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Northwestern School of Communication

James G. Webster

Professor Emeritus
James G. Webster

James G. Webster is a Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. His primary research interest is understanding patterns of media use. He won the Denis McQuail award for his work advancing audience theory and in 2014 published The Marketplace of Attention: How Audiences Take Shape in a Digital Age. Other areas of interest are audience measurement and media industries. He is the lead author of Ratings Analysis: Audience Measurement and Analytics, which is the standard text on electronic media measurement.

From 1990 to 2005, Webster was the Associate Dean of Northwestern’s School of Communication where he helped create the doctoral program in Media, Technology and Society. He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, the Journal of Communication and the International Journal of Communication. For more information, see his personal site.


  • PhD Mass Communication, Indiana University
  • MA Telecommunications, Indiana University
  • BA Psychology, Trinity College, Hartford

Recent Publications

  • Webster, J. G. (2014). The marketplace of attention: How audiences take shape in a digital age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Webster, J. G., Phalen, P. F., & Lichty, L. W. (2014). Ratings analysis: Audience measurement and analytics (4th ed.). New York: Routledge. Second edition translated into Chinese in the TV Industry Management Series by Huaxia Publishing (Beijing), 2004.
  • 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.
  • Webster. J. G. (2011). The duality of media: A structurational theory of public attention. Communication Theory, 21, 43-66. Winner of the ASCoR McQuail Award for the best article advancing communication theory.
  • Webster, J. G. (2010). User information regimes: How social media shape patterns of consumption. Northwestern University Law Review, 104(2), 593-612. Reprinted in K. B.Tripp (Ed.). (2011). Entertainment, publishing and the arts handbook. Thomson Reuters.
  • Ksiazek, T. B., Malthouse, E. C., & Webster, J. G. (2010). News-seekers and avoiders: Exploring patterns of total news consumption across media and the relationship to civic participation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54(4), 551-568.
  • Ksiazek, T. B. & Webster, J. G. (2008). Cultural proximity and audience behavior: The role of language in patterns of polarization and multicultural fluency. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52(3), 485-503.
  • Webster, J. G. (2006). Audience flow past and present: Inheritance effects reconsidered. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(2), 323-337.
  • Yuan, E. &, Webster, J. G. (2006). Channel repertoires: Using peoplemeter data in Beijing. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(3), 524-536.
  • Webster, J. G. (2005). Beneath the veneer of fragmentation: Television audience polarization in a multi-channel world. Journal of Communication. 55(2), 366-382. Reprinted in B. Gunter & D. Machin (Eds.). (2009). Media Audiences (Sage Benchmarks in Communication).


  • CS 355-0 Audience Analysis
  • CS 455-0 Current Issues in Audience Studies
  • MTS 525-0 Understanding Media Markets: Users, Makers and Metrics