Television viewers who enjoy discussing their favourite show on the Internet can offer a unique audience study, says a Canadian communications graduate.
Elizabeth Adams has written a thesis on the cyber fans of Coronation Street. The thesis, entitled " 'Reg isn't dead, he's just run off that's all', an analysis of Coronation Street and Fandom in Cyberspace", was based on two weeks of "lurking" on a newsgroup dedicated to the long-running British soap opera. The regulars of rec.art.tv.uk.coronation-st gave Ms Adams a unique one-way mirror into the show's impact on a sector of its loyal following. Unlike the average market observer or academic she was able to view a frank discussion where those involved were unaware that they were being observed by a researcher.
"I thought at first it might be unethical," she said. But that problem was answered for her by one fan who wrote: "This is a public forum and everyone in the world can read it."
Many fans hope that Granada Television, which produces the show, will read and respond to their critiques. "Rita was one of my favourite characters. Now she's a shrew," complained one member. Ms Adams, who has since obtained her masters degree in communications from Concordia University in Montreal, says there was no typical fan of the 36-year-old series. But she found them all to be very congenial, offering information on the past history the series or the details of a certain character.
"We are all a community," wrote one fan in the United Kingdom who had been trying to get the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to cease its six-week time lag so that all the group's world-wide regulars could enjoy the show in sync.
Ms Adams, born and raised in Scotland, has a soft spot for the series that she used to always watch with her grandmother, who still tunes in regularly at the age of 93.