AQA A Level Media Studies. Teen Vogue and The Voice Online. Notes and Exemplar Essay.

EXTRA NOTE: 18th November 2019.

The board have just released this information about Teen Vogue.

Teen Vogue

The CSP booklet for the 2020 assessment refers to the Lifestyle section. This section has now been rebranded as Culture and this is the area that students should focus on.

Thanks AQA! Please read the Teen Vogue notes accordingly. I will adapt the rest of the page over the coming weeks.

They still don’t have anything to say about the churnalism in The Voice though!

As a result this page is back under construction!


November 2019 Note:

The Voice has had a revamp recently (nothing too major but it puts video content a bit more front and centre to the whole thing. I have made changes below to include the new look and focus on video – and my concerns about The Voice are still present).

 

According to the board for Teen Vogue you need to look at:

Selection Criteria
Online, social and participatory: Fashion, lifestyle, political and campaigning website and social media sites. The different sites should be studied in detail including the home page of the website and the ‘Culture’ section.

But for The Voice you need to look at:

Selection Criteria
Online, social and participatory – news website, produced by and targeting a minority group.

 


Exemplar essay at the end of the article.

I have put a set of notes about some of the CSP problems with the new specification here (One Year In! Surviving the new AQA Media Studies syllabus. Information for students and teachers. The Surgery, The Voice, Metroid Prime 2, van Zoonen, Gauntlett!)

I will make sure I don’t repeat myself too much but Teen Vogue is everything you want in a CSP and The Voice Online is a moribund media product (nearly dead). This causes real problems for you but is not insurmountable.

These CSPs are for the Media Two paper and so don’t have the clear and tight focus on individual areas (like audiences or industry) that Media One questions do. They can be much longer and one will be synoptic (which means that it takes material from across your studies – Language, Representation, Industries, Audience and all the relevant contexts).

What I will give you here are some notes on each product and then an essay showing how you can use them.

You will need to look at the two sites in detail and make your own notes on them. Remember that each student’s examples for these CSPs should be a bit different as you can focus on different articles, sections and even time-frames. a great exam response could even include material posted-up the day before to make the answer as raw as botulism!

Convergence.

The first thing you have to recognise is these two products are examples of media convergence and convergence culture. This is where a media product contains multiple platform experiences for the audience. It is similar to hybrid form as explained with regard to War of the Worlds.

Convergence, as a concept goes all the way back to the 1960s when computer scientist Yoneji Masuda wrote about the way computers allowed different information forms (like the military, business and public services) to come together.

The big name you need to know is media theorist, and Papa Smurf lookalike, Henry Jenkins.

7025+PP

Jenkins wrote the book on this stuff back in 2006 (called Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide). He is responsible for the “black box” idea of convergence in which one machine allows the audience to access a wide variety of media and even produce it (basically he foresaw the smart phone).

“By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about. In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want….” Jenkins 2006.

Both these CSPs contain a convergence of print magazine, print newspaper, video, sound recording and online forum. This has a huge impact on the way they can be used by both producers and audiences.

Identity.

Both of these CSPs are significantly targeted at particular identity groups. A working knowledge of identity theories would be really helpful. Luckily I have a guide for you!

Capture

November 2019 Note:

The board have just advised that students study the Culture section. Most of the notes work effectively for this but you will need to make sure that all of your examples come from this section (although why this focus and yet The Voice notes ask you to look at the complete site IDK).


This CSP is exactly why I lurve studying media. It is exactly the sort of thing that Media Studies should include and somebody at AQA Towers had their antennae fully working when they decided to put this in.

Teen Vogue might, in a terribly patriarchal way, conjure up images of ultra-feminised vapidity but it has become highly politicised and socially engaged – in fact it has become the go-to news source for a particular slice of the audience (some surprisingly big news editors keep an eye on Teen Vogue’s pages). Go and check out their homepage right now! 

As I write the Politics, Identity and Culture sections cover everything from White House attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, segregation issues in schools, Grants for aspiring YouTubers and even masturbation advice (prefaced by a compelling argument that Sex-Ed classes in the U.S. are useless at educating people about sex). The mag has been at the forefront of both the gun control debate and the anti-Trump resistance.

Some really useful articles about how Teen Vogue changed and became impactful can be found here, here, and here!

Remember that Vogue is the most famous magazine in the world (it has been doing its thing since 1892. In 1905 Condé Montrose Nast

conde nast

Conde Montrose Nast: looking every inch the fashion plate here on, what I presume is, the Olympic Liner (sister ship to the Titanic). 

bought the magazine and it has been the heart of the Condé Nast magazine empire ever since. Italian Vogue is the fashion bible and the brand has a cultural impact like no other. Even Playboy didn’t have an undergound dance culture and a Madonna song!

Teen Vogue started as your average magazine spin-off in 2003. After a collapse of sales, due to changes in audience consumption habits, the mag went online only in 2016. It also changed focus. There is some argument to be made that women’s magazines had always been more political and subversive than many expected (Cosmopolitan’s championing of the sexual revolution through articles and advice for example) but Teen Vogue put news and politics first as a way of connecting with what they saw as a more engaged audience (woke in the current parlance). Editor Elaine Welteroth (who was both young, at 29, and African American) steered the online magazine down the path of identity politics (a direction continued by current editor Phillip Picardi with feminist writer Samhita Mukhopadhyay as executive editor).

haWY5XX4.jpg

Elaine Welteroth.

Audience numbers grew accordingly and the politics section is more visited than entertainment.

“The pivot in editorial strategy has drawn praise on social media, with some writers commenting that Teen Vogue is doing a better job of covering important stories in 2016 than legacy news publications.”, Sophie Gilbert. The Atlantic.

• Media Language

If you look at the landing page of the site you need to make sure that you have notes on all the ways that it signifies what it is and what it thinks is important. The logo builds on the heritage of Vogue magazine but the rest of the page signifies how different the product is from the print-based parent title.

Currently (and remember the product could change at any time) the page is organised with a contents list at the top and on a menu bar. Style has become the first section you meet (reflecting the product’s fashion roots) but “Politics, Identity, Culture, Summit” come after and take up more space (both on the page and in the site as a whole). This signifies the priorities of the product. Remember that you are supposed to be writing about the “Culture” section but knowing about the organisation of the site as a whole is important.

Style 1

pol1

cul 1

ident 1

Headings are presented in sans-serif typeface (making it feel more stylised, youthful or modern depending on your take). Minor uses of headings and articles use serif typeface which gives them a certain gravitas and authority. The choice of red, black and grey accenting on the page is stylish (in a Bauhaus design way) and not overtly genderised; which also helps the site switch from news to style content seamlessly on the page.

Classic-Bauhaus-Weimar-Advertisment

Bauhaus was a German design movement during the interwar period. It has had a huge impact on design since, including print and online publications. Look at the colour and style similarities between this poster and Teen Vogue.

The articles themselves are tiled, which helps to reinforce the online identity of the product; as it is a key difference between this media form and others. The use of the content, menu bar, footed information and links (as well as registration, Log in and Facebook like button) are all standard website features.

The overall impression created by the design is one of competence and contemporary relevance (there are no dated elements). This lends the product an aura of trustworthiness as quality in media production leads to audience trust.

Mobile Site!

Because the site uses tiles the mobile experience looks like this:

Screenshot_20191110-112543[14674]

This is a vertically scrollable version of the page. Most of the media language is similar but the order which the reader encounters stories is now sequential and chronologically ordered (with occasional “trending” sections which direst the reader to big stories outside of the timeline sequence).

This is how most readers will encounter the site.

• Media Representation

Look at my stereotyping notes and think about how teenage girls are traditionally presented in the media. This links to the work you have done on feminist theory (a quick set of notes are contained here). Teenage girls, especially in American culture, are presented through a web of stereotyping and patriarchy. On screen they tend to be sexualised and represented by actresses considerably older than the age they are playing and there exist well worn stereotypes (the tv tropes teenage page is really useful here). Often they are presented as vapid, bitchy and cliquey and they seem to only be worthy of representation when they are attractive. Add to that the way that both the media and fashion industries fetishize youth (teenagers presented as adults in U.S. fashion has an icky history back to the use of Brooke Shields in 1980; who was both the cover star for Vogue and appeared in controversial ads for Calvin Klein jeans). There is an argument to be made that, like racial and ethnic minority groups, it is hard to find representation of teenage girls in America that is grounded in the real.

This is what makes Teen Vogue so subversive. Its parent publication has a history of abusing teenage representation and its own history was based on representing narrow concepts of teenage girl identity.

splash 1

If you look at the landing page’s choice of imagery there is an emphasis on diversity (with fewer representations of white people, who are traditionally over-represented in fashion media). There is also a heavy emphasis on political engagement and protest as activities.

On the page there are the expected celebrity and entertainment images but they either stretch the diversity of representation beyond the expected or they are anchored to articles which have a social and political sense of gravity to them. A good example would be . . .

demi

There are some really interesting things going on here in terms of identity theory and cultivation (Gerbner). By representing certain groups of people and certain actions the product helps to normalise groups and activities which have traditionally been presented as fringe or minority. In this case activism is normalised and pop fame is treated as a fun, almost throwaway, afterthought.

 

A good example of this is the way the product does not allow the short attention-span of online media to dilute key messages; such as gun control. Linked to one article concerning a teenager’s family link to the Sandy Hook mass shooting, is a YouTube video of a demonstration. The representation is of actively engaged young people and of direct action. The cultivation this creates is the expectation that youth action is not unexpected. The stereotype of the activist teenager as a dour buzz-kill (which is a media stock character) is therefore resisted within the product.

If you look at the articles they tend to follow a similar editorial slant. Often the product subverts expectations so that a title which seems to lead the reader to a problematic article about thigh-gap actually turns out to have a body-positivity message.

A key element to the feel of the whole site though is the convergent way it uses video. This can be used to amplify the tone of pages.

Capture 3

The example above came from the thigh gap/ body positivity article which comes under the title of Mental Health. The video is fun, seemingly spontaneous, and sends-up the status of the celebrity video subjects.

On another page a news article about ICE (who are deporting immigrants) is followed by a video about voting for the first time. This finishes the piece with a way to engage with, and possibly change, the discourse of the article.

• Media Industries

If you are asked to write about this then you need to make sure you clearly identify the product as part of the Condé Nast conglomerate. This is a large entity with many mainstream products.

Remember the information at the start of this CSP analysis. When Teen Vogue was a mainstream magazine it flopped hard. The online version of the magazine reinvented itself but shifted to the margins in order to become more relevant to its target audience (6M Facebook likes, 3.4M Twitter followers and 2.7M Instagram followers indicate popularity).

This search for an audience required an understanding that U.S. teenage girls are currently, to use psychographic segmentation,  more likely to be reformers rather than mainstreamers, this may not always be the case. The next generation might be more aspirational and materialistic. The Overton window (which is a way of thinking about political consensus and shifting public opinion) might indicate that this is a long term trend in which feminist politics and youth engagement, through a positive feedback mechanism, creates more engagement and action.

DIDDZZvUIAA2kTt

The Overton window of political attitudes can be shifted through media cultivation. The window can shift along the line of attitudes. If the window shifts to the left once unthinkable ideas (like gay marriage or cannabis legalisation) can become popular, or even policy. If it shifts to the right a hostile environment for migrants and leaving the E.U. can become popular, or even policy (what a terrifying idea!).

You might have to argue that Teen Vogue is shaping the political attitudes of many U.S. women of the next generation. A big media conglomeration is therefore acting as a cultural manipulator; but then all big media entities need to do that in order to survive, they cannot simply follow trends.

What is noteworthy is the way that the producers used looked at the radical end of online publishing (websites such as Vice or Mic) and reshaped the product accordingly. This is part of a regular media process in which the marginal moves into the mainstream. This happens regularly in areas such as fashion or music where styles or genres move from the radical and niche, to the contemporary and relevant, to the mainstream and then finally become passé (outdated).

In this way the producers are building on the approach of other producers in the online sphere.

An industry question might get you to look at convergence. In this case make sure you have video, music and pictorial spread examples to show how the online magazine utilises its platform. Make sure you can explain how this fits with Jenkins’ theories.

• Media Audiences.

It is often hard to unpick Industries and Audiences (and Audiences and Representation – all these divisions are in some ways artificial). After all all industries are looking for audiences and target their products accordingly. This CSP is clearly targeted at a specialist audience (I would hesitate to call a group as large as teenage girls niche). You should really look at my identity notes and my stereotyping notes and think about how teenage girls are traditionally represented and engaged with by media products. How can you use Tajfel and Turner to create an argument about in-group identity for teenage girls created through engagement with the product for example?

What we also need to look at is the ways the audience can engage with, read, and identify with the product (and evidence of this). In the past, with online content, you could use audience comments as evidence. This is made difficult by the way online comments often descend into awful troll spaces. This is especially bad for women and minorities and makes sites feel like threatened and marginalised zones. Vice got rid of their comments and Teen Vogue has clearly followed their trend. There is nothing that is going to ruin the positive vibe you’ve created like a bunch of Trumpist red-hatters trolling “we won – get over it” or “build the wall” under your articles.

Teen Vogue outsources the job of engagement to its social media presence/s. I have put some screenshots below so you can see the way it develops the relationship between audience and producer. An interesting note is the way the audience tend to go for likes rather than comments (perhaps an indication that many young women feel that online comment spaces can be bruising environments and don’t want to engage in a protracted flame-war with a hostile neo-facist).

Facebook:

teen facebook 1teen facebook 2

Instagram:

teen instagram 1teen instagram 2teen vogue twitter

Twitter:

teen vogue twitter 2

I have put up some information about Stuart Hall’s reading theories and audience positioning and this is what you need to think about here. Clearly, with almost six million Facebook subscribers there are a huge number of people who conform to the preferred reading of the magazine. They subscribe to its social and political views.  If you look at the Instagram comments you will see that discussion happens when people are negotiating with the product through their readings and want to start a conversation. You will also see where there are people, usually from outside the target demographic – usually white middle-aged men (facepalm), who take an oppositional stance and reject the preferred reading. You are clever people. Go here and mine for resources.

Also look on the main site for articles which are written by people who are clearly audience members and part of the demographic.

Capture 4

This is part of the interactivity that exists between producer and audience. It is present in all media products but online products are considerably more interactive than most.

Gerbner’s ideas about audience cultivation are important here in terms of the way the magazine promotes progressive politics and encourages open displays of identity and engagement.

There is also a debate to be had about audience segmentation. Is the product a safe space where the audience can go to build a sense of identity or is it a ghetto which allows the target audience group to be cut off from mainstream culture (not represented or engaged with)? This is a huge debate in a multi-platform, multi-producer environment.

Now you need to go to their website and find lots of your own examples for all these debates. Go! Look! Find!


summit

Teen Vogue: Summit.

I think  need to write something here about the magazine’s summit. This is a Ted style event where speakers and trainers talk, take questions and attendees can take part in workshops. If you go to the site and watch the summit video you will see that it is a very glossy and professional event with high-profile speakers (Hillary Clinton, Serena Williams, Cara Delevingne) and workshops designed to empower the audience of young women to become political, business and cultural leaders.

This is an important part of connecting with the audience but we need to make sure we don’t get carried away with it all and see it in a slightly more detached way.

The Teen Vogue Summit is not a free event; you have to pay to attend. A Daytripper Pass might set you back $59 but the Legend Pass (complete with breakfast with the editorial team, a 1:1 session with one of the speakers, special Q and A sessions and . . . a gift bag) will take $299 out of you!

This is capitalist activism; and hugely American to boot. It’s a bit like The Wing. This, if you don’t know, is an exclusive set of networking spaces (the first one was in New York, there are others across the major cities of the U.S. and the London branch opens soon) which are designed to support successful women. The language The Wing uses to describe itself is that of political activism “founding mothers”, “carrying the torch” etc. but the truth is that an annual membership of the London branch will set you back £1836 per year. Whether or not you buy the empowerment stuff the truth is that The Wing is operating as a private member’s club and offering the networking opportunities that clubs like these have offered for centuries (White’s in London has been operating since 1693 and boasts royalty and PMs as members and The AllBright was London’s first all female club). This activism, like American politics, runs on money and is very different from the way we do things on this side of the Atlantic. 

What I’m trying to say is that Conde Nast runs the Summit for the same reasons that Conde Montrose Nast bought Vogue,

conde nast

as a business proposition. If the Summit doesn’t turn a profit the parent company will drop it and move onto something else.

As an additional point Elaine Welteroth (the first editor of Teen Vogue when it went online) is really just building on an old business practice; people will stay loyal to a brand if they identify with the values of that brand. If their values diverge from the brand identity then they will be less likely to spend their hard earned money on it. This is as true of food products as it is of media products. Teen Vogue has created a particular brand identity based on activism and ethics mixed with style and fashion and that works for them in attracting their target demographic (mostly female, American teenagers). At another point in time a different brand identity might be required (perhaps something more hedonistic or selfishly me-focused if there is a backlash against the current trend for engagement and activism). Either way a magazine (online or physical) will have to adapt to meet it’s readership unless it has the social clout to cultivate the audience it wants (see Gerbner notes) and persuade them to be a particular type of person (i.e. one whose values and ideology coincide with the values and ideology being expressed by the product).

To sum this bit up: there are different ways of reading Teen Vogue’s political and activist content:

  • A cynical way would be that a business has looked to (literally) capitalise on young people’s current attitudes and ideologies.
  • A less cynical way would be that a good media producer always aims to reflect the attitudes and ideologies important to its audience.
  • A final view would be that the producer takes those attitudes and ideologies and cultivates them (by giving informative content) so that the audience is even more closely aligned to the producer.

voice logo

I have written here about why this is a terrible CSP for you to work with.  Clearly the board wanted you to look at a British product (to contrast with the American Teen Vogue) and to look at race instead of gender.

Unfortunately they haven’t looked at the product. Whilst The Voice was a fearlessly campaigning newspaper, with a devoted readership, in the past, The Voice Online is nothing like its forebear. It only has one journalist and I’m sure that its readership has shot up since it was included on the AQA syllabus! It doesn’t effectively cover news stories affecting Black Britons (the Guardian led the way on The Windrush Scandal) and mostly seems to process press releases and cut and paste material. You can refer to this as churnalism and I have put some notes here.

Auletta-Nick-Davies

Nick Davies, the man who popularised the term “churnalism”.

To give you some examples to highlight the problem. When I first constructed these notes there had been a series of crimes in UK cities which had a racial dimension to them (racist attacks, a racial dimension to policing or crimes affecting the black community) but most of these had not been covered by the paper, and the one that was contained no different information from mainstream news sources. Notting Hill Carnival received  only three articles and St Paul’s Carnival, in Bristol, as I have written about before, received no coverage (this was the 50th anniversary and the event had not run for the last few years so it was a big story).

I was concerned that despite claiming to speak for Black British people this product had a tiny, and falling, audience. There are no published figures but if the magazine can only afford one journalist then they can’t have the readership to support major advertising revenue. Unlike Teen Vogue this is not a product that is reaching its target demographic.

voice trev

To make this clear. This is one of the few examples of exclusive content (so the site makes a bit of a song and dance about it) but Vic Motune is the news editor

voice ed team

not the solitary full-time journalist. This is part of a media product which gives the impression that it has been produced by a team of dedicated journalists but really it’s a skeleton crew who are, mostly, reworking other people’s journalism and press-releases.

What is odd is also the way that there is a disconnect between the newspaper and the online newspaper. This was the cover of the paper in August 2018. The exclusive story did not appear on the online version.

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Clearly this is not an easy CSP for you to try to write about. So what can you say?

All these notes build on the concepts you have looked at for Teen Vogue. Make sure you are secure in handling the language and ideas for Teen Vogue before you move onto The Voice. I won’t be starting from scratch here.

• Media Language

If you look at how the BBC News website has changed over the past 20 years you can use it as litmus test to see what internet generation The Voice was stuck at. It used to be between the 2003 and 2008 models. The new site uses tiles (just like the 2015 BBC site and so is “mobile friendly”). On a big screen the site now looks like this:

voice splash.JPG

But on your phone the tiling system means it looks like this:

Screenshot_20191110-112656[14675].png

Again the mobile version is the one that most readers will use, and, as you can see, it looks contemporary. This helps to signify professionalism, expertise and access to resources.

The big-screen site signifies to the audience that it is an online news site with the use of “latest news” headlines, a “Trending” column and online polls. The use of menu bars on the landing page also clearly signify that this is an internet, not a print, product.

Clearly the use of red, white and grey are meant to give the site a certain Bauhaus inspired, modern gravitas. The typeface (sans-serif for both titles and articles and serif for sub-headings) blends both modernity and traditionalism, (just like Teen Vogue does) in a way which aims to signify trustworthiness along with freshness and independence (actually it uses more sans-serif than Teen Vogue which is interesting as Teen Vogue seems to need the gravitas to underline the serious points it is making).

• Media Representation

You should be able to write about the way the site clearly represents individuals from within the target demographic. Make sure you have examples of images that you can write about which highlight black success. In this way the magazine fulfills the concept popularized by the American writer W.E.B. Du Bois in 1903 of “The Talented Tenth”.

newsEngin.23612203_021719-BHM-W.E.B.-Du-Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois.

This was the idea that by celebrating the achievements of black success stories and promoting achievement, so that 10% of the black population received higher education or owned businesses, it would elevate the aspirations of the entire black population (basically it was the antecedent of positive representation, positive discrimination and affirmative action).

In some ways this is an easy argument to make. Because the site is reliant on processing press-releases for copy it is full of articles about successful people. Look at the combination of text and image which promotes a positive impression of the person and their achievements.

This explains why, if you hover over the “News” button you get this:

celeb

Notice that “Celebrity” is item number three on the list. The whole concept of celebrity (even the term itself – to celebrate the achievements of those in your identity group) becomes important when veiwed through Du Bois’ lens.

Because of this, however, there is an over-emphasis on sports and entertainment stars on the pages of The Voice (The black Powerlist shows that achievement is from a more diverse field of endeavours) and there is, now, a reliance on U.S. celebrity stories. This is odd because there used to be lots of Jamaican stories taken straight from The Gleaner (the Voice’s now-owner in Jamaica) but now the content isn’t much different from many mainstream media sources. To understand why this is a shame you must remember that the Black British community now comes from a wide range of countries which receive very little coverage (representation) by other news organisations.

Also the Faith section concerns itself solely with black Christianity (at least 15% of the black British population is Muslim). This Faith section also links to both News and Entertainment through the coverage, and representation of, gospel music which makes the site unusual in the U.K. as there is rarely in white Christian culture a crossover between religion and entertainment.

The new focus on U.S. stories (in the “World News” section) has the effect of shifting perception of importance. The U.S. takes on more psychogeographic importance, in the site, than other places. Black Britons are being cultivated to see America as important to their lives as the countries of their heritage (there are now more black Britons with African than Jamaican heritage but that is also not effectively represented here).

• Media Industries.

As you are no doubt aware by now there are two stories that you need to know concerning the industry aspect of the product.

1: The Origin Story.

To get a grip on the background I’m going to send you to two sources. First watch the the first two minutes of this music documentary made for a primarily American audience. It explains the post-colonial reasons why there is a Caribbean black community (and African) in the UK and quickly gives you some images and background. Much more disturbing stuff is here in this documentary about the Brixton riots of 1981.

image brix.jpg

In the early 80s there was a strong sense from within the black community that they needed a newspaper for the community. Events like the riots were being reported on by journalists (on T.V. and in print) who were often negative towards black people. Even if they were positive they were outsiders who didn’t really know what was going on. Black people were always being represented from a white person’s perspective (in this way this links to the post-colonialist ideas of Edward Said).

McCalla

Val Mcalla

Val Mcalla started the paper in 1982 from a small council flat in east London in order to give, literally, black people in Britain, a voice. I am sure this is why the board have included this CSP. The paper was an independent (different from the big conglomerate Teen Vogue product). It started with a print run of only 4000 copies but within eight years was shifting over 53,000 copies a week.

The paper aimed itself squarely at the second generation of black Britons. Those whose experience did not lead them to look at another country as home.

The_Voice_COVER_0

McCalla managed to secure funding from two interesting sources. The first was the Greater London Council (The GLC). This was run by Ken Livingstone and was often in direct opposition to the Thatcher government of the day. Livingstone was a supporter of minority and working class groups and he thought the council was a big enough to act as a bulwark against Thatcherism (spoiler alert – eventually she disbanded the GLC to get rid of the big opposition across the Thames – the GLC building is now a hotel and aquarium). The other place was Barclays Bank. The bank had been the subject of high levels of criticism because of its investments in apartheid-era South Africa. Supporting The Voice would be a good P.R. move.

There exists a long list if massively influential black British media, journalistic, and political,  talent who got their break and honed their skills on the paper. Here’s a little wiki-list!

“Well over a hundred people have worked for The Voice newspaper over the years, including former Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips, former BBC and currently Al Jazeera newsman Rageh Omaar, ITV’s Martin Bashir, authors Diran Adebayo, Leone Ross, and Gemma Weekes; film maker and novelist Kolton Lee, novelist Vanessa Walters, broadcasters MTV Jasmine Dotiwala, Henry Bonsu, Dotun Adebayo, Onyekachi Wambu and publisher Steve Pope, among others.” -Wikepedia entry (how lazy am I?)

The paper, and its subsidiaries won lots of awards and were responsible for pushing black issues up the media agenda the U.K. The issue of police racism and harassment being the defining story (a lens if you like through which you can see the purpose of the paper – mainstream media was not reporting the issue or framed it through the perspective of the police, government and lawmakers). The Voice acted in the way a newspaper should – giving people the news that they needed to help them.  All good stuff.

Now for the bad.

2: The current industry story.

McCalla wanted to create a media empire which centered on the paper (much like Condé Montrose Nast had with Vogue magazine). Unfortunately these ventures failed; some fared poorly in the changing media landscape others collapsed through a series of poor decisions.

By the late 90s the paper was in a bad way. There were financial irregularities, lots of staff sackings, the readership dropped to 12,000 and the paper was not faring well against the new rival, The New Nation (which seemed much fresher and more in tune with the zeitgeist).

When McCalla died in 2002 the whole enterprise was thrown into disarray. It was not financially viable and was sold to The Gleaner Group in Jamaica in 2004. This media group already had a presence in the UK (ironically The Gleaner was one of the newspapers, consumed by Jamaican migrants, which The Voice had supplanted in the early 80s – although it still sells). My previous notes about psychogeography link to this acquisition.

There’s not much more to tell as information is sparse. I can’t even tell when the website was set up!

The new website does allow you to write a bit about convergence though.

vids.JPG

You could write about the way The Voice has Facebook, Instagram and YouTube presences which allow it to connect with a new audience (although the views are paltry – few seem to get more than 100 views on Facebook and the Instagram account has grown to over 24,000 thousand followers but only over 1000 following). The recent face-lift has driven up video views however they are not huge (a recent story about Jammer, a grime star, getting a blue plaque on his house only gained 471 views in a month.

• Media Audiences.

There are no comments on any of the stories on the website. There are some comments on the Facebook, YouTube and Instagram pages – but not many.

If you are asked about this you may well have to couch an argument partially in the past; the paper used to have a key target audience. You might also be able to write about the paper by focusing on the Faith section. The paper gives representation to black Christians, and black Christian culture – including gospel music, in a way no other media product does.

That said the board, in its notes, writes about Clay Shirkey’s “End of Audience” theory as a possible area of study here. In some ways this theory explains why the audience has left The Voice Online as it is an old, top-down, non-interactive product. This becomes a hard argument to follow up as you would have to start to write about the media products who have succeeded (Gal-dem would be a great example) but how is the average Media student supposed to jump from discussing the CSP to talking about completely different products? Stick to the CSP as far as possible but be aware of its limitations. It’s all you can do!

Oh and one final thing – The Voice uses lots of “Sponsored Content”.

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These are paid stories and are, with the plentiful adverts, a way of monitizing the website. These days OFCOM rules mean that producers need to be much more upfront about this sort of content.

Exemplar Essay: Paper 2.

To what extent have concerns about identity had an impact on the production and consumption of media products?

Refer to The Voice Website and Teen Vogue to support your answer.

[25 marks] (On the paper you are given two and a half, wide-spaced, pages to answer in. You can always add additional pages but this would suggest that a 500 word answer would be about the right amount – although I have, as usual, bust my own word limit.)

The production of both products is closely linked to identity concerns in the context of their initial creation.

The print version of The Voice was first produced in 1982 in response to concerns within the British black population. The 1981 Brixton riots had demonstrated the dispossession felt by second generation black people. Media representation was often negative and rarely from a black perspective. This is an example of Edward Said’s post-colonial theory of Orientalism but one where the people being misrepresented live within the same country as those representing them (thus truly post-colonial). Val Macalla’s aim, in setting up the paper (and its online descendant) was to allow black journalists to tackle issues affecting the black audience, and from their perspective; The “Faith” section (with its emphasis on black churches and gospel music) allow the site to do this.

Teen Vogue on the other hand was set up in 2003. It was revamped, and moved online, as a response to the disruptive technology of the internet on magazine sales in 2015 and changed focus, under the editorship of Elaine Welteroth, to centre on news, politics and identity issues. Teen Vogue is a part of a big media conglomeration (Condé Nast) and is an example of such a producer targeting a particular audience, in this case teenage girls. In doing so it has successfully identified the interests of its audience (against stereotype). This means that news stories concerning gun control are given more weight than articles concerning make-up. Even within the articles Teen Vogue often skews towards politics and identity concerns in a way which fits its engaged audience so that a recent article on thigh gap is actually a piece on body positivity rather than dieting and exercise and an interview with Janel Parrish about “Pretty Little Liars” is about multi-ethnic representation.

Both products therefore demonstrate Gauntlett’s theories concerning the fluidity of identity which are also clearly identified by applying Tajfel and Turner’s concepts about group formation and sense of worth. Teen Vogue’s landing page recently featured more images of teenage girls as activists, protesting and giving speeches, than behaving merely decorously. The Voice clearly represents black success (in a way that reflects W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of “the talented tenth”) with images of black athletes, musicians, sportspeople and business leaders. In this way both products are clearly positively shaping the way the audience feels about themselves and normative behaviour (which is also part of Gerbner’s cultivation theory).

Unfortunately The Voice has suffered from a lack of investment which affects both the production of material specific to the identity group and the way the identity group identifies with the product. The site only has one journalist who produces churnalistic copy. There are large numbers of sponsored stories (often in the Faith section) and there is a lack of reporting, especially investigative reporting, so that big events affecting black Britons (such as the recent Windrush scandal or the 50th anniversary of the St Paul’s Carnival) receive poor, or no, coverage. There is also an over reliance on material from The U.S. which has the psychogeographic effect of diminishing other sources of information. The small YouTube, Facebook and Instagram followings the site has indicate that it is not connecting to its audience (although a recent revamp has driven up some of its figures).

Identity concerns are central to the audience’s consumption and response to Teen Vogue. Response is not as direct as earlier iterations of Web 2.0 as the site has followed others, such as Vice, in removing comments; current, alt-right, social media usage often results toxic negativity (there is some evidence of this within the Twitter comments for the site, less so for Instagram). Instagram is where the audience engages most with the product as the positive comments about pictures of Sammie Scottie (a staff member) show. The number of likes (six million) also shows massive audience connection.

The Voice Online has lost its identity audience (evidenced by a complete lack of comments and tiny social media followings and viewings) because other products, such as Gal-Dem, more successfully utilise the opportunities of the online platform (following Clay Shirkey’s “end of audience” theories) which blur the distinction between producer and audience. Teen Vogue successfully does this with readers supplying feature content (such as the recent article written by a girl whose brother was a Newtown victim and reader’s Prom and Homecoming picture content).


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5 thoughts on “AQA A Level Media Studies. Teen Vogue and The Voice Online. Notes and Exemplar Essay.

  1. Luke Wooding

    Just finished paper 2 and wanted to thank you a ton for the help on all your articles ❤ You predicted both of them correctly and TV’s, video games and the magazine csps came up in paper 2 too. Thank you!

    Like

    1. Thanks Luke. I’m one of those people who needs to write to think n’ I figure I might as well share it around. I hope it helps you get where you want to go. Thanks for the love.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Teen Vogue and The Voice: My page gets more reconstruction than a post-civil war state! – Mr G's English, Film and Media.

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