James Webster

James Webster

webster-james-gProfessor James Webster received his PhD from Indiana University in Mass Communication. His research interests include audience measurement, the behavior of media audiences, and media industries. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media since 1985. His early work focused on television audience behavior and program choice, but more recent studies examine how people consume media across digital platforms. From 1990 to 2005, Prof. Webster served as Associate Dean in Northwestern’s School of Communication and helped create the doctoral program in Media, Technology and Society. He has recently served as a consultant to Nielsen, Turner Broadcasting, Toyota, and the Rudd Center at Yale University. He has written, with Prof. Patricia Phalen and Prof. Lawrence Lichty, Ratings Analysis: The Theory and Practice of Audience Research. It is the standard text on electronic media measurement.

Some of his most recent publications include:
Webster, J. G., & Ksiasek, T. B. (2012) The dynamics of audience fragmentation: Public attention in an age of digital media. Journal of Communication, 62, 39-56.

Kim, S. J., & Webster, J. G. (2012) The impact of a multichannel environment on television news viewing: A longitudinal study of news audience polarization in South Korea. International Journal of Communication, 6, 838-856.

Taneja, H., Webster, J. G., Malthouse, E. C., & Ksiazek, T. B. (2012) Media consumption across platforms: Identifying user-defined repertoires. New Media & Society, 14(6), 951–968.


Understanding Media Markets: Users, Makers and Metrics
Digital media create an attention economy where an endless number of options compete for a limited supply of public attention – an economy where building audiences is a prerequisite for making money or exercising influence. This course explains how the preferences and habits of media users, the strategies and constraints of media makers, and the growing prevalence of media metrics form a dynamic marketplace that shapes public attention. Topics include theories of media choice, the role of social networks, sharing economies, audience-making strategies, biases in measurement, recommender systems, big data, audience fragmentation, and the marketplace of ideas.