would come down on the specific issues that they are working on for Unit II–most of the time they are able to predict this with a great deal of accuracy. We then read out the sketches as a way to lead a class discussion on the audiences for the specific magazines.

Unit Goals:
* To prepare students to write the Audience Analysis for the Targeted Convincing Argument.
* To encourage students to understand how deeply imbedded the awareness of audience is in most publicly published forms of writing.
* To enable students to understand the connections between the values and beliefs of the audience and the position that they are likely to occupy on a given issue.

Course Goals:
Extend experience in composing processes, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Hone strategies for generating ideas, revising, editing, and proofreading mono- and multi-modal texts in disciplinary/professional/specialized discourse
  • Critique one’s own compositions and the compositions of others
  • Use a variety of composition technologies (research and composing tools)
  • Evaluate sources for accuracy, relevance, credibility, reliability, and bias

Extend mastery of argumentative conventions, demonstrated by a student’s ability to:

  • Adapt genre, mode, and other compositional choices to meet audience and purpose
  • Focus and sustain arguments in different modes using effective arrangement
  • Select, evaluate, and integrate appropriate evidence for multiple genres, modes, and rhetorical situations
  • Use audience appeals, including pathos, ethos, and logos
  • Anticipate and address audience questions and objections