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Manufacturing the digital advertising audience

Aaltonen, Aleksi (2011) Manufacturing the digital advertising audience. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

How does a new medium create its audience? This study takes the business model of commercial media as its starting point and identifies industrial audience measurement as a constitutive operation in creating the sellable asset of advertisingfunded companies. The study employs a qualitative case study design to analyse how a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) company harnesses digital behavioural records generated by computational network infrastructure to turn network subscribers into an advertising audience product. The empirical evidence is based on a three-months intensive fieldwork at the company office. The analysis reveals comprehensiveness, openness and granularity as the historically new attributes of computational data vis-à-vis traditional audience measurement arrangements. These attributes are then juxtaposed with four kinds of business analytical operations (automatic data aggregation procedures, the use of software reporting tools, organizational reporting practices and custom analyses) observed at the research site to assess how does computational media environment rule key audiencemaking practices. Finally, the implications of this analytical infrastructure are reflected upon three sets of organizational practices. The theoretical framework for the analysis is composed by critically assessing constructivist approaches (SCOT, ANT and sociomateriality) for studying technology and by discussing an approach inspired by critical realism to overcome their limitations with respect to the objectives of the study. The findings contribute toward innovating new digital services, information systems (IS) theory and the study of media audiences. The case opens up considerable complexity involved in establishing a new kind of advertising audience and, more generally, a platform business. Sending out advertisements is easy compared to demonstrating that somebody is actually receiving them. The three computational attributes both extend and provide summative validity for mid-range theorizing on how computational objects mediate organizational practices and processes. Finally, the analysis reveals an interactive nature of digital audience stemming from the direct and immediate behavioural feedback in an audiencemaking cycle.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Aleksi Aaltonen
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Kallinikos, Jannis and Sorensen, Carsten
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/198

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