Introduction to Sociology/Media

Mass media is a term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda. It is also gaining popularity in the blogosphere when referring to the mainstream media. The term mass media is mainly used by academics and media-professionals. When members of the general public refer to "the media" they are usually referring to the mass media, or to the news media, which is a section of the mass media.


To do:
Per Future Chapters at Introduction to Sociology table of contents, this module is yet to be completed.

History edit

During the 20th century, the advent of mass media was driven by technology that allowed the massive duplication of material at a low price. Physical duplication technologies such as printing, record pressing and film duplication allowed the duplication of books, newspapers and movies at low prices to huge audiences. Television and radio allowed the electronic duplication of content for the first time. Mass media had the economics of linear replication: a single work could make money proportional to the number of copies sold, and as volumes went up, unit costs went down, increasing profit margins further. Vast fortunes were to be made in mass media.

Corporate and mainstream outlets edit

Sometimes mass media (and the news media in particular) is referred to as "corporate media". Other references include the "mainstream media". Technically, "mainstream media" includes outlets that are in harmony with the prevailing direction of influence in the culture at large. In the United States, usage of these terms often depends on the connotations the speaker wants to invoke. The term "corporate media" is often used by leftist media critics to imply that the mainstream media is manipulated by large multinational corporations. This is countered by right-leaning authors with the term "MSM", the acronym implying that the majority of mass media sources is dominated by leftist powers which are furthering their own agenda.

Purposes edit

  • Advocacy, both for business and social concerns. This can include advertising, marketing, propaganda, public relations, and political communication.
  • Enrichment and education, such as literature.
  • Entertainment, traditionally through performances of acting, music, and sports, along with light reading; since the late 20th century also through video and computer games.
  • Journalism.
  • Public service announcements.

Forms edit

Electronic media and print media include:

  • Broadcasting, in the narrow sense, for radio and television.
  • Various types of discs or tape. In the 20th century, these were mainly used for music. Video and computer uses followed.
  • Film, most often used for entertainment, but also for documentary film|documentaries.
  • Internet, which has many uses and presents both opportunities and challenges. Blogs are unique to the Internet.
  • Publishing, in the narrow sense, meaning on paper, mainly via books, magazines, and newspapers.

Toward the end of the 20th century, the advent of the World Wide Web marked the first era in which any individual could have a means of exposure on a scale comparable to that of mass media. For the first time, anyone with a web site can address a global audience, although serving to high levels of web traffic is still relatively expensive. It is possible that the rise of peer-to-peer technologies may have begun the process of making the cost of bandwidth manageable. Although a vast amount of information, imagery, and commentary (i.e. "content") has been made available, it is often difficult to determine the authenticity and reliability of information contained in (in many cases, self-published) web pages. The invention of the Internet has also allowed breaking news stories to reach around the globe within minutes. This rapid growth of instantaneous, decentralized communication is often deemed likely to change mass media and its relationship to society.

"Cross-media" means the idea of distributing the same message through different media channels. A similar idea is expressed in the news industry as "convergence". Many authors understand cross-media publishing to be the ability to publish in both print and on the web without manual conversion effort. An increasing number of wireless devices with mutually incompatible data and screen formats make it even more difficult to achieve the objective “create

Contrast with non-mass media edit

Non-mass or "personal" media (point-to-point and person-to-person communication) include:

  • Speech
  • Gestures
  • Telephony
  • Postal mail
  • Some uses of the Internet
  • Some Interactive media

References edit