The Marketplace of Attention wins 2015 AEJMC Picard Book Award

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June 10, 2015

School of Communication professor James G. Webster has won the 2015 Robert Picard Book Award given by the Media Management and Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

His title, The Marketplace of Attention: How Audience Take Shape in a Digital Age (MIT Press, 2014), received the recognition. 

The Media Management and Economics (MME) Division of the AEJMC promotes teaching, research, and public service activities in mass media management and economics. They seek to provide an international platform for “an exchange of minds to share experiences, ideas and visions” in the field.

The Robert Picard Book Award is named in honor of MME Division member and senior scholar Robert Picard of Oxford University to honor the author(s) of a book or a monograph published during the previous year that makes a significant contribution to the field of media management, economics and entrepreneurship.

Webster will receive the prize on August 7 at the AEJMC annual conference in San Francisco.

“AEJMC is the major professional association for people in journalism education,” Webster said. “I had always hoped that the book would speak to both practitioners and academics, so this award is especially gratifying.”

In The Marketplace of Attention, Webster takes a look at contemporary audiences, what we believe about them—and what we’re getting wrong. The book shows that public attention is at once diverse and concentrated, that users move across a variety of outlets, producing high levels of audience overlap. “So although audiences are fragmented in ways that would astonish midcentury broadcasting executives,” Webster said, “this doesn’t signal polarization.” Our preferences are not immune from media influence, he said. “We typically encounter ideas that cut across our predispositions. In the process, we will remake the marketplace of ideas and reshape the twenty-first century public sphere.”

Webster’s book was favorably reviewed in The International Journal of Press/Politics. “Webster at once offers an exciting characterization of a dynamic marketplace of attention as well as a careful check on theorists and empiricists making broad claims about the dire consequences of media choice or micro-targeting,” the reviewer wrote, noting Webster’s “cool-headed yet provocative approach” to the subject.

Webster is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies. He received his PhD from Indiana University.