Understanding mass media

Mass media refers to media technologies that reach a large audience, whether it is written, broadcasted, or spoken. This includes television, radio, advertising, movies, the Internet, newspapers magazines…

The association to broadcasting led to the use of the expression mostly in relation to radio and television, but printed material, in particular newspapers and magazines, can also be considered mass media. Newspapers were the original platform for mass media before the emergence of the Internet, the television, or the radio. The public relied on writers and journalists for the local newspapers to provide them with the latest news happening in their regions.

In the 1890s the radio was invented. Radio overrides the newspaper as it was considered the most pertinent source for mass media. Families would gather around the radio and listen to their favorite radio station programs to hear the latest news regarding politics, social issues, and entertainment.

After the invention of the television, it soon replaced the radio as the most effective platform to reach the general public. The Internet is now the most relevant form of mass media and has become a major tool used by news outlets. The general public is now able to access the same news outlets in an instant with just one click instead of having to wait for scheduled programs. Mass media is considered one of the only sources that the general public relies on to get news.

Mass media evolved over time and gained a heterogeneous audience, which basically means people that share a consistent level of interest and expertise in a topic. This makes mass media can appeal to a wide target audience and communicates a public message, that can be transmitted through various channels such as TV, Radio, newspapers, or even social media.

We distinguish four main types of mass media. The first one being “print media” is one of the oldest ways to reach the masses. Print media refers to newspapers as the main source of information and ranges from billboards to coupons. The second type is called “Outdoor media”. Ambient marketing is a great example of modern outdoor media. This refers to when brands use unusual locations and items to promote their products. An example would be the case of “Folgers”, which is a brand of coffee that used manhole covers to promote coffee in a unique and eye-catching way. Broadcasting media (television, radio, video, and games…) appeals to heterogeneous audiences no matter their age, background, views, and interests. This type of mass media uses the help of an electronic broadcasting system, audio, and video content, and a dispersed audience. Digital media is the new type of mass media that saw the light after the inflation of the Internet. There are around 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide in 2021, which means that the world is dependent on digital media.

As seen throughout the article, we can see that mass media is a significant force in modern culture. Sociologists refer to its impact as a mediated culture, where media reflects and creates the culture.

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