A Uses and Gratifications Study of Contemporary Christian Radio Web Sites

Josh Bentley writes in 2012:

* Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is a style of music that arose out of the Jesus Movement in the 1970s (Lochte, 2007; Woods, 1999). Musically, it has become very similar to mainstream adult contemporary or pop music, but it is distinguished by its religious lyrics (Creasman, 1996). CCM radio has become an important player in the mainstream radio market (Kelly, 2003). According to Donovan (2009), the number of CCM radio stations more than doubled from 1998 to 2008, making CCM radio the fourth most common radio format in the United States and the second most common music format behind Country. The ratings service Arbitron reported that the CCM format reached more than 16 million listeners a week in 2009 and tied for 12th out of 55 formats in nationwide market share (Radio Today, 2010).

* The uses and gratifications perspective studies media according to the functions they perform (Rubin, 2009). Simply put, uses and gratifications scholars are interested in how and why people use media. Early examples of this type of research include Herzog’s (1954) study of the reasons people listened to daytime radio serials, and Berelson’s (1954) investigation into what people missed about the newspaper during a newspaper strike. However, Katz (1959) is commonly regarded as the father of uses and gratifications research because of his editorial calling for social scientists to focus on what people ‘‘do with the media’’ instead of what ‘‘media do to people’’ (p. 2). According to Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch (1974), the uses and gratifications approach assumes that audience members are active in media use and select the media they believe will gratify their needs. Because there are multiple sources of gratification, media must compete for people’s attention. Furthermore, this approach assumes that people are sufficiently self-aware to be able to explain their motivations in surveys or interviews. Since the 1960s, various typologies of uses and gratifications have emerged (Severin & Tankard, 2001). Weiss (1971) held that media functions were either ‘‘fantasy-escapist or informational-educational in significance’’ (p. 312). McQuail, Blumler, and Brown (1972/2000) offered four types of what they called ‘‘mediaperson interactions’’ (p. 447). These included diversion, personal relationships, personal identity, and surveillance. People have been found to use television for many functions, such as learning, passing time, arousal, escape, companionship, and relaxation (Rubin, 2009). Radio also offers information, companionship, mood enhancement, and relaxation (Mendelsohn, 1964). Research into the uses and gratifications of the Internet has consistently found motivating factors such as information, convenience, communication, entertainment, and interactivity (Charney, 1996; Eighmey, 1997; King, 1998; Korgaonkar & Wolin, 1999; Lin, 1999).

* Uses and gratifications studies of CCM radio listening have found that listeners use this format for entertainment, to reinforce spiritual beliefs, and to avoid secular radio (Creasman, 1996). Using factor analysis, Woods (1999) identified three underlying gratifications that influenced CCM radio listening. The first factor, paracommunity, suggested that some listeners ‘‘vicariously celebrate shared beliefs in para-community with other believers’’ (p. 238). This factor included survey items related to spiritual guidance, fellowship, and witnessing. In other words, listeners were using CCM radio for activities more often associated with church. Wood’s second factor, content reaction, indicated that listeners were seeking something that was not ‘‘secular’’ but would be ‘‘consistent with their core values as Christians’’ (p. 238). The third factor, lifestyle management, was related to how CCM radio helped listeners ‘‘manage their emotional, physical, and spiritual lives’’ (p. 239).

* In a focus group study of college students, Hooper (2004) found that CCM listeners used the music ‘‘to further develop their spirituality, to worship God, to alter their moods, and to share their Christian faith with others’’ (p. 7). She also received several responses related to the content reaction factor in the Woods (1999) study. Many of the students wanted to avoid non-Christian music, or felt that ‘‘they should not listen to secular music’’ (Hooper, 2004, p. 8).

* Several studies have explored the uses and gratifications of radio station Web sites. Murphy (1998) surveyed users of classic rock radio Web sites and, using factor analysis, found seven underlying motivations: feels good to know the radio station; aesthetics; downloading; interaction; information; relaxation; and entertainment.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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