Methodological challenges in the transition towards online audience research

David Mathieu, Julianne Finger, Miguel Vicente-Marino, Bojana Romic, Maria José Brites, Minna Saariketo, Riitta Tammi, Inês Amaral, Marisa Torres da Silva, Niklas A. Chimirri, Liliana Pacheco

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This review of the literature published between 2005 and 2014 presents an overview of the methodological environment in which audience research is transiting towards the study of online audiences. Online audience research is a mix of long-established research rationales, methodical adaptations, new venues and convergent thinking. We discuss four interconnected, and sometimes contradictory, methodological trends that characterize this current environment: 1) the expansion of online ethnography and the continued importance of contextualization, 2) the influence of big data and an emphasis on uses, 3) the reliance on mixed methods and the convergence of different rationales of research, and 4) the ambiguous nature of online data and the ethical considerations for the conduct of research. In spite of a massive research activity, there remain gaps and underprivileged areas that call for a re-prioritization of research. In the conclusion of this paper, we offer recommendations to orient future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-320
Number of pages31
JournalParticipations - Journal of Audience and Reception Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Online Audience
  • New Media
  • Research Method
  • Methodology
  • Literature Review
  • Big Data
  • Ethnography
  • Contextualization
  • Ethics
  • Mixed Method
  • Convergence


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