Theme 2: Identifying Target Audience

Academic Level

  • Key Stage 4 (UK)


  • English Language and Literature
    • Interpreting Texts
    • Interpreting Images
    • Identifying Target Audience


  • 2 hours (2 1-hour lessons)

Downloadable/Printable Files of Materials on this Page

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This single-lesson module focuses on interpreting the text and images found on the cover of The British Workman. It explores the way in which word and image work together to target an intended audience. The British Workman, published for the first time in 1855, was a richly-illustrated penny monthly funded and produced by members of the Temperance movement. It was largely aimed at working-class men and, to a lesser extent, women.

Additional Materials

  • CLICK HERE for Issue Number 1 of the British Workman
  • CLICK HERE for a slideshow of trades depicted on the left and right sides of the British Workman masthead in the first 21 issues.

Target Audience and the Obedient Reader

Target Audience of the British Workman

Students will:

  • Think about how layout on a page (or screen) affects how we understand or use the page,
  • Improve their understanding of how images work,
  • Think about how they interact with words, and
  • Learn about how to target an audience.
“British Workman” A
“British Workman” B


The British Workman was a cheap monthly paper that came out first in 1855. This is the first issue. Compare the two versions (British Workman A and B) of the front page of the first issue.

  1. What are the similarities/differences between the two mastheads/logos?
  2. Which version is easier to read? Why?
  3. Compare the two mastheads/logos: what do you think each is trying to tell you?
  4. Which version do you think is the original? Why?

Reading the Page: “Mirror, Mirror on the wall…”

Now look carefully at the British Workman masthead.


  • Which of the following jobs can you see (make sure you look at the background too)?
    • tailor, farmer, sewage worker, nurse, doctor, carpenter, builder, road mender, sailor, soldier, office worker, bricklayer, billboard sticker, shop assistant, teacher, carriage driver
  • What can you see in the background? How do you think the background connects to the jobs?
  • How many women can you see? What does that tell you about how the Victorians thought about ‘work’?

target audience is the kind of person we are thinking of when we write something. We all have target audiences–you have one even when you write essays at school. It’s the person in our heads that we want to communicate to.

Mastheads are used by newspapers and magazines to tell readers if they are the target audience or not.

  • What kind of person is the target audience of the British Workman?
  • Now look carefully at the letters of the title on the masthead. What is it supposed to look like? Metal/Wood/Type/Flowers/Animals/People?
  • So who do you think the imagined readers are supposed to believe made the paper? Is it someone pictured in the rest of the masthead or someone else? Is it someone like them or someone very different from them?

Now, think about when you take advice: do you listen to someone you think is “on your side” and can imagine what it’s like to be you, or someone who is only concerned with themselves?

  • So, why is the title made to look the way it is?
  • Go back to comparing version A and B of the whole front page. Why do you think the lines around the edge of the page and between the columns are there in version A? Printers call such lines “rules.”
    • Which of the following reasons for the use of rules is the most convincing do you think? Why? You may decide none or all of them are convincing:
      • The lines frame the page so you can tell when bits have been ripped out or cut off.
      • The lines make the page easier to read by making the sections stand out.
      • They make the page look more like a newspaper and so more authoritative.
      • The lines make you understand the page in a certain way–they “give you the rules” of how to understand the page as a whole.
      • They cut the words and pictures off from the world around it and let you “escape” into the page away from the world more easily.
    • Which of the above explanations most corresponds to the kind of target audience you have discovered for the British Workman?
  • What magazine covers or website or app splash screens do you know from today? Can you tell the target audience from looking at them?

The Obedient Reader

Which of the following words best describe someone who follows instructions?

  • naughty
  • wilful
  • obedient
  • creative
  • kind
  • cruel

Look at the illustration below:

George Cruikshank (illustrator). "The Loaf Lecture." "British Workman" 1 (1855): 1.
George Cruikshank (illustrator). “The Loaf Lecture.” “British Workman” 1 (1855): 1.

List all of the items you can see in the room.

  • Can you tell what kind of room it is?
  • Who do you think all the characters are? (a clue, the man on the left is a guest)
  • Given that it shows a group in 1856, what kind of people do you think they are? How do you know?
    • Young spendthrifts
    • A hard-working family
    • Religious people
    • Uneducated people
  • Now think about what you learned about the mastheads…select the kind of readers the publication wants–the target audience. Can you tell who the main target audience is in the picture? How do you know?
  • Can you tell what’s happening in the picture?
    • What’s on the table?
    • What’s on the man’s knife?

If you aren’t entirely sure what’s happening, that’s what the picture wants you to feel!

Now read the caption again and think: Why does the caption say “See next page”?


If you saw the British Workman in a Victorian shop, it would be in a shop window or behind the shop counter. If you wanted to see the next page you’d have to ask the shopkeeper to let you. What would you have to do to get the shopkeeper to allow you to see it?

If you do want to turn over the page, it means that you are obeying an instruction that the paper is giving you. What kind of relationship does that mean you have to the magazine? If now you know what kind of person the main target audience is, what kind of people do you think indirect target audiences are?

  • Why would it be good for the paper to have both main and indirect target audiences?

Write down 2 things you have learned about how newspapers communicate from this session.



Style and Intended Audience


Read the passage above and compare it to the following version of the same:

We’ve begun this magazine because we want you to be healthy, rich and happy! You and your employers are on the same side: we all need to work together! We shan’t say any more now: just read us and find out!

The two passages mean almost the same thing but they address two different types of reader–two different kinds of target audience. To help decide what target audiences are, think about questions like these:

  • Which passage has more personal pronouns?
  • What kind of vocabulary is used in each?
  • Which one has the longer sentences?
  • Which uses active and passive verbs?
  • What’s the difference in punctuation and what effect does this have?

The Editorial Line (Group Activities)

Magazines often have what’s called an editorial line. The editorial line comprises a set of rules about what the magazine thinks its target audience is like.

GROUP 1: “Our Own Cottage”

Read the following story from the first page of the British Workman and try to decide what the editorial line is as regards work, savings, and beer drinking!

BW1-Our Own Cottage



Beer Drinking:


Questions to consider that you might not have thought of:

  • Who–according to the story–knows what the story tells us is the best thing to do to make the bricklayer healthy, wealthy, and happy?
  • Who tells us what the bricklayer’s name is?

The shillings soon became pounds, and at the end of about ten years the working man’s bank book showed a balance of £200!

  • What is the subject of that sentence? Which one suggests magic? Compare it with the following and explain the differences:

Andrew scrimped and saved, drank only water, and didn’t buy toys for his children or new clothes for his wife and himself. The children went out to work when they were eight years old. After ten years, Andrew had saved enough to buy a plot of land where he could buy a house.”

Have you any clearer idea of what the magazine’s editorial line might be from reading this story?

Now rewrite the story, using the same number of words (about 150) either from the point of view of the workman or from the point of view of the workman’s wife or one of his children. You don’t need to be an “obedient reader” of the original story–though you might want to be!

Now elect a speaker who will report back to the rest of the class about what you’ve found out about the editorial line of the British Workman.

GROUP 2: “The Two Weavers”

Read the following story and try to decide what the editorial line is as regards work, savings, and beer drinking!

BW1-Two Weavers