Herzog, Herta

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Herta Herzog

Herta Herzog (1910-2010) was an outstanding pioneer in the field of communication studies. She belonged to the first generation of women researchers, those who developed their careers between the 1930s and 1960s. She was born in Austria, where she received her academic training at the Vienna Circle. Later, she moved to the United States. From Columbia University, she became a leading figure in the academic study of mass media. She then moved onto professional practice, where she became the “most powerful woman in American advertising” (Fullerton in Simonson, 2016: 72).

Herzog was one of the first scholars to apply some techniques of communication research that she herself had created to the study of communication and advertising, such as the in-depth interview and the focus groups. One of her best known articles, “On borrowed experience” (Herzog, 1941), analyzed female audiences of radio serials and it is probably the first deep research on female experiences as audiences. Because of this and other relevant contributions, such as “What do we really know about daytime serial listeners?” (Herzog, 1942), Herzog has been considered a pioneer in the development of the theory of uses and gratifications.

The uses and gratifications theory states that audiences are selective and that they choose the media that best satisfy their psychological and social needs such as entertainment, information, identification or social connection. This approach was, according to Herzog, not only functionalist, but also psychoanalytical and critical, since often housewives were presented in her studies as victims of the patriarchal and consumer society.

Herzog was, overall, a prolific author and her research had a wide influence on the development of the early years of the field of communication studies. She believed it was essential for people to understand the ways in which media messages shaped their beliefs and values, and she devoted her entire life, until her last works on anti-Semitism, to answering the whys and wherefores of audiences.

Herta Herzog passed away in 2010 in Vienna (Austria) and left a lasting legacy in the field of communication studies that, unfortunately, has remained in oblivion for more than half a century. Her contributions have an enormous human and scientific value and, therefore, we must continue to recover her figure so that she can serve as an inspiration to new generations.

Selection of publications:

Herzog, H. (1941). On borrowed experience. Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, 9(1), 65-95. https://doi.org/10.5840/zfs1941915

Herzog, H. (1942). What do we really know about daytime serial listeners? In P. Lazarsfeld and F. Stanton (eds.), Radio research 1942-1943. Duell, Sloan and Pearce.

Profile written with the collaboration of Soledad Haro and Ana Cobo.

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