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How to write a social media case study (with template)

Written by by Jenn Chen

Published on  October 10, 2019

Reading time  8 minutes

You’ve got a good number of social media clients under your belt and you feel fairly confident in your own service or product content marketing strategy. To attract new clients, you’ll tell them how you’ve tripled someone else’s engagement rates but how do they know this is true? Enter the case study.

Social media case studies are often used as part of a sales funnel: the potential client sees themselves in the case study and signs up because they want the same or better results. At Sprout, we use this strategy with our own case studies highlighting our customer’s successes.

Writing and publishing case studies is time intensive but straight forward. This guide will walk through how to create a social media case study for your business and highlight some examples.

What is a social media case study?

A case study is basically a long testimonial or review. Case studies commonly highlight what a business has achieved by using a social media service or strategy, and they illustrate how your company’s offerings help clients in a specific situation. Some case studies are written just to examine how a problem was solved or performance was improved from a general perspective. For this guide, we’ll be examining case studies that are focused on highlighting a company’s own products and services.

Case studies come in all content formats: long-form article, downloadable PDF, video and infographic. A single case study can be recycled into different formats as long as the information is still relevant.

At their core, case studies serve to inform a current or potential customer about a real-life scenario where your service or product was applied. There’s often a set date range for the campaign and accompanying, real-life statistics. The idea is to help the reader get a clearer understanding of how to use your product and why it could help.

Broad selling points like “our service will cut down your response time” are nice but a sentence like “After three months of using the software for responses, the company decreased their response time by 52%” works even better. It’s no longer a dream that you’ll help them decrease the response time because you already have with another company.

So now that you understand what a case study is, let’s get started on how to create one that’s effective and will help attract new clients.

How to write a social marketing case study

Writing an effective case study is all about the prep work. You’ve got to get all of the questions and set up ready so you can minimize lots of back and forth between you and the client.

1. Prepare your questions

Depending on how the case study will be presented and how familiar you are with the client to be featured, you may want to send some preliminary questions before the interview. It’s important to not only get permission from the company to use their logo, quotes and graphs but also to make sure they know they’ll be going into a public case study.

Your preliminary questions should cover background information about the company and ask about campaigns they are interested in discussing. Be sure to also identify which of your products and services they used. You can go into the details in the interview.

Once you receive the preliminary answers back, it’s time to prepare your questions for the interview. This is where you’ll get more information about how they used your products and how they contributed to the campaign’s success.

2. Interview

When you conduct your interview, think ahead on how you want it to be done. Whether it’s a phone call, video meeting or in-person meeting, you want to make sure it’s recorded. You can use tools like Google Meet, Zoom or UberConference to host and record calls (with your client’s permission, of course). This ensures that your quotes are accurate and you can play it back in case you miss any information. Tip: test out your recording device and process before the interview. You don’t want to go through the interview only to find out the recording didn’t save.

Ask open-ended questions to invite good quotes. You may need to use follow-up questions if the answers are too vague. Here are some examples.

  • Explain how you use (your product or service) in general and for the campaign. Please name specific features.
  • Describe how the feature helped your campaign achieve success.
  • What were the campaign outcomes?
  • What did you learn from the campaign?

Since we’re focused on creating a social media case study in this case, you can dive more deeply into social strategies and tactics too:

  • Tell me about your approach to social media. How has it changed over time, if at all? What role does it play for the organization? How do you use it? What are you hoping to achieve?
  • Are there specific social channels you prioritize? If so, why?
  • How do you make sure your social efforts are reaching the right audience?
  • What specific challenges do organizations like yours face when it comes to social?
  • How do you measure the ROI of using social ? Are there certain outcomes that prove the value of social for your organization? What metrics are you using to determine how effective social is for you?

As the conversation continues, you can ask more leading questions if you need to to make sure you get quotes that tie these strategic insights directly back to the services, products or strategies your company has delivered to the client to help them achieve success. Here are just a couple of examples.

  • Are there specific features that stick out to you as particularly helpful or especially beneficial for you and your objectives?
  • How are you using (product/service) to support your social strategy? What’s a typical day like for your team using it?

quote from sprout case study

The above quote was inserted into the Sprout Lake Metroparks case study . It’s an example of identifying a quote from an interview that helps make the impact of the product tangible in a client’s day to day.

At the end of the interview, be sure to thank the company and request relevant assets.

Afterwards, you may want to transcribe the interview to increase the ease of reviewing the material and writing the case study. You can DIY or use a paid service like Rev to speed up this part of the process.

3. Request assets and graphics

This is another important prep step because you want to make sure you get everything you need out of one request and avoid back and forth that takes up both you and your customer’s time. Be very clear on what you need and the file formats you need them in.

Some common assets include:

  • Logo in .png format
  • Logo guidelines so you know how to use them correctly
  • Links to social media posts that were used during the campaign
  • Headshots of people you interviewed
  • Social media analytics reports. Make sure you name them and provide the requested date range, so that if you’re using a tool like Sprout, clients know which one to export.

social media contests - instagram business report

4. Write the copy

Now that the information has been collected, it’s time to dissect it all and assemble it. At the end of this guide, we have an example outline template for you to follow. When writing a case study, you want to write to the audience that you’re trying to attract . In this case, it’ll be a potential customer that’s similar to the one you’re highlighting.

Use a mix of sentences and bullet points to attract different kinds of readers. The tone should be uplifting because you’re highlighting a success story. When identifying quotes to use, remove any fillers (“um”) and cut out unnecessary info.

pinterest case study

5. Pay attention to formatting

Sprout case study of Stoneacre Motor Group

And finally, depending on the content type, enlist the help of a graphic designer to make it look presentable. You may also want to include call-to-action buttons or links inside of your article. If you offer free trials, case studies are a great place to promote them.

Social media case study template

Writing a case study is a lot like writing a story or presenting a research paper (but less dry). This is a general outline to follow but you are welcome to enhance to fit your needs.

Headline Attention-grabbing and effective. Example: “ How Benefit turns cosmetics into connection using Sprout Social ” Summary A few sentences long with a basic overview of the brand’s story. Give the who, what, where, why and how. Which service and/or product did they use? Introduce the company Give background on who you’re highlighting. Include pertinent information like how big their social media team is, information about who you interviewed and how they run their social media. Describe the problem or campaign What were they trying to solve? Why was this a problem for them? What were the goals of the campaign? Present the solution and end results Describe what was done to achieve success. Include relevant social media statistics (graphics are encouraged). Conclusion Wrap it up with a reflection from the company spokesperson. How did they think the campaign went? What would they change to build on this success for the future? How did using the service compare to other services used in a similar situation?

Case studies are essential marketing and sales tools for any business that offer robust services or products. They help the customer reading them to picture their own company using the product in a similar fashion. Like a testimonial, words from the case study’s company carry more weight than sales points from the company.

When creating your first case study, keep in mind that preparation is the key to success. You want to find a company that is more than happy to sing your praises and share details about their social media campaign.

Once you’ve started developing case studies, find out the best ways to promote them alongside all your other content with our free social media content mix tool .

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Mass Media and Communication

In the age of a communications and information revolution, there is an immense and simultaneous development of technologies.

Being referred to as the ‘old’ media, television, radio and the press are facing significant changes. The considerable popularity of the Internet influences the perception of modern mass media. Cutting-edge technologies provide people with the possibility of exchanging and processing information as well as communicating more quickly than ever before. Nowadays, there are no boundaries for the mass media. Information can be reached by anyone willing to obtain it. Interaction between people has also been transformed in the face of these technologies.

We Will Write a Custom Case Study Specifically For You For Only $13.90/page!

The new communication model rediscovers social relations. The information revolution has radically changed modern society. People can no longer imagine their lives without daily use of Internet. Enormous amount of information is being produced annually, and each year it increases in a geometric progression. In addition, considerable changes took place in the sphere of media theory.

Digitalization, interactivity and convergence play a pivotal role in today’s mass communication; thus, shaping contemporary perception of the new media. Problem Formulation While bringing the improvements, technological changes can also be destructive. A significant gap is being formed between those who can adjust to the newest implementation and those who cannot, young and old, poor and rich. Mainly, it concerns distinctions between people but it can equally well be projected on the countries. Some governments can allow buying and applying the cutting-edge technologies while others are being at the tail-end. Therefore, all these changes should be perceived through a complex examination that contains different points of view such as economic, political and social opportunities and threats.

In a modern world, no country can stand aside without participating in the implementation of the new technologies which impact on the whole of society both within a country and in the international context. The mass media are among the most pliable spheres, which, in turn, has a particularly significant influence on consumers and producers, users and non-users. The access to information alongside with its content is being affected, as well. Within the industry, various firms have to strategically re-orientate themselves in order to adapt to the new standards and order (Kung, Picard & Towse, 2008, p.2). While going with the times, governments also have to adjust to these changes.

Although the Internet itself is not regulated, the media industries are. Therefore, governments need to realign and implement new regulations in the sphere of law and adjust it to the new platform. Global Village Mass media breaks down the barriers of time and space between people and nations, and, therefore, creates one global community where similarities are emphasized while differences are submerged. In this context, the Internet has made the communication quite easy. According to Williams (2003, p.

214), in order to describe this phenomenon McLuhan invented the term ‘global village’. His perception of consequences caused by the growth in global media and communications technology was positive and beneficial. Electronic communications create a unique environment where relations between participants can be characterized as interdependent. As a result, international mutual understanding develops and, therefore, differences are reduced. While some suppose that global media plays a role of force that promotes equality and cooperation between nations, their mutual readiness to help strengthens universal democracy, others argue in this regard. There are some imbalances between those who are considered to be global villagers.

It results in an unequal distribution of the information hardware and software throughout the global village. Williams (2003) states, the exchange of ideas in the global village is far from being equal. In this context various values, lifestyles and products that come from the West in particular those of the United States, prevail. The control of the media and communications industries rests in the hands of a small number of firms. Western countries, in particular the USA, are seen as dominating the global village, controlling the flow of information and entertainment across the planet.

Therefore, massive growth of global media is uneven and unequal. The West’s domination of the global village is not disputed. What is a matter of contention is the consequence of this influence. The spread of global media, as well as their increasing centrality in most people’s lives, is seen as a problem for local communities. People are trying to preserve their distinctiveness in the face of changes brought about by globalization. The impact of global media raises a question of cultural, national and individual identity.

Each person has a need of finding his or hers place in the world, alongside with identifying who they are and where they belong. In the modern world, the primary way in which people have done this is through the nation. A crucial element in defining who we are has always been national identity. In this sense, the global media poses a threat to any nation, because of erasing the imaginary boundaries that allow drawing a distinction between various groups of people (Williams, 2003, p. 214-215). Mass Communication To understand mass communication in the digital age, first it is necessary to understand the process of communication.

Communication is the act of sending messages, ideas and opinions from one person to another. Meanwhile, mass communication is transmitting the information through a unique device which is also referred to as a medium to large audiences. The newest media industry also is growing the fastest. Internet media have become a new mass medium as well as an integrated delivery system for traditional print, audio, and video and interactive media (such as video games). The Internet also offers access to many other consumer services, such as shopping and social networking, and a place for businesses to sell their products using advertising and product promotion.

The economics of the communications industries makes digital media of delivery highly powerful. All the industries involved in building and maintaining this interconnected network— broadcast, cable, telephone, computer, software, satellite and the consumer electronics industries— want a piece of the estimated $1 trillion in income that digital delivery represents. Digital technology is transforming the media business by enabling faster transmission of more information to more people than ever before (Biagi, 2011). With the spread of the digital media, the whole frame of mediated communication is widened. Even in case that access to the Internet remains restricted to less than 20 percent of the world population, and local and national usage is dominating compared to transnational use, the Internet provides a new form of mediated space allowing individual access worldwide.

The reach of this mediated space is further expanded by connections to a wide range of cell phone networks. Mediated public, semi-public and private space is available and accessible for any individual, group, company or institution; limitations pertain not only to location, but language, education, knowledge and culture. A variety of digitalized and born-digital media are now embedded in daily life. One aspect relates to the use of digital media for performing actions at a distance, replacing face-to-face activities or phone/mail activities. A virtual store can be visited instead of the real one. Some of these processes may be best understood as new means of performing already-known activities, while others are better understood as new kinds and types of activities that were not possible without digital media.

The distinction is blurred: the Internet favors the development of non-local, eventually transnational communities, but it would be a mistake to claim that such communities did not previously exist. It would also be mistaken, however, to claim that peer-to-peer communities would emerge without Internet. At the same time, the Internet also favors local public spheres (Finneman, 2006). Definition of the Old and New Media Before the 1970s, media were defined by the systems that delivered them. Paper delivered the print media—newspapers, magazines and books. Antennas carried broadcast signals—radio and television.

Movies required film, and music traveled on round discs. These traditional media each were specifically connected to their own method of delivery and organized into different types of the companies—newspaper, magazine and book publishers; recording and movie studios; radio and TV stations (Biagi, 2011). Media is a term that refers to technologies through which content created for groups of consumers is moved and organized. Technology has transformed the nature of information and communication. In an interconnected digital world, the speed and convenience of the network redefines the mass media industries and erases all previous notions of how mass communications should work.

Media and communication technologies were distinct, governed by their own set of political and economic arrangements, and storing and processing information in different places and ways. Nowadays, the convergence of telecommunications, computing technologies and media can be witnessed. They are being brought together by digital technology, which enables “an unlimited amount of information to be stored, transmitted, gathered and utilized in new ways, and makes feasible the linking together of homes, workplaces and businesses in one global information network” (Williams, 2003, p.227-228). New media entrepreneurs, governments, policy makers and many media practitioners highlight the miraculous transformations that are occurring. The development of the information society is an inevitable and beneficial outcome of technological change.

The media are a crucial part of this society, driven by technological change and facilitating positive and beneficial social change. According to McQuail (2010), the term ‘new media’ has appeared in the 1960s, implying an expanding and varying set of applied communication technologies. It can also be defined in a more complex way which links information communication technologies (ICT) and a wide range of social contexts. The main difference between the new and old media is that the las one lacks the same understanding of applied devices and prevalent social arrangements. The essential features of the ‘new media’ are interconnection, interactivity, ubiquity and boundlessness. The two significant driving forces of change within the scope of communications revolution are: satellite communication and the conjunction of the computer.

The process of digitalization lies in the center of these technological changes. It facilitates the exchange of the information of all kinds which is being formatted accordingly in order to be transferred quickly and easily. New means of transmission have changed some aspects of mass communication. Cable, radio and satellite have immensely contributed to the increase of the capacity to transmit information. The range of possibilities has also been expanded due to the emergence of new means of storage and retrieval.

It is obvious that the traditional media had benefited immensely from the implications of all these innovations. McQuail (2010) suggest that the communications revolution has influenced the ‘balance of power’ by shifting it from the media to the audience. Thus, more options have appeared, and their wide choice selection results in an increase, in activity. The new communication model is considerably multi-faceted. The essential feature that is essentially being offered is its interactivity.

Since the emergence of the Internet, traditional media companies have considerably influenced the online world. Their online efforts can be distinguished in offensively and defensively terms. From an offensive perspective, the Internet contributes to the creation of additional profits. The key point is that traditional media companies started their online campaigns relying on the support of an existing offline customer base. Therefore, additional promotion is not essential since the well-known brand already exists.

Nonetheless, the main profits consist in the creation of additional distribution channels extending the customer base and increasing brand awareness as a bonus. From a defensive perspective, the Internet poses a threat to traditional media forcing such companies to invest in their online representation (Kolo & Vogt, 2003). In this context, it becomes more difficult to find distinctions between different types of media. Different methods of the transmission channel are being utilized in order to distribute various information, therefore, the original uniqueness of the form is being reduced. This tendency is being reinforced by the increasing convergence of technology, based on digitalization. McQuail (2010, p.

41) states that “the clear lines of the regulatory regime between the media are already blurred, both recognizing and encouraging greater similarity between different media”. Another tendency that affects any particular national variant of media content and institution is globalization. The integration and convergence of national and global media corporations is encouraged by the society. Familiarity and convenience are highly valuable in the adoption of new technologies, because of people’s fear of something they do not understand and misunderstand about how new technologies work can keep them from changing their established habits. What makes the Web as a mass medium different from traditional media is its capacity to combine commerce with access to information and entertainment.

People not only can buy products on the Web, but they can also learn new things and enjoy themselves. Digital media are characterized by a number of significant first-ever properties anchored in the variability of textualized functional architecture. They are biased differently from all of the formerly known media, and they represent an expansion of both the public and private mediated spaces and contribute to the development of a new, more complex media matrix. A theory of digital media ought to be able to address all of the issues related to this (Finneman, 2006). The Impact of ICT on Culture Information and communication technologies have changed the way people work with information and communicate with each other. The high rate of adoption of such technologies has turned both the workplace and the household into arenas where each person increasingly depends on these technologies in his or hers daily tasks (Browning, Saetre, Stephens & Sornes, 2008, p.

47). In a modern world, people substitute the new ICTs such as the Internet for what were the previous existing communication practices. To be more specific, ICTs are perceived as more efficient, cheaper, faster, and perhaps more accurate ways of carrying out existing communication tasks. However, the unprecedented possibilities offered by ICTs can leave both people and organizations overwhelmed with the information available “just in time” and with the rich repertoire of new ways to communicate throughout the world. The combination of innovation and the market stimulate the search for new tools and methods.

They also help organizations transform data and information into a business advantage.When ICTs are used, culture may both influence them and be influenced by them. Because the imprint of culture is pervasive, it is also powerful. Leaders often want to change and manage cultures, since once one is established, it is an efficient form of control; the enforcement of cultural practices is often driven by peer assessments and approval. While defining culture according to the three main levels—national, organizational, and subcultural—it is also essential to examine how they each relate to ICT use.

Traditionally, this connection can be viewed two different ways. First, technology can affect culture, most obviously on organizational and subcultural occasions. (Browning et al., 2008). The influence of the Internet covers s wide range of technological developments that relate to economic and social change. The invention of the World Wide Web, the development of cable and satellite television, the process of digitalization played a significant role in the transformation of the media industries.

Nowadays, the Internet is perceived as a potential purveyor of goods and many profitable services and, as an alternative to other means of interpersonal communication (McQuail, 2010). Online news is the extensions of newspaper journalism, although this form of information exchange is an evolving direction itself. The use of new media creates diverse opportunities as well as a new perception of content and forms, in which information is being transmitted all over the world. The wide popularity of Internet is guaranteed due to its distinctive technology, manner of use, and range of content and services, and a distinct image of its own. McQuail (2010) emphasizes that the Internet is neither controlled, nor owned by any organization or institution.

The common definition is that it is simply a network of computers that are being interconnected internationally. The operations take place in accordance to agreed protocols. Numerous service providers and telecommunication companies cooperate in order to maintain its flawless operation. Main characteristics of the Internet as a new mass media: • Cutting-edge information technologies. • Flexible character. • Interactivity.

• Public and private orientation. • Absence of regulation. • Interconnection. • Ubiquity and lack of boundaries • Accessible to individuals as communicators. Unlike the broadcast spectrum, the World Wide Web presents an almost unlimited amount of transmission and storage capacity. With that comes the potential for local news stations and newspapers to reach a global audience.

Despite some initial reluctance to embrace the online medium, local television network affiliates in the United States have established a firm presence in cyberspace, sometimes through strategic partnerships with other content providers, and a few standout sites are now generating considerable traffic.1 However, being slow to embrace the online environment has not helped television news. Stone (2001) emphasizes that a leading newspaper sites dominate the local Net news market, outperforming all other local media in a majority of media markets nationally. According to Brown (2000), amidst this competitive backdrop, broadcasters are confronted with justifying the existence of their online operations as the industry transitions into a third generation of Net news marked by new methods of storytelling and ways of engaging audiences in public affairs information. The challenges facing local broadcasters, who have not established reliable online revenue models, are far more daunting than those confronting main newspapers, whose digital editions are much more likely to be profitable or breaking even (as cited in Bucy, 2004, p.

102). Internet as a New Communications Media Today, the Internet delivers all forms of media using a single delivery system without barriers. The Internet has caused the emergence of new media products and new competition in the media business that were impossible to foresee when the Internet as a place for consumers first emerged in 1978, originally designed by a group of scientists who were simply hoping to share information (Biagi, 2011). The Internet is totally different from traditional media because of its global size and absence of central control. Originally developed to help researchers, scientists and educators communicate, the Internet has evolved in a way no one planned or expected. The term digital media describes all forms of communications media that combine text, pictures, sound and video using computer technology.

All digital media use the same numbered codes; therefore, digital media are compatible, which is the main reason for growing so fast. Because of its rapid growth, digital communications have become the biggest factor in the development of all of the today’s mass media industries. Rather than the one-way communication of traditional media, communication on today’s compatible digital networks means someone can receive and send information simultaneously, without barriers. In an interconnected digital world, the speed and convenience of the network redefines the mass media industries and erases all previous notions of how mass communications should work. Today’s media are constantly evolving.

Digital media are similar to traditional media yet different in ways that make them distinct from their predecessors. Because of the interdependence of mass media today, all the media industries are transforming simultaneously (Biagi, 2011). Digitalization and Convergence It is essential to distinguish terms like digital and the Internet although these two are often used interchangeably and that is wrong. Digital describes a technology that allows to store data in binary form. Any form of information (graphics, audio, video, text or photography) can be shared due to its standardized format. Meanwhile, the Internet means a complex system in the network of which all the above-mentioned information can be distributed.

Clearly, it is not the only way to conduct a transmission of data. Other distribution systems include telephones, radio, television and computers which can be either analogue or digital depending upon the architecture of the system. Therefore, digitalization is a highly significant process of mathematical conversion of all types of information into binary form. Being in the standardized format, it can be understood, compressed, stored, transmitted and retrieved by any digital device by another person from any point on the globe regardless of physical distance. Digitalization opens new possibilities resulting in the creation of new products and services (Kung et al.

, 2008). The emergence of the Internet alongside with the implication of digitalization enables convergence. Convergence can be understood in a number of different ways: as the technologically-driven combination of the content, its digitalization or computing and broadcasting. In the context ICTs, the convergence takes place in several areas. According to Garcia-Murillo and MacInnes (2003) it occurs in technologies and industries as well as regulation.

The evolution of technology in the computer, telecommunications, and media industries allows for many combinations, and each results in a different basket of services. Regulatory Perspectives Media and society are closely interconnected. The Internet is the key of the new communications media. In this context, privacy is the base for claiming freedom from control. In addition, the policing alongside with enforcing national frontiers faces considerable difficulties while trying to keep out the unwanted foreign communication.

McQuail (2010) points out that the continued strength of institutional controls should not be underestimated while new technology seems to increase the promise of freedom of communication. Regulation of the media sector is achieved in several different ways. The media industries are subject to anti-monopoly legislation/competition law. Another mean of regulation is intellectual property (IP) law, mainly copyright law, and in many ways this has become a universal regulatory force. Copyright law (while still national law) has become increasingly globalized lately through international treaties setting minimum standards for rights and their enforcement. Copyright law has become progressively stronger as its scope and duration have been increased as well as the penalties for non-compliance.

The globalization of the media industries is being reflected by this global agenda (Kung et al., 2008). The impact of Internet on content diversity and ownership in media industries is a much discussed topic as is the separate question whether the Internet should be specifically regulated, and if so how and by what regulatory body. There are many difficult issues here: media industries typically require individual regulatory regimes, but the Internet carries a mixture of content from all these industries; moreover, the Internet is global and evasion of regulation within one country is obviously extremely easy. In order to regulate this sphere effectively, an international regulatory body needs to implement international law and sanctions.

(Kung, 2008, p.11-12) There was an attempt on the part of the federal government to regulate and coordinate the Internet. Nevertheless, the implementation of the same instruments designed to facilitate the coordination of the broadcast media, had insignificant results. Only an extremely limited control over the Internet and its content can be exercised by the US government. The Impact of the Internet on Traditional Media The revolution in information technology has influenced everyone’s life. These innovations have also caused revolutionary changes in the information and entertainment delivery.

These transformations result in creating a more informed and engaged mass public. There is a direct dependence between the Internet and the traditional media. The more time is spent on the Internet, the less it is dedicated to the traditional media. The study conducted by Nie and Erbring (2002) confirms this trend and suggests its further integration of media and information delivery technologies. Therefore, it is likely to have a significant impact on the economics of the media industry. For the most part, the Internet today is not only an entertainment utility but an enormous public library with a search engine that enables to find any necessary information.

The Internet is a new medium, but its growth as a true mass medium for people seeking information and entertainment is limited only by digital technology and economics. The large media companies have vast amounts of money available to bankroll new technologies. These companies also have a shared interest in seeing their investments succeed. Some observers have predicted, for example, that print media are dead, yet book sales continue to be steady, and publishers have developed e-books to take advantage of the digital form (Biagi, 2011). The history of the evolution of media shows that the introduction of a new medium or a new delivery system does not mean the end of the old.

The continuous expansion of the media industries during the 20th century demonstrates this evolution. When television was introduced, for example, radio did not disappear. Instead, radio adapted to its new place in the media mix, delivering music, news and talk. Today, radio exists extremely comfortably alongside television. Movies, which also were threatened by the introduction of television, responded by delivering more spectacular and explicit entertainment than people could see on television, and today movies still play a pivotal role in the business of media.

The different media compete for the public’s attention and jockey for positions of dominance, but no medium disappears (Biagi, 2011). Conclusion The emergence of the Internet has influenced the industry of mass media significantly. The rules of completion between the old media and the new have undergone some serious consideration. Thanks to its unique characteristics the digital media predominates over other spheres. One the most salient features of the Internet is the implementation of cutting-edge technologies, in the timely measures.

Information technologies are being developed on a continuing basis. The efficient use of these innovations allows surpass all the other types of media. In a modern changeable world, the key to success lies in the ability to adapt oneself to the surrounding. As the Internet increases its presence in average households, all traditional media have, in their own ways, embraced the Internet. Flexible character of the new technology facilitates interpenetration of different media. The most significant part of the Internet’s impact on mass media lies in a guaranteed mutual influence.

While traditional media attempt to expand their reign on the digital sphere as well, the Internet absorbs the content of the old media. Therefore, a wide range of possibilities is being created. Those who are used to obtain information the old way may continue doing so, whereas those who give preference to the cutting-edge technologies can indulge their wishes. What distinguishes the traditional media from the Internet is their lack of interactivity which results in the absence of positive or negative feedback. Therefore, the convergence of these two gives a chance to compensate this deficiency of interaction.

Another highly significant characteristic of the Internet is its ubiquity. It is obvious that a number of preconditions must be created, in order to provide its presence, but once the new technologies are installed the communication becomes limitless. The boundlessness of traditional media cannot be assured the same way for there are diverse technical requirement, the implementation of which causes considerable difficulties. For instance, the national borders may put obstacles in the way of information exchange. Naturally, it refers to the old media even despite the globalization.

Meanwhile, the same digital information can hardly face a barrier. In this context, it is worth mentioning the absence of regulation and control of the new media. There is no government that does not wish to take the Internet and its content under its control. Nevertheless, it is a complex and independent system which develops chaotically in many direction based on the actions of its users. Once it was just an instrument to exchange information between professionals ,but nowadays it is a vast structure which evolves and adapts constantly.

The humankind has already exceeded the amount of the information it has produced so far. It can be explained due to ease of use of the new technologies that are being offered by the new media. Thanks to the process of digitalization, the preservation of the rare information became possible. Thus, it contributes to the accumulation of extensive knowledge. Digital information is also easy to produce, distribute and consume; therefore, it develops in a geometrical progression at an even greater rate. Nevertheless, the continuous expansion of the new media does not pose a threat to the traditional one.

The Internet offers an alternative distribution channel for traditional media’s products. In addition, it influences the strengthening of the existing media’s position with their readers and audiences and at the same time competes with the traditional. It is essential that each medium contributes to the development of its successors. The unique convergence of all media that now exist will contribute to media forms that are yet to be invented.

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Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication

(32 reviews)

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Copyright Year: 2016

ISBN 13: 9781946135261

Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

Language: English

Formats Available

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Reviewed by Jenny Dean, Associate Professor, Texas Wesleyan University on 2/27/24

This book is pretty comprehensive, but it is getting old in the media world where things are changing at a great pace. The basic text is good, but needs supplementary materials to truly keep pace with technology today. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This book is pretty comprehensive, but it is getting old in the media world where things are changing at a great pace. The basic text is good, but needs supplementary materials to truly keep pace with technology today.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

I am sure the book was accurate when it was published, but the world keeps changing, and it isn't as current as it needs to be. But, it still isn't bad for a free book to access.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

Once again, same issue. The book is almost seven years old and hasn't been updated. The issue is that the examples and illustrations are getting to be a bit dated. I suspect that there aren't any updates of this book planned, which is unfortunate. If updated, this would be a fantastic read for students.

Clarity rating: 5

It is simple to read and is easily accessible. It meets the needs of a young college student.

Consistency rating: 5

Yes, the textbook is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 5

It is well-subdivided and easy to access. Good use of subheadlines. It is a smooth read, and easy to find information through headers, subheads, headlines, and blocks of type.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

Everything is presented in a clear and concise manner.

Interface rating: 5

This textbook comes in a wide variety of formats and can be accessed by almost everyone through one method or another. It was super easy to access.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text is clean and clear of errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

I don't think this book is as inclusive as the typical book written today. This is simply because times have changed, and the need for inclusive and culturally sensitive books has escalated exponentially from the time this book was written. It needs more culturally relevant examples. I wouldn't say that anything in the book is culturally insensitive or offensive, but it isn't as diversified as it needs to be.

This is an excellent book for an introduction to mass communication or an introduction to media and society course. It covers all the basics that I would expect to cover. It just needs some updating which can be done through supplementary materials.

develop a case study material on any mass media

Reviewed by Ryan Stoldt, Assistant Professor, Drake University on 12/15/22

Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication thoughtfully walks readers through popular media and connects these media to questions about culture as a way of life. The book undoubtedly is comprehensive in its scope of... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication thoughtfully walks readers through popular media and connects these media to questions about culture as a way of life. The book undoubtedly is comprehensive in its scope of American media but largely fails to consider how media and culture relate in more global settings. The book occasionally references conversations about global media, such as the differences between globalization and cultural imperialism approaches, but is limited in its engagement. As media have become more transnational their reach and scope (due to technological access, business models, and more), the American focus makes the text feel limited in its ability to explain the relationship between media and culture more broadly.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The text is accurate although it has limited engagement in some of the topics it explores. As such, this would be a good introductory text but would need to be paired with additional resources to dive into many topics in the book with both accuracy and nuance.

Many of the sections of the book are relevant, as the book often contextualizes media through a historical lens. However, the more current sections of the book (such as the section on the Internet and social media) have become outdated quickly. These, once again, would be useful starting places for classroom conversation about the topic but would need to be paired with more current readings to hold a deeper conversation about social media and society today.

Some terms could be further explained, but the text is overall well written and easy to understand.

Consistency rating: 4

The book pulls from multiple approaches to researching and discussing media and culture. The introductory chapter draws more heavily from critical media studies in its conceptualizations of the relationship between media and culture. The media effects chapters draw more heavily from more social scientific approaches to studying media. The author does a nice job weaving these approaches into a consistent conversation about media, but different approaches to studying media could be more forwardly discussed within the text.

The author has made the text extremely easy to use modularly. Chapters are self-contained, and readers could easily select sections of the book to read without losing clarity.

The book employs consistent organization across the subjects discussed. Each chapter follows a similar organizational structure as well.

Interface rating: 4

Because the text is so modular, the text does not flow easily when read on the publisher's website. Yet, downloading the text also raises some issues because of strange formatting around images.

I have not seen any grammatical errors.

As stated previously, the book is extremely biased in its international representation, primarily promoting Americans' engagements with media. The book could go further in being more representative of different American cultures, but it is far from culturally insensitive.

Understanding Media and Culture would be an extremely useful introductory text for a class focusing on American media and society. A more global perspective would require significant engagement with other texts, however.

Reviewed by David Fontenot, Assistant Professor, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 11/15/22

The text comprehensively covers forms of media used for mass communication and includes issues towards emerging forms of mass communication. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

The text comprehensively covers forms of media used for mass communication and includes issues towards emerging forms of mass communication.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

In some places there is nuance missing, where I feel brief elaboration would yield significantly clearer comprehension without bias or misleading associations about media's influence on behavior.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Still relevant and up-to-date with a valuable emphasis on issues related to internet mass media.

Very readable, with little jargon. Definitions are presented clearly and used in subsequent discussions.

Internal consistency is strong within the chapters.

Modularity rating: 4

The majority of chapters can be taken independently, with only a few larger structural pieces that lay the foundation for other sections.

The book takes an historical approach to media, which lends itself to a logical progression of topics. I might suggest, however, that for most students the material that is most accessible to their daily lives comes last with such an approach.

Interface rating: 3

The downloaded file has some very awkward spots where images seem clipped or on separate pages than the content that reference them. I only viewed this textbook in the online downloaded PDF format.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

No grammatical errors have jumped out at me in sections read so far.

There are quite a few opportunities to include discissions of media and culture that don't seem so anglo-centric but they are passed up.

I am using this textbook as the basis for an interdisciplinary class on media and the criminal justice system, and in that regard I think it will serve very well for an introductory level textbook. It provides a concrete set of core ideas that I can build off of by creating tailored content to my students' needs.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnson-Young, Assistant Professor, University of Mary Washington on 7/1/22

Appropriately comprehensive. Having some more up-to-date citations, particularly in the media effects theories criticisms section (with some more explanations) would be beneficial--perhaps supplementing with some ways these have been updated would... read more

Appropriately comprehensive. Having some more up-to-date citations, particularly in the media effects theories criticisms section (with some more explanations) would be beneficial--perhaps supplementing with some ways these have been updated would help a class.

Overall, content is clear and accurate.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Mass media may always need updating, but this is appropriate and up-to-date.

Clarity rating: 4

Is an accessible text in terms of clarity and provides necessary definitions throughout in order to provide the reader with an understanding of the terminologies.

Text introduces terms and frameworks and uses them consistently throughout.

Small, easy to read blocks of text--could easily be used in a variety of courses and be reorganized for a particular course.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

Topics presented clearly and in an order that makes sense.

Easy to read through and images clear and displaying readily. It would help if there was a way to move forward without having to click on the table of contents, particularly in the online format.

No errors that stick out.

While appropriately comprehensive for an intro text, more examples and/or acknowledgment of who has been left out and those impacts could be helpful in the social values or culture discussions.

Overall, this is a great text and one that could be used in full for a course or in sections to supplement other communication/media studies courses!

Reviewed by David Baird, Professor of Communication, Anderson University on 4/18/22

I don’t know if any intro textbook can cover “all areas and ideas,” but this text was adequate to the task—basically on par with any other textbook in this space. I didn’t see a glossary in the chapters or an index at the back of the book. On the... read more

I don’t know if any intro textbook can cover “all areas and ideas,” but this text was adequate to the task—basically on par with any other textbook in this space. I didn’t see a glossary in the chapters or an index at the back of the book. On the other hand, the text is searchable, so the lack of an index is not a major problem as far as I’m concerned.

When the text was published, it would have been considered “accurate.” The content was competently conceptualized, well written and reflective of the standard approach to this kind of material. I didn’t notice any egregious errors of content aside from the fact that the book was published some years ago is no longer very current.

The primary weakness of the book is that it was published more than a decade ago and hasn’t been updated for a while. The text is relevant to the focus of the course itself, but the examples and illustrations are dated. For example, the book uses a graphic from the presidential election of 2008 in a treatment of politics, and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” is an example of current television programming.

I conducted a text search that tabulated the number of references to the following years, and these were the results: 2010: 588 2011: 49 2012: 8 2013: 4 2014: 0 2015: 2 2016: 0 2017: 0 2018: 1 2019: 1 2020: 0 2021: 1 2022: 1

The references to the more-recent years tended to crop up in forward-looking statements such as this one: “With e-book sales expected to triple by 2015, it’s hard to say what such a quickly growing industry will look like in the future.”

The second part of the question referred to the implementation of updates. I doubt that any updates are planned.

The text is well written and meets the usual standards for editorial quality.

The framework and "voice" are internally consistent.

The chapter structure provides the most obvious division of the text into accessible units. Each chapter also has well-defined subsections. Here’s an example from one chapter, with page numbers removed:

  • Chapter 13: Economics of Mass Media

Economics of Mass Media Characteristics of Media Industries The Internet’s Effects on Media Economies Digital Divide in a Global Economy Information Economy Globalization of Media Cultural Imperialism

This aspect of the text makes sense and is largely consistent with similar textbooks in this area.

The text is available in these formats: online, ebook, ODF, PDF and XML. I downloaded the PDF for purposes of my review. The formatting was clean and easy to work with. I didn’t notice any problems that made access challenging.

I can’t say with certainty that a grammatical error or typo can’t be found in the textbook, but as I noted above, the writing is strong. I’ve seen much worse.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

The text seems to be around a dozen years old now, so it doesn’t include discussion of some of the high-profile perspectives that have surfaced in more recent years related to race, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. However, the book does discuss examples of media issues “inclusive of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds,” and this material is presented with sensitivity and respect.

This is a reasonably good resource for basic, intro-level definitions and explanations of some of the major concepts, issues and theories in the “Mass Communication” or “Media and Society” course, including:

• functions of the media • gatekeeping • media literacy • media effects • propaganda • agenda setting • uses and gratifications

The textbook also offers the standard chapters on the various media—books, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, etc. These chapters contextualize the various media with standard accounts of their historical development. My feeling is that much of the historical background presented in this book is more or less interchangeable with the material in newer textbooks.

However, the media industries have changed dramatically since the textbook was written, so all of the last decade’s innovations, developments and controversies are entirely missing. Of course, even a “new” textbook is going to be somewhat dated upon publication because of the book’s production timeline and the way that things change so quickly in the media industries—but a book published in 2021 or 2022 would be far more up-to-date than the book under review here.

The bottom line for me is that if one of an instructor’s highest priorities is to provide a free or low-cost textbook for students, this book could work with respect to the historical material—but it would have to be supplemented with carefully selected material from other sources such as trade publications, industry blogs and news organizations.

Reviewed by Kevin Curran, Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola Marymount University on 3/21/22

This is one of the most comprehensive media studies books I’ve read. It attacks each media platform separately and with sufficient depth. That is followed by economics, ethics, government/law, and future predictions. Takeaways attend of each... read more

This is one of the most comprehensive media studies books I’ve read. It attacks each media platform separately and with sufficient depth. That is followed by economics, ethics, government/law, and future predictions.

Takeaways attend of each section will aid comprehension. Exercises at end of sections could be jumping off point for discussions or assignments. Chapters end with review and critical thinking connections plus career guidance.

The Chapter 2 rundown on both sides of media theories and summary of research methods was well-done.

Everything about this tome is good, except for its dating.

The book is well-researched and provides valuable, although often dated, information. The author used a variety of sources, effective illustrations, and applicable examples to support the points in the book.

It can be very hard to keep up with constant changes in the mass media industry. This book was reissued in 2016, but it has not been revised since the original copyright in 2010. The dated references start on page 2 when it speaks of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey as existing, when that circus ceased in 2017. The medium-by-medium exploration is well done, although the passage of time affects the end of each chapter.

Adoption of the book as-is will mean developing an update lesson for each chapter. For example, while smartphones are mentioned, they had not achieved saturation status at the time this volume was published.

The points are presented clearly. References with hyperlinks are available at the end of each section for those who still have questions or want more information. However, it is possible that because of the age of the book, some of those links may no longer be available.

The media chapters each follow a similar pattern in writing and order.

This will break up easily. The first chapter gives a good taste of what is to come. The book provides a comprehensive look at the history and influence of each medium individually. The last group of chapters necessarily contains many flashbacks to the medium sections.

It follows a logical pattern from the introduction to the individual medium chapters to the “big picture” chapters. That does require signposting between the two sets of chapters that some might find frustrating.

Interface rating: 2

The book is a standard PDF with links. The scan could have been better, as there is a lot of white space and illustrations are inconsistently sized. Users hoping for lots of interactivity are going to be disappointed.

The book is well edited. It is hard to find errors in writing mechanics.

The authors took a broad view of the mass media world. The music chapter was very well done.

Reviewed by Lisa Bradshaw, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 11/26/21

This textbook, downloaded as a 695-page PDF, contains 16 chapters and covers a variety of media formats, how they evolved, and how they are created and used, as well as issues related to media impact on society and culture. It is quite... read more

This textbook, downloaded as a 695-page PDF, contains 16 chapters and covers a variety of media formats, how they evolved, and how they are created and used, as well as issues related to media impact on society and culture. It is quite comprehensive in its coverage of media for the time of its writing (copyright year 2016, “adapted from a work originally produced in 2010”).

Content seems accurate for its time, but as technology and media have evolved, it omits current references and examples that did not exist when it was written. There does not seem to be bias and a wide variety of cultural references are used.

As mentioned previously, this textbook’s copyright year was 2016, and it was adapted from a 2010 work. It’s not clear how much of the content was updated between 2010 and 2016, but based on the dates in citations and references, the last update appears to have been in 2011. Even if it had been updated for the year 2016, much of the information is still out-of-date.

There is really no way to write a textbook about media that would not be at least partially out of date in a short time. This text’s background and history of the evolution of the various media forms it covers is still accurate, but there is much about the media landscape that has changed since 2010–2016.

Due to the textbook’s age, references to media platforms and formats such as MySpace, Napster, and CDs seem outdated for today’s media market. The textbook refers to previous political figures, and its omission of more recent ones (who were not on the political landscape at the time of writing) makes it seem out-of-date. To adapt it for modern times, these references need to be updated with fresh examples.

The writing level is relatively high. A spot check of the readability level of several passages of text returned scores of difficult to read, and reading level 11-12 grade to college level. The author does a good job of explaining technical terminology and how different media work. If adapting the text for students with a lower level of reading, some of the terminology might need to be revised or explained more thoroughly.

The text is consistent in its chapter structure and writing style. The order of topics makes sense in that chapters are mostly structured by media type, with beginning and end sections to introduce each respective media type in general, and conclude with a look to the future.

If adapting and keeping the same structure (intro to media in general, coverage of different media types in their own chapters, and main issues related to media), this 695-page textbook could be condensed by eliminating some of the detail in each chapter. There are a number of self-referential sentences that might need to be removed. If adapting the text to a more specific subject, the instructor would need to go through the text and pick out specific points relevant to that subject.

Each chapter introduces the respective media type and concludes with a summary that reflects on the future of that type and how it might evolve further. The chapters overall follow the same structure for consistency: overview, history, the media in popular culture, current trends, and potential influence of new technologies, with end-of-chapter Key Takeaways, Exercises, Assessment, Critical Thinking Questions, Career Connection, and References.

The text is well written and logically structured and sequenced. Despite its length, it’s easy to find information, as it’s ordered by chapters that address each media type and major issues related to media, and each chapter has a parallel structure with the others, all following mostly the same pattern.

I did not notice grammatical errors. The text is clearly and accurately written, and appears to have been thoroughly copyedited and proofread.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

I did not notice cultural insensitivity in the text. A wide variety of cultural references are used. Examples from around the world and from many different cultures are included, including discussions of digital divide and inequity issues related to media access in disadvantaged populations.

Reviewed by Adria Goldman, Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Mary Washington on 7/11/21

The text nicely breaks down different forms of mass communication. The text provides some historical background and discussion of theory to provide context for discussing mass media, which is all useful in helping students understand media and... read more

The text nicely breaks down different forms of mass communication. The text provides some historical background and discussion of theory to provide context for discussing mass media, which is all useful in helping students understand media and communication. There is not much discussion about the cultural significance of media. If using the text in a course, supplemental readings on the significance of culture and diversity, the importance of media representation, and media influence on an individual level (ex: impact on identity), would be especially helpful for a course exploring media and culture. The text does not feature a glossary or index, however the bolding of key concepts throughout the text is helpful in defining key terms.

The content is error-free. More discussion on culture would provide a more accurate account of mass communication and its significance.

The subject is very relevant and the book features topics important for a discussion on mass communication. As mentioned in other parts of this review, there is not much diversity featured throughout the text, which can impact the relevancy of the material to audiences and impacts the relevancy of the content in discussions on mass media and society. Updates would be straightforward to implement.

The text is clear and easy to follow.

The text is consistent in its use of terms and its framework. Since the book title mentions a focus on culture, an interesting add-on would be to have each section (on a specific type of mass communication) feature a discussion of culture and its significance.

The text's modularity is useful. It looks like it would be easy for students to follow and for instructors to re-structure in order to fit their course design.

The information follows a logical order, beginning with a discussion on the significance of mass communication and then going into each type.

No issues with interface noted.

No glaring grammatical issues noted.

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

There is not much focus on the significance of culture. More discussion on the role of race, class, sex, gender, religion and other elements of identity would be helpful in exploring mass communication--past, present, and potential for the future. The text could also use an update in images and examples to include diverse representation and to further communicate the role of culture, diversity, and representation in communication and mass media.

The book provides an understanding of mass communication that would be easy for undergraduate college students to follow. The optional activities would also spark interesting discussion and give students the opportunity to apply concepts. Students using the text would benefit from (1) more discussion on culture's significance in media and communication and (2) more diversity in the images and examples used.

Reviewed by Brandon Galm, Instructor in English/Speech, Cloud County Community College on 5/4/21

One of the strong suits of this particular resource is its comprehensiveness, with topics ranging from specific mass comm mediums to the intersections/impacts of media on culture, politics, and ethics. There's enough here to easily cover a full... read more

One of the strong suits of this particular resource is its comprehensiveness, with topics ranging from specific mass comm mediums to the intersections/impacts of media on culture, politics, and ethics. There's enough here to easily cover a full semester's worth of material and then some.

The content is well-sourced throughout with a list of references at the end of each chapter. The hyperlinks on the references page all seem functional still. Hyperlinks within the chapters themselves--either sending the reader to the reference list or to the articles themselves--would be helpful.

As of this review writing, some of the content is relatively up-to-date. However, with a quickly changing landscape in mass communications and media, certain chapters are becoming out-of-date more quickly than others. The information discussed is more current than most of the information cited. The structure of the book lends itself to easy updating as technologies and culture shift, but whether or not those updates will take place seems unclear with the most recent edition being 5 years old at this point.

All information is presented in a way that is very clear with explanations and examples when further clarification is needed.

For a book covering as many different topics as it does, the overall structure and framework of this textbook is great. Chapter formats stay consistent with clearly stated Objectives at the start and Key Takeaways at the end. Visual examples are provided throughout, and each chapter also includes various questions for students to respond to.

Chapters are broken down into smaller sub-chapters, each with their own sub-headings hyperlinked in the Table of Contents. Each sub-chapter also includes the above-mentioned Objects, Key Takeaways, and questions for students. Chapters and/or sub-chapters could easily be assigned in an order that fits any syllabus schedule and are in no way required to be read in order from Chapter 1 to Chapter 16.

I would like to have seen the book laid out a bit differently, but this is a minor concern because of the overall flexibility of assigning the chapters. The book starts with broad discussions about media and culture, then shifts into specific forms of media (books, games, tv, etc.), then returns to more broad implications of media and culture. Personally, I'd like to see all of those chapters grouped together--with all of the media and culture chapters in one section, and all of the specific forms chapters in another. Again, this is a minor issue because of the overall flexibility of the book.

As mentioned above, hyperlinks--including in the Table of Contents and references--are all functional. I would have liked to have hyperlinks for the references in the text itself, either as a part of the citation or with a hyperlinked superscript number, rather than just in the references page. All images are easily readable and the text itself is easy to read overall.

No grammatical errors that immediately jumped out. Overall seems clear and well-written.

The text provides lots of examples, though most do come from US media. The sections dealing with the intersections between media and culture are similarly US-centric.

Overall, a solid introductory textbook that covers a wide range of topics relevant to mass communications, media, and culture. The text is bordering on out-of-date at this point, but could easily be updated on a chapter-by-chapter basis should the publisher/author wish to do so.

Reviewed by Dong Han, Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University Carbondale on 3/30/21

It covers all important areas and topics regarding media, culture, and society. Different media forms and technologies from printing media to social media all have their own chapters, and academic inquiries like media effects, media economics,... read more

It covers all important areas and topics regarding media, culture, and society. Different media forms and technologies from printing media to social media all have their own chapters, and academic inquiries like media effects, media economics, and media and government also receive due attention. This textbook will meet the expectation of students of all backgrounds while introducing them to theoretical concerns of the research community. Its chapter layout is properly balanced between comprehensiveness and clarity.

Its content is accurate and unbiased. The textbook is written with ample research support to ensure accuracy and credibility. References at the end of each chapter allow readers to track sources of information and to locate further readings.

It is up-to-date in that the major cultural and media issues it identifies remain highly relevant in today’s world. However, since it was first produced in 2010, some more recent occurrences are not part of the discussion. This is not meant to be a criticism but a reminder that an instructor may want to supplement with more recent materials.

It is written with clear, straight-forward language well-suited an introductory textbook. The chapter layout, as mentioned earlier, is easy to access.

The book is consistent in terms of terminologies and its historical approach to media growth and transformation.

Each chapter is divided in sections, and sections in turn have various reading modules with different themes. For undergraduates taking an introductory course, this textbook will work well.

The topics are presented in an easy-to-access fashion. The textbook starts with a general overview of media and culture and a persistent scholarly concern with the media: media effects. Then it moves through different media in alignment with the chronological order of their appearance in history. The last few chapters focus on important but non-technology-specific topics including advertising and media regulations. For an introductory textbook, it is very accessible to the general student body.

The textbook does not have significant interface issues. Images, charts, and figures all fit well with the text.

There are no grammatical errors.

The textbook has a number of examples of minority cultures and ethnicities. It does not, however, have ample discussions on media and culture phenomena outside of the US, except those that have had significant impact on American culture (e.g., Beatlemania).

All considered, this is a very good textbook to be used in an introductory course. It is comprehensive, easy-to-read, and can help prepare students for future in-depth discussions on media, culture, and society.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnson-Young, Assistant Professor, University of Mary Washington on 7/6/20

Comprehensive text regarding mass communication, culture, and effects. The historical perspectives are helpful for understanding, particularly as it goes on to focus in on convergence throughout the text. A more complete glossary or index would be... read more

Comprehensive text regarding mass communication, culture, and effects. The historical perspectives are helpful for understanding, particularly as it goes on to focus in on convergence throughout the text. A more complete glossary or index would be helpful for terms for an introduction text, but key terms are highlighted and defined throughout. Extra examples would help throughout, particularly with theories and research methods.

Accurate, up to date information on history, concepts, and theories.

The information focuses on important historical moments, theories, cultural impacts, and moves to the present with ideas and examples that will likely remain relevant for quite some time.

Clear, easy to read text that would benefit introductory students of mass comm.

Introduces terms and concepts and then utilizes them throughout.

The separation of the larger text into smaller sections is incredibly helpful and makes reading and assignments of readings easy, leading also to the ability to separate into sections that would be appropriate for any course organization.

Organization is logical and easy to follow. Importantly, because of the modularity, it would also be easy to re-organize for one's course.

Navigation works, images clear and detailed.

No glaring grammatical errors.

The examples and images demonstrate diversity in race and also provides examples outside of the United States, which is important. There is some diversity in terms of gender and sexual diversity, more of which would be beneficial and various sections would be appropriate for that inclusion.

This is an excellent and comprehensive text for intro students that includes important historical moments and thorough coverage of main concepts and theories in the field, with a diverse set of moments and examples.

Reviewed by Emily Werschay, Communication Studies Instructor, Minnesota State University System on 10/22/19

Overall, this textbook is quite comprehensive in covering various channels of media, particularly from a historical perspective, and would work well for an introductory course. It features the same focused areas of content that are in my current... read more

Overall, this textbook is quite comprehensive in covering various channels of media, particularly from a historical perspective, and would work well for an introductory course. It features the same focused areas of content that are in my current publisher textbook and incorporates elements of culture as well. It does not provide a glossary or index, which would be helpful, but key terms are in bold.

The text contains accurate research with clearly-cited references that give credibility to the content.

The historical content is well-crafted. The text provides a clear and informative introduction to the history of media and does well with the rise of newspapers, television, and movies. You will not, however, find a reference more recent than 2010, which means any advancements in media and technology in the past decade are not covered. An instructor using this text would have to supplement content on current types of media such as streaming television and music services and the current debate of social media shifting toward news publishing in terms of content delivery. While the text includes culture and political climate of the past, much would need to be supplemented for the last ten years.

The text is professional and well-written. It is well-suited to a college reading level.

The chapter format, writing style, and overall presentation of information are consistent throughout the text. I appreciate the defined learning outcomes and key takeaways pulled out in each chapter.

The text is divided into clear chapters focusing on one medium at a time, much like other publisher texts for mass communication. For example, books, newspapers, magazines, music, radio, movies, and television each get their own chapter. Each chapter begins with clearly defined learning outcomes, and features key takeaways, exercises, assessments, and critical thinking questions at the end, as well as a section on career connections.

The topics are presented in chronological order from the history of mass communication, through the various mediums, and finally to the future of mass communication (though most will find the content particularly about recent and current trends will need to be supplemented as it is outdated).

I didn't find any problems with the interface as it is a standard text that can be viewed as a PDF, but an index would really help navigation. I will say that it's not particularly user-friendly, so I may try integrating the online format chapter-by-chapter into D2L so that I can break it up by modules and add links to make it more interactive with supplemental resources.

Professional, well-written text with no errors.

I don't believe readers will find any of the text culturally insensitive or offensive. The text is focused on U.S. media, however, so some supplemental content may be needed.

This textbook is very comprehensive and will work well for an introductory course. It covers the same focus areas as my publisher text, so I feel comfortable switching to this textbook for my Introduction to Mass Communication course with the awareness that it does not cover the past decade. I will need to provide supplemental information to update examples and cover current topics, but that is generally accepted in this particular field as it is continually changing with advancements in technology.

Reviewed by Bill Bettler, Professor, Hanover College on 3/8/19

This text is comprehensive on several levels. Theoretically, this text echoes the framework employed by Pavlik and McIntosh, which displays sensitivity to convergence. However, this text understands convergence on multiple levels, not just the... read more

This text is comprehensive on several levels. Theoretically, this text echoes the framework employed by Pavlik and McIntosh, which displays sensitivity to convergence. However, this text understands convergence on multiple levels, not just the three employed by P and M. This text is well-researched, with ample citations on a whole host of media topics. Each chapter has multiple ways that it tests the reader, with "Key Takeaways," "Learning Objectives," etc. And finally, the text features chapters on the history and development of key historical media, as well as key emerging media.

Some students find Pavlik and McIntosh a bit too transparent in their Marxist assumptions. While this text certainly introduces Marx-based theories about media, it seems to do a better job of contextualizing them among several other competing perspectives.

Some of the popular culture texts felt a bit dated--for example, opening the "Music" chapter (Chapter 6) with an extended case study about Colbie Caillat. Unfortunately, this is the nature of mass media studies--as soon as books come into print, they are out of date. But I have a hard time imagining my mass communication students being inspired and engaged by a Colbie Caillat case study. I'm not sure what the alternative is; but it seemed worth mentioning. Other examples are much more effective and successful. The historical examples from different types of media are well-chosen, thoroughly explained, and insightful. Also, this text discusses emerging media more successfully than any other texts I have used.

The style of this text is straightforward and scholarly. It seems to strike an effective balance between accessibility and specialized language. For example, key concepts such as "gatekeeper" and "agenda setting theory" are introduced early and applied in several places throughout the text.

Like Pavlik and McIntosh, this text uses the concept of "convergence" to explain several key phenomena in mass communication. Unlike P and M, this text understands "convergence" on more than three levels. Like P and M, this concept becomes the "glue" that holds the various topics and levels of analysis together. As mentioned before, this text is especially effective in that it introduces foundational concepts early on and applies them consistently across succeeding chapters.

On one hand, this text rates highly in "modularity," because I could imagine myself breaking its chapters apart and re-arranging them in a different order than they are presented here. This is in no way meant as a criticism. I routinely have to assign chapters in more conventional texts in a different order. The fact that the technology involved in delivering this text makes it easier to re-arrange is one of its best selling points. The reason I scored this as a "4" is because some of the chapters are quite dense, in terms of volume (not in terms of difficulty). Therefore, I could see students perhaps losing focus to some degree. I might combat this by making further breakdowns and re-arrangements within chapters. This is not a fatal flaw--but it does seem like a practical challenge of using this text.

As mentioned above, some of the chapters are quite dense, in terms of volume. Chapter One is such a chapter, for example. I could easily see Chapter One comprising two or three chapters in another textbook. Consequently, there is a likelihood that students would need some guidance as they read such a dense chapter; and they would likely benefit from cutting the chapter down into smaller, more easily digestible samples. On the other hand, the Key Takeaways, and Learning Objectives, will counteract this tendency for students to be overwhelmed or confused. They are quite helpful, as are the summarizing sections at the ends of each chapter.

I did not encounter any problems with interface. In fact, the illustrations, figures, charts, photographs, etc. are a real strength of this text. They are better than any other text I have seen at creating "symbolic worlds" from different forms of media.

The writing style is professional and free of errors.

This is a genuine concern for mass media texts. Media content is a direct reflection of culture, and today's culture is characterized by a high level of divisiveness. I did not detect any examples or samples that were outwardly offensive or especially controversial. But, perhaps, there is a slight bias toward "the status quo" in the case studies and examples--meaning that many (but certainly not all) of them seem to be "Anglo," Caucasian artists. Looking at the "Music" chapter, for example, some popular culture critics (and students) might lament that Taylor Swift is an exemplar. While this choice is undeniable in terms of the popularity of her recordings and concerts, some might hope for examples that represent stylistic originality, genre-transcending, and progressive ideas (Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, etc.).

I have been using the same text for seven years (Pavlik and McIntosh). I have decided to adopt Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. It is simply more thorough in its sweep of history and contextualization of culture, more multi-layered in its theoretical perspectives, and more rich in its examples and insights. This books is recommendable not just as an open source text, but as it compares to any conventional text. Students will benefit greatly from reading this text.

Reviewed by Hsin-Yen Yang, Associate Professor, Fort Hays State University on 11/29/18

Understanding Media and Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication covers all the important topics in mass communication and media history. It also provides case studies, Key Takeaways, Exercises, End-of-Chapter Assessment, Critical Thinking... read more

Understanding Media and Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication covers all the important topics in mass communication and media history. It also provides case studies, Key Takeaways, Exercises, End-of-Chapter Assessment, Critical Thinking Questions, and Career Connections in every chapter. Although this book does not provide a glossary, the comprehensiveness of the book still makes it a great textbook choice.

While the information was accurate and the discussions on key issues were supported by good references, it was odd to see the questionable formatting and quality of the first reference on page 3: Barnum, P. T.”, --> First of all, is not considered as a credible source by many scholars and the other half of the quotation marks was missing.

The major weakness of this book is the fact that many of the references were outdated. For example, on page 479, the statistics in the section, "Information Access Like Never Before," the cited reports were from 2002 and 2004. When discussing topics such as Net Neutrality, digital service providers, new policies and technologies, the urgency for updated information becomes evident. However, as the author correctly pointed out: "Although different forms of mass media rise and fall in popularity, it is worth noting that despite significant cultural and technological changes, none of the media discussed throughout this text has fallen out of use completely."

The writing in this book is very clear and easy to understand. The colored images, figures and tables should be very helpful in terms of student comprehension and engagement.

The framework and terminology are consistent throughout the book.

Each chapter can be assigned to students as a stand-along reading, and can be used to realign with other subunits should an instructor decide to compile reading within this book or from different sources.

Each chapter follows similar flow/ format: the history, evolution, economics, case studies and social impact of a mass medium, followed by Key Takeaways, Exercises, End-of-Chapter Assessment, Critical Thinking Questions, Career Connections and References. It was easy to navigate the topics and sections in this book.

I downloaded the book as a PDF and had no problem to search or navigate within the file. The book can also be viewed online or in a Kindle reader.

I spotted a few minor formatting or punctuation issues such as the missing quotation marks stated earlier, but no glaring errors as far as I know.

While it mainly focuses on American media and culture, this book contains statistics and cases from many countries (e.g. Figure 11.7), provides many critical thinking exercises and is sensitive towards diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Overall, this is a high-quality textbook and it contains almost all the key issues in today's media studies in spite of the somewhat outdated data and statistics. The strengths of this book are: Excellent historical examples, critical analysis and reflections, clearly defined key issues and in-depth discussions. Even when using the most recent edition of textbooks, I always research for updates and recent cases. This open resource textbook makes an outstanding alternative to those high-priced textbooks.

Reviewed by Hayden Coombs, Assistant Professor, Southern Utah University on 8/2/18

Perhaps the best quality of this text, Understanding Media and Culture is a very comprehensive textbook. I have used this text in my Mass Media & Communication course for two years now. Each chapter focuses on a different type of medium,... read more

Perhaps the best quality of this text, Understanding Media and Culture is a very comprehensive textbook. I have used this text in my Mass Media & Communication course for two years now. Each chapter focuses on a different type of medium, starting with the earliest books and working its way up to the latest technological advancements in mass media. Other beneficial topics include: Media & Culture, Media Effects, Economics of Mass Media, Media Ethics, Media and Government, and the Future of Mass Media. These topics provide a solid base for a 100 or 200-level introductory communication course. They also were written in a way that each chapter provided sufficient material for a week's worth of discussion.

This book was written in a very unbiased manner. It is completely factual, and not much room is left for subjective interpretation. The discussion questions allowed multiple themes and schools of thought to be explored by the students. Because this book is intended for an introductory course, the information is fairly basic and widely-accepted.

My biggest issue with this title was that the latter chapters were not written with the same quality as the first ten or so chapters. However, that was the thought I had after the first semester I used this text. Since then, multiple updates have been written and the entire text is now written in the same high-quality throughout. Because this title is being constantly updated by its authors and publishers, the text is never obsolete.

Terminology is clearly defined, and students have little trouble finding definitions in the glossary. Because this text is written for an introductory course, there are not many intense or confusing concepts for students to understand.

Consistency rating: 3

As previously mentioned, the biggest struggle I've had with this text is the fact that the latter third was not written to the same quality of the first ten chapters. However, this issue seems to have been remedied in the latest edition of this text.

The modularity was the biggest selling point for me with this text. Our semester runs 15 weeks, the same number of chapters in this text. I was able to easily focus our classroom discussions and assignments on the chapter theme each week. The text also provides plenty of material for two or three discussions.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

The text starts by introducing some basic concepts like culture and effects. From there, it focuses on ten different types of media (books, newspaper, radio, television, etc.). The concluding three chapters go back to concepts such ethics and the future of mass media. While not a major issue, there was a major difference in the tone of the two types of chapters.

This text is available in .pdf, kindle, .epub, and .mobi formats, as well as in browser. While nothing fancy or groundbreaking in terms of usability, it is simple and all of my students were able to download the format that best suited their individual needs.

The text contained no grammatical errors that I noticed in the latest edition, a tremendous improvement from the first semester I used this text.

I did not find the content to be culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It used a variety of examples from the world's history, but I found none of them to be inherently offensive. The subject matter and the fact that this is an introductory text probably assist with the cultural relevance because it is easy to understand, but the themes rarely get into "deep" discussion.

This is a fantastic text. Comparing it to other texts for my COMM 2200 Mass Media & Society text, this textbook was not only easier for my students to understand, but it was written and compiled in a way that made teaching the material enjoyable and easy. I have recommended this book to the other instructors of this course because it allows our students to save money without sacrificing anything in terms of content or learning.

Reviewed by Heather Lubay, Adjunct Faculty, Portland Community College on 8/2/18

Overall the book is comprehensive, covering everything from books to radio to electronic media & social media. Each topic has a descent amount of information on both the history and evolution, as well as where we are today (though, as tends to... read more

Overall the book is comprehensive, covering everything from books to radio to electronic media & social media. Each topic has a descent amount of information on both the history and evolution, as well as where we are today (though, as tends to be the nature of the industry, the “today” piece gets outdated quickly. However, the text covers the topics that most other texts of this subject cover as well. I would have liked to have seen just a bit more depth and analysis, instead of the broad, surface-level coverage.

The text is fairly accurate, though, with the rapid rate of change, it’s difficult to be accurate shortly after publication. Using sites such as MySpace as an example, or only looking at movies put out through about 2007, impacts the accuracy as society has changed and moved on. Students in 2018 are given more of a historical perspective from when they were kids more so than having a representation of what media means in today’s world.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 2

This is a hard one because the historical information stands the test of time, but many of the examples fall short for today’s students. The Social Media chapter still references MySpace and Friendster as current platforms and only goes as far as FaceBook & Twitter. The author makes it a point to clarify when the book what published, which helps, but, again, it’ll be hard for a current student to see past that when they’ve grown up with the platform being discussed as “new” and have moved on.

The book is fairly fast-paced and easy enough to follow for lower level or beginner students. Examples are easy to follow and the key takeaway boxes and exercises help further basic understanding.

The chapters are fairly consistent, covering the basic history, evolution, and influence/impact.

The text can easily be used as formatted, or broken up into sections and moved around.

The organization is fairly straightforward. Earlier forms of mass communication are covered first, moving on to newer forms. Once students have a basic understanding of each form, they can then move on to topics like ethics, government, and economics, which need that basic understanding to fully grasp the larger concepts.

The book is easy to navigate with had no issues viewing the photos or charts.

The book is well written and free of any gratuitous errors.

The book does a good job of focusing on US media and society. It uses pretty typical examples, though it could incorporate more relevant examples to today’s students. Some case studies reference minority groups, but it would have been nice to see even more examples featuring minority groups. Also, Using YouTube as a “new” viewing outlet and discussing “The war between satellite and cable television” and DirectTV versus Dish makes the cultural relevance more towards older generations than younger ones.

Overall the book does a great job with the history of mass communication and society. It would work for any lower level course. However, the examples are fairly out of date and the instructor would have to present more recent and relevant examples in class.

Reviewed by Randy (Rachel) Kovacs, Adjunct Associate Professor, City University of New York on 6/19/18

I like the way that the author has broadened the scope of the book to incorporate so many aspects of culture, society, politics and economics that some people would be inclined to distinguish from the mass media, when in reality, all these aspects... read more

I like the way that the author has broadened the scope of the book to incorporate so many aspects of culture, society, politics and economics that some people would be inclined to distinguish from the mass media, when in reality, all these aspects of contemporary life are intertwined with and influenced by media messages. It provides an historical retrospective but also shows how convergence and constantly-evolving technologies have driven the way consumers use the media and the way producers will use those technologies to rivet the attention (and influence the purchasing choices) of today’s consumers. The text incorporates the most salient areas of media’s evolution and influence.

The book appears to be objective and adopts a critical but non-partisan perspective. It presents data, including media laws and policies, accurately, and the cases it cites are well documented. The author provides sufficient references to support the facts he states and the conclusions he draws. Caveat--The media landscape and technologies are constantly evolving, so the book is accurate for its time of publication but needs to be updated to include new developments.

The way that the author integrates the historical perspective with current roles of social media in is a clear indication of its relevance. The dates may change, as may the celebrities, industrialists, spokespersons, and there may be geopolitical and cultural shifts, but the author’s explanation of theories/principles and the cases selected show how mass media power and influence are here to stay. The author advances the salient issues at each juncture and contextualizes so they we can relate them to current events. The book could be updated but is still has relevance/longevity.

The book is written in a language that is accessible to the layman/beginning student of mass media. The cases that are boxed, and key takeaways at the end of each chapter further distill what is already explicated. There are many concrete facts but a minimum of jargon and any terms used are adequately explained.

The framework and the terminology are consistent. There is also a consistent structure in terms of the visual layout and breakdown of each chapter’s sections, which makes the material far more accessible to students. It’s reassuring in a way, because students know where to go in each chapter for clarification of terms and restatement of the major media developments or areas of impact.

The book’s content is broken down within chapters into (pardon the expression) digestible chunks. The way each subsection is organized makes sense. The major sections where media, developments, policies, etc., are first introduced are illustrated by boxed portions and then reiterated clearly at the end of the chapter with small, chunked takeaways and questions that challenge the students to ponder issues more deeply. The modules are distinguished by color, typset, size of font, etc. which is aesthetically appealing.

The organization makes sense and the topics segue smoothly from one area of media focus to another. Also, the way the book opens with an overview of mass media and cultural is a good starting point from which to document specific historical eras in the development of communication and to transition from one era of communication to another within a context of technology, politics, industry and other variables.

: The text does not have any interface issues, as it is easy to navigate, all illustrations, charts, and other visuals are clear and distortion-free. All features of the book are legible and all display features are legible and functional.

The book is grammatically accurate and error-free.

The book represents a range of cultural groups in a sensitive and bias-free way. Its discussions of media with regard to both dominant cultures and various minority cultures is respectful, bias-free, and non-stereotypical. It is culturally relevant and inclusive.

For many years, I have used a textbook that I have regarded as very high quality and comprehensive, but as it has become increasingly expensive and out of reach financially for many of my students, I find it hard to justify asking my struggling students to add another financial burden to them. Why should I when they can use this OER textbook? I am seriously considering using Understanding Media and Culture in future semesters and recommending it to my colleagues.

Reviewed by Stacie Mariette, Mass Communication instructor, Anoka-Ramsey Community College on 5/21/18

This OER is very comprehensive. I used it for an online course as a PDF textbook. While this discipline evolves faster than any other communication area I teach, this book remains solidly grounded in a wide variety of resources and foundational... read more

This OER is very comprehensive. I used it for an online course as a PDF textbook. While this discipline evolves faster than any other communication area I teach, this book remains solidly grounded in a wide variety of resources and foundational theories.

As I use it more often, I find myself wanting to update it only for examples regarding the evolution in technology/platforms and the societal/cultural changes that result – not to change the historical content of what is already there.

I haven't come across any factual errors at all.

The examples in this book are often dated. This is my one very mild criticism of this text and only reflects the nature of the information. As we grow into new media and adapt as a society to those delivery methods, it's only natural. I actually use updating the examples in the textbook as an assignment for students.

Some closer to up-to-date examples that I have added into my teaching of the course and to the materials are:

"Fake news" and social media's role in spreading it, especially in terms of Facebook and the last election

Data mining and algorithm practices

"Listening" devices and digital assistants, like Siri and Alexa

The subculture of podcasts

Business models – both for artists and consumers – of streaming services across all media

The chapter on convergence is short and could be a text all on its own. Information relating to this topic is sprinkled throughout the book, but the concept itself is so important to analyze that I like to think about it on its own. This is an area I will beef up in future semesters for my own students.

Streaming services and online journalism overall are two areas that I have noted to update and reference in nearly every chapter.

The short segments and snippets of information are very helpful and clear for students. It's all very digestible and the vocabulary is at just the right level.

The discussion questions and further reading/information are placed in logical places in each chapter. And this consistency helps the reader understand their prompts and what to do next – and additionally the important topics to take away.

I love how this text can be reordered very easily. Since it's so comprehensive, I actually omit a couple of the chapters (radio and magazines) to take the info at a slower pace and have never struggled with remixing other chapters.

In fact, I plan to blend Chapters 11 and 16 (Social Media and New Technology) for my upcoming semesters and have no doubt the text and materials will allow for this.

I like how the chapters primarily focus on one medium at a time. From there, the structure of evolution, technological advancements, social/cultural implications and then a look at trends and emerging controversies helps to build to exciting and relevant discussions and for students to have the backdrop to bring their own insights.

The interface is reliable and easy-to-use. I deliver it as a PDF within my online classroom software. I have never had issues with students downloading and reading on multiple devices – or even printing and referencing – based on their preferences.

This book is very concise and grammatically crisp. It's clear that the authors of the version I am using valued precision in their language and it helps students to see this resource as high-quality!

Cultural and societal relevance are important in this discipline and it's purposely covered in each and every chapter. However, as I mentioned earlier, the examples are outdated in many cases. So I layer this into class discussions and supplement with further readings and assignments. Some of the topics I add are: Representation in entertainment media, like TV and film, for example how the #MeToo movement gained ground based on the film industry Ways that online gaming culture is permissive of the communication of –isms, like sexism and racism Ways that social media and screen time are impacting attention spans, interpersonal relationships/communication and child development How citizen-sourced video and reporting differs from that of trained journalists and how important the differences are The section on media effects is helpful and thorough. I always include a key assignment on this topic. It's also an area I plan to emphasize even more in the future – particularly the idea of tastemaking and gatekeeping. There are many crossovers to many examples that are more up-to-date than the version of the text I have been using.

I love this book and it is on-par with many others I have reviewed for my Introduction to Mass Communication class.

Reviewed by Stacy Fitzpatrick, Professor, North Hennepin Community College on 5/21/18

The presentation of the historical context of media evolution in the US is clear and reasonably detailed, providing a good foundation for an introductory level course. As other reviewers have mentioned, this text was published in 2010 and is out... read more

The presentation of the historical context of media evolution in the US is clear and reasonably detailed, providing a good foundation for an introductory level course. As other reviewers have mentioned, this text was published in 2010 and is out of date in multiple areas, particularly with respect to media laws and regulation, social media, and newer developments of technology (e.g. preference for streaming television, technological and social advancements in gaming). Beyond needing updates to reflect newer advancements in media, this text would benefit from more attention to global media structures, including how they vary across political systems and how they impact how citizens use media to communicate. Additionally, an index and glossary would be helpful for navigation.

I am basing this on the fact that this was published in 2010. Considering the publication date, the factual content for that particular time frame is presented accurately, clearly cited, and reasonably unbiased. There is perhaps an unintended gender bias in the presentation of some content (e.g. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is absent in the music section, as is Nina Simone), though this could be a result of a broader, societal gender bias. Images, charts, and graphs are used well and clearly explained.

The historical content is fine, but the text is almost 9 years out of date and there is a great deal of content that needs to be updated. Making the necessary updates may take some time since the content is tightly written and there are reflections of the date of publication throughout the examples used, images presented, and media discussed. Using this text in class would require the instructor to provide supplemental content on newer advancements in media.

This text is appropriate for a freshman/sophomore level course and reads well. Important terms are defined and each section includes an overview to set a context and clearly defined learning objectives.

The language, terminology, and organization of the text is consistent throughout. This makes moving between chapters easy since they follow a similar format.

With a few exceptions (chapters 1 and 2), the text lends itself well to using different sections at different points. Where there are self-references, there is typically a hyperlink to the section referenced. This is useful for those reading the text online, but less useful if printed sections of text were used.

Chapters 1 and 2 clearly present a structure that the following chapters follow. The only chapter that seems to really break that flow is Chapter 16, but that is more a result of the text being so out of date than a significant change in structure.

I found the online reading format the easiest to navigate. The Word and PDF versions are somewhat more awkward to navigate without using a search keyboard function.

There were a couple minor typos, but no significant grammatical errors that might impact comprehension. The readability assessment (via MS Word) indicated a reading grade level of 13.1, which is consistent with lower division college coursework.

There is a heavy focus on US media, which is acknowledged early on in the text. More integration of content related to global media would strengthen the text. There should be more examples that integrate multiple forms of diversity, such as gender, ability, age, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. Additionally, without an update, younger students may not understand some of the references. For example, younger students in 2018 don’t know Napster as a file-sharing site since it has rebranded to become a streaming site more similar to Spotify.

It would be great to see an update in the content of this text for 2018 that also incorporates broader perspectives of multiple identities and global perspectives. As is, I would use sections of the text and supplement that content with more current examples and issues. Balancing the cost of textbooks in this field with the quality and recency of the content is an ongoing challenge.

Reviewed by Craig Freeman, Director, Oklahoma State University on 5/21/18

The book covers all of the topics you would expect in an inter/ survey course. read more

The book covers all of the topics you would expect in an inter/ survey course.

The book does a good job of accurately surveying mass communications. Good job sourcing information.

The most recent citations are from 2010. That's just too far in the past for a rapidly changing subject like mass communication.

The book is clear and easy to read. Well written.

The book is internally consistent, with recurring sections.

The book does a good job breaking the information down into smaller reading sections.

The book follows the standard structure and flow for introductory texts in mass communication.

The interface is fine. It's a big book. Would appreciate active links to help skip chapters.

No grammatical errors.

I would appreciate a little more diversity in the examples used.

Really wish the authors would update this a bit. It does a great job with the history. Needs updating on the modern issues.

Reviewed by Kateryna Komarova, Visiting Instructor, University of South Florida on 3/27/18

The title Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication suggests that we are looking at a comprehensive introductory text. In my opinion, this book is the most valuable to GE courses and entry level courses across Mass... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 2 see less

The title Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication suggests that we are looking at a comprehensive introductory text. In my opinion, this book is the most valuable to GE courses and entry level courses across Mass Communication disciplines, as it does excellent job in covering the fundamentals of mass communication. The textbook is heavy on history, which is a great thing.

I found the content to be accurate and, to my knowledge, error-free.

In comparison with other introductory texts, the content is generally up-to date with current trends. Yet, the distribution of attention towards various forms of media tends to be slightly disproportional. For instance, print magazines alone (essentially, one of many forms of print media that’s experiencing a stable continuous decline) receive as much attention as all forms of social media altogether. As a communications practitioner and an instructor, I was pleased to see information on the merge of paid media and social media (content partnerships and native advertising being the prime examples, albeit these particular terms were not used by the author). On the other hand, some aspects of current media landscape (such as the role of mobile apps, for instance) could be explored further.

The text is written in simple, easy-to-understand language and would be appropriate to non-native speakers.

I find this text to be consistent in terms of terminology.

The book is organized in rather non-trivial fashion, without a unified approach to chapter categorization. Yet, I found this approach refreshing. I loved that the author suggests specific learning outcomes for each section (example: "Distinguish between mass communication and mass media"), key takeaways, and practical exercises. The question bank provided as part of this textbook is a treasure box! It’s a great resource that allows me to have more fun in the classroom by asking interesting questions that wake up the students and generate some amazing answers. The chapters are designed to be used selectively, in no particular order. Big plus.

The content is presented in chronological pattern: from past to future. Other than that, I did not trace much consistency in the material. For instance, Media and Culture is followed by Media Effects, after which the author switches to reviewing various forms of media (Radio, Magazines, Newspapers, etc.). The chapters to follow are Economics of Mass Media and Ethics of Mass Media. I find to be an advantage, as the subsections may be used selectively, and the order may be easily redesigned.

I read the textbook online via the Open Library portal . I found the navigation to be very easy. Good interface.

I did not spot any grammatical errors.

I found the content USA-centric. For this reason, it may have limited application to global courses (such as Global Citizens Project courses offered at USF). The majority of case studies are drawn from the United States; much attention is paid to the history of mass media in the USA and current U.S. legislation safeguarding privacy. In today’s increasingly globalized culture and economy, a broader outlook on media and culture may be expected. More international references would enhance the points made by the author. It is important for students to understand that major trends in mass communication, such as convergence of the media, are not unique to the United States. Similarly, increasing media literacy should be positioned as a global, rather than national, priority.

It is a great introductory text that provides a current overview of various forms of media and highlights the role of mass communication in society.

Reviewed by Joel Gershon, Adjunct Professor, American University on 2/1/18

The book should be the perfect fit for my course Understanding Media, as it indeed covers all of the subject matter of the course. The problem is that it is not up to date and therefore detracts from the complete picture that each one of these... read more

The book should be the perfect fit for my course Understanding Media, as it indeed covers all of the subject matter of the course. The problem is that it is not up to date and therefore detracts from the complete picture that each one of these topics delves into. For example, the music section poses the question: How do the various MP3 players differ? It refers to Spin as a magazine (it ceased its print operations in 2012). Or in the section on television, there is a question about the war between satellite and cable television. I think the winner of that is neither, as streaming a la carte is what people are talking about in 2017 as the direction TV is going in.

This criticism, of course, is obvious and easy. It's actually an exhaustive book that does contain a wealth of useful information, although no glossary or index – glaring omissions. Unfortunately, it suffers from not being up to 2017, when we are living in an up-to-the-second world. Especially in a field like media studies, it makes this book unusable in its entirety. The chapter ethics and economics aren't as badly out of date.

It is accurate for the time it was written in, but in today's world, much of this doesn't hold up. Just one example, there is the claim that Reader's Digest has the third highest circulation of all magazine, which is no longer the case in 2017. It is not in good shape. Even the references to "President Obama," obviously show that it was written a different era with a very different landscape for the media world. Still, the great majority of it appears to be represented fairly, albeit in an outmoded way. It's just that the trends and latest innovations in 2010 won't even make sense to a college freshman whose frame of reference likely came about three years after

Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.

Obviously, this is a major weak link of the textbook. I've already commented on this, but I think any time the textbook is referring to MySpace or Friendster in a way that suggests that they are viable social media sites, it makes itself into a caricature of an outdated guide.

No real problem here. The book is fully clear, well-written and to the point. The problem is that the point was made in 2010. That said, there is no glossary or index.

Again, this book is solid as a foundational textbook to get students the basic information regarding the history and meaningful cultural highlights of different forms of media. From radio to media and democracy, the lessons are thorough and contain useful and important information. It's just that some of this information is outdated.

The book is quite easy to read, the organization is fine and reads like any typical textbook. I will say that there have been advancements made, and that this book should be more interactive and multi-media if it wants to keep up with the Joneses.

It's fine in this regard. The writing itself is great and it's broken up nicely. Very readable and I wish it was up to date because it's a solid textbook.

This is fine for 2010, but there is no interactivity or video or things to let us know that we are in 2017.It's basic and fine, but nothing stands out are particularly innovative.

Written well. No issue here at all.

Again, this is the fatal flaw of the book. It's just not going to be persuasive if it doesn't manage to maintain the sensibilities of someone in 2017. Between politics and technology there have been extreme shifts in the media in the past few years and a book like this would need to be updated monthly to stay relevant. It could work as a historical document to see how people thought in 2010, but not really as a relevant book today.

Reviewed by Suzi Steffen, Instructor, Linn-Benton Community College on 6/20/17

This text is rather comprehensive, at least for the time it was published. It covers pretty much any topic one might want to cover in a Media and Society or introductory media and communications class, though for those interested in topic areas... read more

This text is rather comprehensive, at least for the time it was published. It covers pretty much any topic one might want to cover in a Media and Society or introductory media and communications class, though for those interested in topic areas like journalism, advertising, and public relations, this textbook is much more about the history of those areas than how they are surviving and functioning today (and that's fine with me; I can update with information that's more recent). There is no index (at least in this form), and there is no glossary, but terms are well-defined within each chapter and within pull-out boxes as well. It would be incumbent upon the professor and students to keep some kind of glossary or wiki, which is not a bad idea for a media history/media and society class in any case.

Often in a textbook for media and society or media history, one can see the author's world view shining through - is capitalism too much for media? Should media creators take an "unbiased" view of the world? How is a medium influenced by the way it is funded? The book has a solid conversational tone and is authoritative on its history, but I might prefer a little more analysis of media ownership and consolidation. As for accuracy, yes, the facts seem quite accurate to the best of my knowledge, and the text is written (and edited) by someone with a journalist's view of language - it's useful, it's best done well, and occasionally it lends itself to some essayistic moments.

I'm not sure there's a way to write a book like this that can keep it relevant past the month in which it was written, much less seven years later. Many of the examples the author uses to illustrate music, social media, books, newspapers (some of which don't exist anymore), magazines (ditto), etc., are simply no longer relevant. It *is* interesting to read about what the author thought was relevant at the time, and what the author thought would last, but this kind of book needs almost constant updating during this time of constant media churn and reinvention. I am giving it a 3, but really it's more like a 2.5 as any instructor would need constantly to find new examples that students will understand.

The book is accessible and lucid, absolutely. As with any history of a large discipline, the book contains a fair amount of jargon that is relevant to each portion of the subject matter covered, and the book is good about not only giving context and giving definitions but also setting aside boxed or special areas for examples that reinforce what it's talking about. The key takeaways at the end of each chapter, added to the exercises that are meant to help the students understand what's important in the dense historical detail and context of each chapter, are helpful as well.

This book is wonderfully consistent with terminology and the framework it employs to discuss media across a wide range of areas. From the beginning of each chapter, where an introduction lays out the plan of the chapter, to the end of each chapter - where a box of "key takeaways" explains what students should have learned - the book keeps a tone of very slightly amused detachment, mixed with earnest passion for certain topics, throughout, which is utterly consistent with how media people actually live their lives.

The text is definitely modular. It's written in a way that could easily be read in various chunks as the instructor or professor wishes to assign it. Blocks of text are broken up with images, a few charts, and a few stories that are boxed and that illustrate examples of topics within the chapters.

I think it's hard to know how to organize a media history/media and society textbook. Do you start with the printed word? But then, what about radio? Should radio come closer to magazines or closer to movies and TV? In that case, where do audiobooks and podcasts go? So, even as any instructor would grapple with these sorts of questions, the book is laid out in a way that made sense to the author - and that can be ripped apart and reassigned by each instructor. There's no need to read economics at the end of the course; perhaps, despite the fact that it's at the end of the book, it should come at the front end of the course - and because it's modular enough for flexibility, that's not a problem.

I read the textbook on my desktop Kindle and on my phone. It's not super with the images or charts, and the boxed questions and exercises at the end are especially hard to take. This interface could use a little attention, at least in the Kindle applications area. It's not impossible; it just needs some work.

No errors that I saw, though a textbook without at least a few grammatical errors is a miracle.

It's hard to say whether it's culturally insensitive or offensive because, well, I'm a white woman. I note that it talks about U.S. media's places (different for advertising, PR, newspapers, etc.) in the Civil Rights Movement and to a certain extent it discusses the ways that major media have been controlled or run by men, by white men, by straight white men. But I don't think the text addresses any of these things in the depth or with the clarity of thought that one would like to see in 2017. (Yes, it's a 2010 text.) In gaming, in Twitter discussions, in talking about newspapers or online media, the book is simply behind the times, and that makes it culturally problematic if not insensitive.

I am reluctant to adopt this book with students who really need more recent examples to make sense of how things are going now, today, in 2017, though it's also relevant for them to learn the history of how we got here (if anyone can really understand that at this point). I'd love to use a newer edition if one comes out. I might use or adapt parts of it along with other readings for my media and society class in 2018, but I'll be cautious about that.

Reviewed by Shearon Roberts, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication, Xavier University of Louisiana on 6/20/17

The textbook hits the standard areas for a typical Introduction to Mass Communication course: evolution of media industries, media and society, media effects and theories, media law and ethics, the digital age, and global media. It is... read more

The textbook hits the standard areas for a typical Introduction to Mass Communication course: evolution of media industries, media and society, media effects and theories, media law and ethics, the digital age, and global media. It is comprehensive in its case studies and historical events that are typically taught for an Introduction to Mass Communication course. The text is current as there is a chapter on the Internet and Social Media and several chapters look at the digital revolution as it impacts media industries. There is no glossary or index, however. Instructors will have to rely on chapter sections for lesson planning.

From Gutenberg to Apple and Google, the book provides content that is accurate on the development of media. The author thoroughly cites case studies and provides questions for critical thinking about issues affecting media industry trends and on the impact of the media on the public. Statistics, data and trends are appropriately cited for reference check on accuracy of estimates.

Case studies and citations stop at 2010. However, the author makes projections for media trends up to 2020. Since media industries are most vulnerable to yearly change, the information in the book holds for now, although the positions of some of the digital media players have changed since the book has come out. However, the author is careful to clarify dates for events that were transformative for media industry changes, at the point in which these events occurred, even if changes have occurred since the book was published in 2010. Within another 5 years, the book is likely to need some updates to digital age developments.

The language used is accessible for a first year student taking an Introduction to Mass Communication course. The theory, ethics and law chapters are broken down for a 1000-2000 level course. The case studies and critical thinking boxes are useful in helping to break down and apply a wealth of information in the text for students to conceptualize the importance of historical events and their social or cultural impacts.

The author is clear on defining media industries, digital convergence and common theories in mass communication.

Instructors can easily use the text as is, or piece together sections on history, digitization and media and society from several chapters, depending on the instructor’s preference.

The text follows the standard logic for media introduction courses moving students through print, to audio, to film to broadcasting and to the digital age. The author wisely weaves in the impact of new media in each of these phases of evolution so the student does not have to wait until the end of the text to see the impacts of the changes of the industry, as they understand media to be today.

While the interface is simple, all graphics and text boxes, as well as assignments are designed similarly throughout the text and easy to locate as an e-text for student work.

Sentences throughout the text are concisely written and the text appears thoroughly proofed.

It was important for me to see examples of race, gender and global dimensions of the media represented as case studies, assignments and critical thinking in the book. From using The Birth of a Nation and its outcry from the NAACP in the film chapter to the rice of BET, or the understanding stereotyping of African Americans in TV, this book has relevant examples that relate to minority students or for a Historically Black University. I did however see no mention of the black press, or the work of alternative media in introduction narratives left out of the mainstream media. However, most introductory media textbooks, also leave this out. If this is an interest area for diverse students, unfortunately instructors are left to source that information themselves. But the most prominent case studies for diverse groups can be found in this text.

It was surprising to discover such an open-textbook as the cost of Intro to Mass Communication textbooks are typically over $100 and students only use this textbook once. This is a valuable resource. I hope the author would consider updating in a few years for recent developments and important case studies such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement and President Donald Trump's election for an examination of media literacy.

Reviewed by Gwyneth Mellinger, Professor and Director, School of Media Arts & Design, James Madison University on 6/20/17

The book covers all of the subject areas typically touched on in a media and society survey course; however, the discussions within chapters would benefit greatly from more examples and, in some cases, greater detail in explanation. I often... read more

The book covers all of the subject areas typically touched on in a media and society survey course; however, the discussions within chapters would benefit greatly from more examples and, in some cases, greater detail in explanation. I often thought the content was pretty thin. This was particularly so in Chapter 2, where the treatment of effects theories and media studies controversies required much more supporting discussion to be relevant to undergraduates. The greatest weakness in the text, and the specific reason I would not adopt it for my own course, is that the book's engagement of social and digital media is, for the most part, woefully out of date and separated into discrete chapter segments, rather than synthesized into discussions directly. A text on media and society assigned in 2017 cannot be comprehensive if it does not engage media in a way that makes sense to the students who are reading it. There is no index or glossary.

Content Accuracy rating: 2

There is no bias in the text and historical detail appeared to be represented accurately. Again, I question whether a book written in 2010, which lacks full context for the subject matter, can accurately reflect media and society for students in 2017. For example, in 4.6, online journalism is represented as blogs and online newspapers. That is an accuracy issue for today's students.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 1

The book is out of date. Examples and context stop at 2010, and many cultural references will not resonate with current students, which is the point of examples and cultural context. The Beatlemania example early in the book and the references to 2009 in the opening paragraphs advertise the lack of currency. Significantly, the book cannot be easily updated in its current form because its approach and perspective are also out of date. By failing to integrate social media and the Internet into the central narrative, the book emphasizes legacy media in a way that is no longer relevant.

The book is clearly written, though additional examples and context would be helpful in places.

The narrative is consistent in terminology and framework.

The modularity of the text would allow use of sections of the text at different points in a course.

The content in Chapter 11 on evolution of the Internet and the impact of social media belongs near the beginning, not the end, of the text. In addition, the impact of media economics on content is downplayed by sequestering this discussion in Chapter 13. Each chapter on legacy media ends with a section on the impact of new technology on that medium. These sections feel tacked on.

There were no interface issues. That said, the book lacked the visual engagement used by many media and society texts to capture and maintain the interest of today's students.

The text is clean. Of note, the text correctly uses "media" as a plural noun. There was, however, this awkward subheading at 1.2: "What Does Media Do?"

The text is not culturally insensitive. It acknowledges cultural imperialism and the digital divides as issues. There are examples of media content that would be deemed inclusive. That is not to say, however, that today's students would find the examples culturally relevant. The book is written from their grandparents' perspective.

Without irony, the unknown author of the text includes in a media literacy checklist and discussion (1.8) the advice that students should scrutinize the identity and credentials of authors. This same section warns against anonymous online sources. This is a conceptual problem with this particular online text. It's not clear why the author wants to distance her/himself from the project, but it creates a question of credibility.

Reviewed by Elizabeth England-Kennedy, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island College on 4/11/17

The book is extremely comprehensive. Not only does it include all forms of mass media, but it intelligently and thoughtfully addresses critical concepts such as ethics and culture. Photojournalism (especially the work of muckrakers such as Jacob... read more

The book is extremely comprehensive. Not only does it include all forms of mass media, but it intelligently and thoughtfully addresses critical concepts such as ethics and culture. Photojournalism (especially the work of muckrakers such as Jacob Riis) is not included, and investigative reporting is too briefly addressed, although including advocacy journalism was a sound choice. There is no index or glossary. The lack of a glossary is surprising since key words are already highlighted in text.

The text is accurate and information is fairly represented and free of personal bias. No errors were found.

This is the most concerning characteristic of the book: The information has long-term relevance and is written in a highly readable way that will enhance its longevity. However, the examples tend to be temporally but often not generationally up-to-date and positioned for longevity. For example, beginning the book with an example that is this far removed from today's undergraduates' world may lessen their interest in reading further, as opposed to beginning with more focus on Beatlemania and then moving to an example of an artist/group more accessible to their generation. Additional examples used later in the book are drawn from recent time frames, but may not be commonly accessed. This is the only aspect of the book that would make me hesitate to adopt it.

The text is written in lucid prose that is accessible to introductory readers, though individuals whose first language is not English could have some difficulty reading independently. However, with minimal pre-reading guidance (e.g., introducing concepts that will be included in an upcoming reading assignment, instruction on how to use the Learning Objectives and Key Takeaways to best effect), these readers should also be able to understand and effectively use the text. Context is given for jargon/technical terminology, and definitions are generally clear.

The text is consistent in format, terminology, framework, and tone.

Modularity rating: 1

The book is clearly divided into relatively short subsections that are logically sequenced. Longer sections tend to be broken up by images, all of which are relevant examples of concepts being discussed in the section. The Learning Objectives, Key Takeaways, End-of-Chapter Assessments, and Critical Thinking Questions sections for each module are useful for guiding student reading and could be easily adapted into learning exercises and assessments such as discussions, quizzes, exams, and writing assignments. The Career Connection section at the end of chapters is innovative, and could be especially useful for students considering majors in communications-related fields. Chapters and sub-sections could be used independently in reading packets or rearranged without their being weakened, making it a more flexible resource or textbook.

The organization is clear. Sections are clearly labeled and of approximately the same length. Titles of chapters and subsections are logical and clear. Topics are logical laid out: An overview of foundational concepts in the first two chapters frames the remaining chapters effectively. The remaining chapters are organized in a historically-logical order. This structure is well-designed to helps readers better understand how an increase in the number and forms of media channels impacts audiences and media effects. Chapters are also internally well-organized and could be used separately as desired.

There are no interface difficulties. Pictures are clear and free of distortion. Navigation is clear and easy to use. Because the sections are short, reader interest should be maintained despite the low level of images included. Multiple platforms can be used.

The text contains no grammatical errors. A nice touch by the author is to clarify and model the correct grammatical usage of "medium" vs "media."

No cultural insensitivity or offensiveness was found. The author acknowledges that the book is focused on US media and includes culturally diverse examples. Topics such as cultural imperialism are addressed specifically. Related topics such as cultural appropriation and marginalization are referenced, although these specific terms are not necessarily used (e.g., the latter is addressed in the chapter on music as an outcome of the oligopoly in music without using the term "marginalization"). This could have been taken further; for example, the section on "Issues and Trends in Film" does not address concerns about "whitewashing" or lack of diversity in Hollywood movies and the section on Independent films does not address movies that countered these trends (e.g., the work of Spike Lee and Robert Rodriguez). However, the book lays the groundwork necessary for a discussion of such concepts in class or for use of supplemental materials that build on this text.

The book could be used as a stand-alone for an introductory class. Sections could be used in more advanced classes as supplemental readings or in reading packets.

Reviewed by Kevin Smith, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 2/15/17

This text is comprehensive in its coverage of all major media platforms and key general concepts related to mass media. There are times (e.g. Chapter 2: Media Effects) when some concepts are defined vaguely, but this is not indicative of the book... read more

This text is comprehensive in its coverage of all major media platforms and key general concepts related to mass media. There are times (e.g. Chapter 2: Media Effects) when some concepts are defined vaguely, but this is not indicative of the book as a whole. There is no glossary nor index, but most terms are defined well in the context of each chapter. The review sections at the end of each chapter would also help students organize and recall relevant information as they study. There is little that I feel is missing from this textbook that would be appropriate for an introductory mass media course.

A neutral, objective tone is struck throughout, with no apparent errors or gaps in coverage of major media and concepts. To the best of my knowledge, I believe this text to be free of errors, although it needs to be updated.

While this text is outstanding in its coverage and clarity, it is now seven years out-of-date and needs to be updated. A text on mass media should reflect the most recent changes in technology and economic and political contexts.

This text appears to be written for college freshmen and sophomores. Perhaps even upper-level high school students could successfully grasp its content. Most jargon particular to the discipline is defined and illustrated thoroughly.

The text is rigorous throughout, with even weight given to all concepts. There are occasional overlaps between chapters in coverage of terms (e.g. media bias), but nothing that seems sloppy or out-of-place. The historical overview of media technologies blends seamlessly with the beginning and later chapters on media studies concepts.

The structure of the book lends itself exceptionally well to divisibility, while demonstrating the ability to maintain its own internal coherence. The text seems designed for a semester-long course, so those looking to use it for quarters or with students whose expected reading loads might be lighter will find it easy to pull only what they need from it without sacrificing clarity.

The book's content is designed expertly, with introductory chapters leading into a chronological overview of the history of media technologies (books to social media). The text concludes by expanding its scope to cover more general concepts ( ethics) that scaffold on previously discussed ideas. This framework would greatly aid students in comprehending central ideas in media studies as they relate to specific technologies and historical periods.

I did not notice any problems in this area, although a cover might be helpful in identifying the text.

I noticed some minor typos, but nothing that reflects poorly on the high level of discourse and mechanical aspects of the text.

The text employs examples that would be helpful to students as they seek to understand mass media in diverse settings. There was no inappropriate content noted. The text is respectful and inclusive in this sense.

The end of chapter summaries, takeaways, exercises and critical thinking questions are outstanding and would serve any instructor well in designing a course with relevant activities tied directly to the text, while also pointing to other sources in contemporary mass media. The book is an invaluable resource that deserves the attention of a group of scholars who can update its content in order that it be more relevant to students.

Reviewed by Amy Rawson, Professor, Century College on 2/8/17

Interestingly, this textbook was more comprehensive than I originally expected. The text covered all of the major areas to be expected in a mass communication textbook: Media, Books, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, Movies, TV, Games, Internet &... read more

Interestingly, this textbook was more comprehensive than I originally expected. The text covered all of the major areas to be expected in a mass communication textbook: Media, Books, Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, Movies, TV, Games, Internet & Social Media, Advertising & PR, Economics, Ethics, Media & Government and the Future of Mass Media. However, I am giving 4 stars because there is no index or glossary which I deem especially important for a mass communication textbook.

The textbook is accurate. I also like the chapter on the future of mass media. The textbook seems to be error-free and unbiased. Each chapter section includes a few learning objectives and a few "key takeaways." There are also exercise questions at the end of each chapter section. The examples in the exercise questions are dated. It would be nice to have more current examples. However, I would prefer questions about the chapter at the end of the entire chapter or at the end of each section in addition to the objectives, takeaways and exercises. Thus, I am giving 4 stars for outdated examples.

I agree with another reviewer that the examples are a bit dated (which quickly happens in a mass communication textbook). This affects the credibility of the overall text. For example, in Chapter 16.1 Changes in Media Over the Last Century the example box titled "Pay-for-it Content: Will it Work?" is from 2009! This is 2017.

The textbook is written in clear and easily understood language. It is accessible and comprehensible. It would be nice to have a glossary for students for the mass communication jargon.

The text seems to be consistent with terminology and framework. However, the textbook seems dated overall and new terminology and frameworks could be added to make it more relevant and interesting for students.

The modularity of the textbook is good. It is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned different points within the course. I like the division of the chapters into subsections.

The organization/structure/flow of the textbook is good. However, I agree with another reviewer that the textbook is too lengthy. In my opinion, 647 pages is too long. Although I have used other textbooks of similar length, there are many more vivid visuals for students and more timely information and examples.

The text is free of significant interface issues that may confuse or distract the reader.

The text contains no grammatical errors.

The textbook examples for cultural relevance could be more current.

Thank you for this opportunity. I like the idea of an open textbook and would be interested in doing more reviews in the future.

Reviewed by Tom Grier, Professor, Winona State University on 8/21/16

The book is comprehensive, covering the study of media and its intersection with culture, through an in-depth look at each of the major mediums, then content considerations, economics and ethics issues related to the mass media. read more

The book is comprehensive, covering the study of media and its intersection with culture, through an in-depth look at each of the major mediums, then content considerations, economics and ethics issues related to the mass media.

This text seems accurate. I didn't find glaring errors of fact in my reading. Though, as I will mention later in my review, many of the examples used in the text are now several years outdated, when more recent examples or case studies would be more relatable to a youthful college audience.

This is one area where I find some difficulty with the book -- as is the case with every text of this type. The world of media is ever-changing and fast-changing. The historical information about the invention, early adoption, and improvements to the mediums of mass communication (books, newspapers, radio, television, etc.) are fine. A few of the examples and case studies used to describe events related to the media feel outdated. This is most apparent in Chapters 1 and 2 on Media and Culture and Media Effects. Examples from 2010 and 2011, are not relative to college freshmen in 2016 who were in middle-school and probably not paying attention when these things happened. Therefore, the longevity of this text is limited, unless it is updated-revised at least every third year.

The author's writing style is informative and engaging. While the writing is clear and understandable, the chapters often get too deep and try to cover anything and everything in a particular content area-- or sub-chapter, when a couple statements and one case study would suffice.

I found the chapter formatting, writing style and narrative flow to be consistent from chapter to chapter.

Here, the text shines. First, it is broken into chapters that are easily identifiable and segment the content nicely. Within each chapter are several sub-chapters that allow readers to read and absorb material in smaller chunks. This will be helpful to the learning styles of younger people today.

For the most part, I agree with the author's organization and flow. My only thought, and it's just an opinion, is: Chapter 2 on Media Effects should be moved to Chapter 14, so it comes after the major media categories and then the economics of the media, and just before the ethics and law of media. To be fair, most mass media textbooks follow this same organization. When I teach the class, I always move the "effects" chapter to later in the semester, after I've discussed the media types, their history and development.

A second thought, I'd hold the footnoted source credits to the end of each chapter, or preferably to the end of the book. The sometimes very long list of footnoted sources between each sub-chapter stops the flow for readers that may wish to read a full chapter.

I downloaded the PDF version, and read that. I found the interface cumbersome. I wish paragraphs were indented. I wish it was easier to navigate from chapter to chapter or topic to topic without scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. I wish there was an easy way to get to a Table of Contents with one click, and then from there click topic-anchored reference points to skip to specific information sought.

I wish it had an index that had anchor links. I realize this would be a large undertaking to create and connect the links. But that would make searching and finding specific information easy and fast. If I was a college student studying for a chapter quiz or exam on the foundations of radio, I might like to scoot to the Index and click on Radio-Invention, or on Marconi and be led instantly to that content within the text.

And, probably an easy fix, I wish it was more evenly spaced. In my opinion, there should consistently be two spaces between sub-headed sections or sub-chapters. In most places in this text, a new, bolded subhead appears on the very next line under its preceding paragraph. This looks jammed and messy.

I have no problem with the grammar. It's clear, easy to follow, and written to be accessible to a college audience. I used the Gunning Fog Index to test several paragraphs throughout the text and found some of the writing aimed at an audience with 10-11 years of formal education, and in a few cases more than 15 years of education. The average of my selected readings came out at 12-13 years of education -- perfectly appropriate for a freshmen-level college course.

Other than my hope for some more recent case studies and examples, I find the text to be culturally relevant. A few of the examples mention MySpace, Napster and Kazaa as internet entities with which the audience should be familiar. In reality, today's college freshmen know almost nothing of these three internet terms. In my current Media and Society class, less than ten percent of the class had ever had a MySpace account. They had heard of MySpace, but really knew nothing. No one in the class knew about Napster or Kazaa first-hand... perhaps had heard of them in another class.

This text feels too long. This is a difficult thing. The author includes everything he feels needs to be discussed in each chapter. But it's too much for a college freshman-level class. Example: The chapter on Music is more than 50 pages long. While I agree college students should be able to read this much each week for a class, I'm confident they will not read this much. I believe the text could be condensed quite a bit while maintaining the content necessary to make it meaningful at the freshman level. It's a complete text, and would make a nice reference tool -- with better indexing and searching links within the body -- but it won't work at an entry level to the study of media. At my university, the "Media and Society" class is a 100-level course, used as a general education class that can fulfill a categorical credit-need for all students, not just Mass Communication majors. And we consider the class a "feeder" to the major, introducing students to the study of media and hopefully igniting an interest in students to consider a career in media, and therefore declare a Mass Communication major. This book, with its depth, might be more appropriate in an upper-vision media studies course.

Reviewed by Nick Marx, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University on 1/7/16

The text is a broad and comprehensive overview of all relevant forms of media today. Although this is a common organizational approach for survey textbooks of media, this particular volume utilizes it in a particularly clear and cogent manner. ... read more

The text is a broad and comprehensive overview of all relevant forms of media today. Although this is a common organizational approach for survey textbooks of media, this particular volume utilizes it in a particularly clear and cogent manner. Instructors approaching media and culture from a mass comm/journalism standpoint are much likelier to find this text useful than are instructors who approach media and culture from a perspective emphasizing critical/cultural studies, historical poetics, and/or aesthetics.

Content is accurate and strikes appropriately diplomatic tones where contentious issues might arise that concern social and cultural power.

The text is quite relevant for the most part, but by the very nature of its subject matter will undoubtedly require updates every few years. Framing the intro of the "Future of Mass Media" chapter with a specific device--the iPad--rather than the set of cultural protocols such devices foster, for example, might prove to be one area where instructors redirect conversations after the next new device inevitably cycles through.

The text is lucid and easy to follow. The book is ideal for introductory-level courses, but is likely too survey-oriented for courses beyond that level.

The text is consistent in structure, tone, and subject matter.

Here the book really excels at guiding students through a programmatic approach to studying media. Each section of history/description is followed by useful discussion prompts and activities, easily lending itself to course adoption.

The book flows logically. Some medium-specific chapters might arguably be collapsed into others, but their separation provides instructors with a good range of options for organizing lesson plans as they wish rather than having to proceed sequentially.

The text is a cleanly organized PDF, but is quite cumbersome to navigate internally. At 700+ pages, there's no table of contents and little in the PDF that allows for quick and easy browsing without intense scrolling. I'd recommend a hyperlinked TOC and some mechanism that affords instructors/students the freedom to teach/read in a modular, not linear, fashion.

The book is very clean and free of any obvious errors.

The book appropriately qualifies and focuses on the US media context, drawing on a good diversity of examples throughout.

Reviewed by Robert Kerr, Professor, University of Oklahoma on 1/12/15

This book devotes almost 800 pages to achieving an impressive level of comprehensiveness, considering the vast subject material upon which it focuses. Moving from Gutenberg’s 15th-century invention of the movable type printing press, through the... read more

This book devotes almost 800 pages to achieving an impressive level of comprehensiveness, considering the vast subject material upon which it focuses. Moving from Gutenberg’s 15th-century invention of the movable type printing press, through the beginning of the contemporary media age launched by the introduction of the telegraph in the mid 19th century, on into the explosive era opened with the beginnings of wireless communication, and ultimately into the revolution of Internet communication that by 2008 meant that U.S. households were consuming 3.6 zettabytes of information annually, the equivalent of a seven-foot-foot tall stack of books that covered the entire nation and represented a 350 percent increase from just three decades previously. This book manages to cover that remarkable series of media developments, and actually a good bit more, while keeping it all in broader context and without getting bogged down in the tedium of too much minutia from any one topic area.

This reviewer came across no errors of fact nor any pattern of bias in presentation.

The author of any text on this subject is faced with the challenge of achieving up-to-date content on a subject that explodes with new developments faster than any static text could ever stay fully up to date on for long. This text addresses that challenge by focusing on presenting a fully, dynamic framework that is so fully developed that it provides readers with a quite useful and enduring framework for considering crucial issues of media and culture in a manner that should give it a considerable shelf life. That framework is designed to help readers understand not only today’s media landscape but to consider what may be ahead for that landscape in terms of the future of media and culture.

The text breaks down relevant concepts and terminology with lucid, accessible prose so that even readers at the most introductory level should be able to always understand the discussion. Throughout the text, it very clearly helps readers think about each concept and related elements very clearly and in context that illuminates their significance.

This book’s use of terminology and framework is remarkably consistent. The author clearly has an instinctive, unified understanding of the essential dynamics driving the media world as it has evolved, exists today, and is unfolding going forward, and consistently discusses all topics in a context that never loses connection with that broad, fluid picture.

Chapters are organized into small modules, short subsections that by and large can stand alone and could be reorganized as an instructor might find more useful for the purposes of particular courses. Each chapter and each subsection includes highly useful learning objectives, key takeaways, and exercises, links to source materials and end-of-chapter assessments.

The book begins with a thorough overview that takes the reader quickly through a multifaceted assessment of the relationship between media and culture. With that foundation established, it moves into discussion of what is understood about the complex subject of media effects. Then it moves into narrower topics within the broader view considered so far, moving on to discussions of books, newspapers, magazines, music, radio, movies, and television, and then on to more recent developments such as electronic games, the Internet and social media. Then it steps back again to consider broader media influences such as advertising/PR, the role of economics in shaping the nature of mass media, ethical considerations, and government influence, before concluding with a substantial discussion of the future of mass media. The final chapter very effectively brings together the many strands of discussion from preceding chapters and synergizes them with a forward looking discussion of what the media future may hold. A table of contents within the book pdf itself would be helpful, as would content outlines at the beginning of each chapter. However, each chapter does contain very good breakdown highlights of each subsection’s learning objectives, key takeaways, and exercises, as well as extensive links to source materials and end-of-chapter assessments.

There do not seem to be any interface problems. The book is easy to navigate and the images/charts are displayed clearly, without distortion. Display features are presented quite distinctly and effectively throughout and should present readers with not distractions or confusion. The layout is somewhat visually plain, compared to many websites and even many traditional textbooks with more graphically elaborate designs, but the simple layout is easy to negotiate. The number of images/charts is not abundant, but is sufficient.

Grammar is used correctly throughout -- including use of the term “media” as a plural noun, which even too many academics have begun to use incorrectly as a singular term. It even includes an explanation of why it is incorrect to make that term singular, despite its popular usage in such manner. The text is very well written throughout, lively and to the point, with an easy flow that should enable readers to move through it almost effortlessly.

Over the course of this 761-page book, the reader is taken through an extensive range of discussion examples that span a multitude of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. This reviewer did not detect any instances of cultural insensitivity or offensiveness.

This book is written well enough to be of general interest as a stand-alone read, apart from the context of its use as a textbook.

Reviewed by Doug Trouten, Professor, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

The text covers all of the major forms of media and significant related topics (advertising, media economics, ethics, etc.). While the text lacks a dedicated chapter for journalism, this topic is covered at length in some of the other chapters. No... read more

The text covers all of the major forms of media and significant related topics (advertising, media economics, ethics, etc.). While the text lacks a dedicated chapter for journalism, this topic is covered at length in some of the other chapters. No glossary or index is provided.

Content is accurate and free of glaring errors. Although written in a personal, conversational tone, the text avoids obvious personal bias.

The content is up-to-date, including discussion of social media and references to recent works of media criticism. The rapid development of new media makes it likely that some of the material in this (or any) book will quickly seem dated, but the most time-sensitive material is confined to a few chapters, which should facilitate future updates.

The book is written in clear, easy-to-understand language that should appeal to today's college-age reader.

The text shows good consistency, introducing key ideas early and using them to facilitate understanding of material covered in subsequent chapters.

The chapters are clearly divided into subsections, each with clearly stated learning objectives, key takeaways and learning exercises. Most subsections could stand on their own, and chapters focusing on specific forms of mass media could easily be rearranged or skipped if desired.

The topics are presented in a logical fashion. After introducing basic ideas about media and culture and media effects, the text moves to discussion of various forms of media in chronological orders, and ends with chapters on various mass media applications and issues, such as advertising, public relations, ethics and government regulation.

The text is a basic PDF, with fixed line breaks that limit display options. Most URLs are live links. Footnote numbers and references to chapter sections look like links but are not, which may confuse some readers. A format better-suited for e-readers would be welcome.

The text strives to be culturally neutral, and should not offend any particular group of readers. The text clearly focuses on the U.S. media context, and acknowledges this limitation early on.

This is an impressively comprehensive overview of mass communication, written in a clear and engaging manner. Discussion questions and exercises are helpful resources for classroom use. A glossary, index and more flexible e-format would make this text even more useful. This text is a welcome addition to the field, and will serve students and teachers well.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Media and Culture
  • Chapter 2: Media Effects
  • Chapter 3: Books
  • Chapter 4: Newspapers
  • Chapter 5: Magazines
  • Chapter 6: Music
  • Chapter 7: Radio
  • Chapter 8: Movies
  • Chapter 9: Television
  • Chapter 10: Electronic Games and Entertainment
  • Chapter 11: The Internet and Social Media
  • Chapter 12: Advertising and Public Relations
  • Chapter 14: Ethics of Mass Media
  • Chapter 15: Media and Government
  • Chapter 16: The Future of Mass Media

Ancillary Material

  • University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

About the Book

According to the author, the world did not need another introductory text in mass communication. But the world did need another kind of introductory text in mass communication, and that is how Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication was birthed.

The only question was: What would be the purpose of another introductory mass communication text?

Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication was written to squarely emphasize media technology. The author believes that an introduction to mass communication text should be a compelling, historical narrative sketching the *ongoing evolution* of media technology and how that technology shapes and is shaped by culture — and that is what he set out to deliver with his new textbook.

Today's students are immersed in media technology. They live in a world of cell phones, smart phones, video games, iPods, laptops, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and more. They fully expect that new technology will be developed tomorrow. Yet students often lack an historical perspective on media technology. They lack knowledge of the social, political and economic forces that shape media technology. This is not knowledge for knowledge's sake. It is knowledge that can help them understand, comprehend, appreciate, anticipate, shape and control media technology.

With this focus, Understanding Media and Culture becomes an appropriate title. Indeed, the title has particular significance. Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media is a key text in media studies. Written in the 1960s, Understanding Media was the subject of intense debates that continue to this day. Its central message was that the technology of media — not their content — was their most important feature. In a typically pithy phrase, McLuhan said, "The medium is the message." The title, Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication , situates the introductory text in a large, engrossing theoretical conversation.

The goal is to adopt a textbook that will support and complement your teaching of this course. Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication will support an engaging and interesting course experience for students that will not only show them the powerful social, political and economic forces will affect the future of media technology, but will challenge students to do their part in shaping that future.

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Stead M, Angus K, Langley T, et al. Mass media to communicate public health messages in six health topic areas: a systematic review and other reviews of the evidence. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2019 Apr. (Public Health Research, No. 7.8.)

Cover of Mass media to communicate public health messages in six health topic areas: a systematic review and other reviews of the evidence

Mass media to communicate public health messages in six health topic areas: a systematic review and other reviews of the evidence.

Chapter 7 discussion and conclusions.

The aim of this study was to provide the NHS, local authorities, government and other organisations with evidence on the effective use of mass media to communicate public health messages. We conducted four reviews underpinned by a logic model of how mass media campaigns influence behaviour. These were:

  • A review of existing systematic reviews (review A). This comprised a review of 36 English-language systematic reviews published between January 2000 and January 2016 on the effectiveness of mass media campaigns across six health topics. We identified 12 reviews of mass media addressing tobacco use, nine addressing sexual health, seven addressing physical activity and three addressing illicit drug use, with five reviews addressing ‘mixed topics’ (i.e. more than one of our six health topics). Despite none of the reviews meeting our inclusion criteria for alcohol use or diet mass media interventions, studies evaluating campaigns targeting alcohol or diet were included in four mixed-heath-topic reviews. Findings from this review are presented in Chapters 2 and 5 .
  • A review of primary studies examining alcohol mass media campaigns (review B). This was conducted because review A found no reviews specifically addressing alcohol and limited evidence relating to alcohol in the reviews covering mixed topics. The parameters for the review were English-language primary studies (published up to July 2016) that assessed the effectiveness of mass media public health campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. Studies examining drink driving mass media interventions and college campus campaigns were excluded. Findings from this review, which included 24 studies, are presented in Chapter 3 .
  • A rapid review of cost-effectiveness evidence (review C). This involved a rapid review of 13 systematic and seven non-systematic reviews, published between January 2000 and January 2017, which assessed economic studies that evaluated both the costs and benefits of mass media campaigns for any of our six health topics. Findings from this review are presented in Chapter 4 .
  • A review of primary studies of mass media campaigns conducted in the UK and published between January 2011 and September 2016 (review D). The main aim of this review was to provide additional, UK-relevant evidence and evidence on new media to complement evidence from review A regarding campaign characteristics that might be associated with effectiveness. Studies were eligible for inclusion in this review if the paper was published in or after 2011 and the study was conducted in the UK; multicountry studies were eligible if findings for the UK were reported separately. The campaigns had to address one of our six health topics. Findings from this review, which included 25 studies, are presented in Chapter 5 .

In addition, we conducted stakeholder engagement work, which is described in Chapter 6 .

In the remainder of this chapter, we aim to synthesise our findings across the different chapters, to reflect on implications for our logic model and gaps in the evidence and to identify pointers for future research.

  • How effective are mass media campaigns?

We addressed this question with three reviews: a review of 36 systematic reviews (review A), a review of 24 primary studies on alcohol mass media campaigns (review B) and a cost-effectiveness review of 20 reviews and systematic reviews (review C).

Review A, which included 36 systematic reviews, brought together evidence on the impact of mass media campaigns on health behaviours (including alcohol use, illicit substance use, diet, physical activity, sexual and reproductive health and smoking cessation and prevention) for the first time. Overall, the evidence base for the effectiveness of mass media for behaviour change is mixed. First, the amount of evidence varies across health topics, with most evidence relating to campaigns addressing tobacco use, followed by sexual health and physical activity. The strength of evidence from reviews also varies. Using a modified GRADE approach, 33 , 34 we found moderate evidence for the positive effects of mass media campaigns on reducing sedentary behaviour and sexual health-related behaviours such as condom use. Low-certainty evidence for positive impacts on diet was found, although the overall volume of evidence on diet was very limited. The impact of the mass media on tobacco use and physical activity, such as stair use and brisk walking, was mixed, but with low-certainty evidence in both cases. In contrast, the available and again low-certainty evidence on illicit drugs suggests no impact of mass media. All reviews found considerable variation between individual studies as described in a meta-analysis or narrative synthesis, suggesting that variations in implementation of the campaign and evaluation methods may be important.

For treatment-seeking behaviours, there was low-certainty evidence that mass media campaigns can help increase the use of sexual health clinics or services. Whether or not media campaigns can prompt calls to telephone quitlines for smoking cessation has been fairly extensively studied in five reviews. Overall, the direction of effect looks positive, with campaigns serving to prompt calls to quitlines, but variation in results and the quality of studies was identified – therefore, there is only moderate certainty in the strength of this finding. A recent study examining the impact of Scottish tobacco control mass media campaigns (2003–12) found a cumulative increase in calls to a quitline, sustained for 6 months. 161 This is further evidence of a positive direction of effect; however, the study found no impact on NRT prescription volumes.

Evidence on distal outcomes (reduction in illnesses, improved population health, reduced health service usage, societal change, policy change and impact on inequalities) was also examined, and little evidence was found. However, distal outcomes can be defined in different ways to those adopted in our logic model, and can, for example, include denormalisation and longer term shifts in public attitudes regarding the acceptability of a behaviour. One systematic review noted that:

There is evidence of good quality (1&2+, C), which shows an effect of mass media interventions on attitudes towards smoking and intentions to smoke among young people under 25 years. Copyright © NICE 2008. A Review of the Effectiveness of Mass Media Interventions Which Both Encourage Quit Attempts and Reinforce Current and Recent Attempts to Quit Smoking. 43 Available from . All rights reserved. Subject to Notice of rights. NICE guidance is prepared for the National Health Service in England. All NICE guidance is subject to regular review and may be updated or withdrawn. NICE accepts no responsibility for the use of its content in this product/publication. NICE

This suggests that mass media programmes may have contributed to the denormalisation of smoking among young people.

Changes in health behaviour are the ideal outcome of mass media health campaigns. However, theories of health behaviour change are generally based on an assumption that behaviour change happens incrementally or via changes in mediating variables such as changes in knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and intentions. 7 , 162 , 163 A more realistic assessment of the value and effectiveness of mass media campaigns takes into account the impact of such campaigns not only on behaviour but also on these mediating variables. Our review of reviews examined evidence regarding indirect behavioural outcomes (intentions to engage in, reduce or desist from unhealthy behaviours or to engage in healthy behaviours) and social cognitive outcomes (awareness, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, norms and self-efficacy).

In the 15 reviews examining the impact of mass media campaigns on knowledge and awareness, there was evidence of positive impacts on increased knowledge and awareness in relation to sexual health, such as knowledge of HIV prevention, contraception and sexual health services. Positive results were also reported for increased knowledge and awareness of tobacco risks and services to help quit, increased knowledge and awareness for diet and for physical activity. There was mixed evidence regarding the impact on knowledge and awareness of illicit drug use. In the seven reviews examining the impact of mass media campaigns on intentions, there was generally positive evidence of impacts on intention to increase physical activity (although from a review with a high risk of bias), and there was some evidence of positive impacts on intention to quit smoking. There was mixed evidence regarding intention to stop the use of illicit drugs and to use contraception. In 10 reviews reporting on attitudes, beliefs and self-efficacy, there was evidence of positive impacts on beliefs about risk of pregnancy and the use of condoms, from reviews of studies in low-income countries. There was mixed evidence of the impact on attitudes towards illicit drug use and tobacco. A mixed-topic review that included studies from the UK reported positive results on attitudes towards reducing tobacco use and increasing physical activity.

Some previous reviews and meta-analyses have reported stronger evidence that media health campaigns can produce positive effects on behaviour change, but have also suggested that this differs with the type of behaviour. Anker et al. , 164 in a meta-analysis, found a significant effect for the use of mass mediated health campaigns on behaviour across 51 primary studies, but the size and significance of campaign effects varied across target behaviours, with campaigns working best for increased transport safety and also better than controls for cardiovascular disease, physical activity and nutrition. Wakefield et al. 6 reviewed the outcomes of mass media campaigns in the context of a wide range of health-risk behaviours (e.g. use of tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, heart disease risk factors, sex-related behaviours, road safety, cancer screening and prevention, child survival and organ or blood donation), and concluded that mass media campaigns can produce positive changes or prevent negative changes in health-related behaviours. They concluded that the success of mass media campaigns was greater when the target behaviour was one-off or episodic (e.g. screening, vaccination and children’s aspirin use) rather than habitual or ongoing (e.g. food choices, sun exposure and physical activity). Many of these one-off behaviours were not included in our review, and our focus on lifestyle behaviours may have contributed to the overall weaker evidence of success in actual behaviour change as opposed to its mediating factors. Of the behaviours that were included in our review, the strongest evidence of success in behaviour change was seen for reducing sedentary behaviour and improving sexual health behaviour (e.g. wearing a condom). The Anker et al. 164 meta-analysis identified a weighted mean effect size of 0.05 for effects of campaigns on behaviour change, and proposed that this 5% benchmark could provide a standard against which future media intervention studies could assess success. In the reviews that we identified, when there were sizes of effect for campaigns to reduce sedentary behaviour or increase physical activity, these generally met or exceeded this benchmark for success, and those for condom use tended to produce somewhat greater effects. One interpretation of these findings is that media campaigns are most successful when the behavioural goal is simple, a conclusion also drawn in an NHS Health Development Agency report from 2004. 165 It might be anticipated that the more complex the behaviour change (e.g. if it involves a component of addiction as with tobacco or illicit drugs), the more back-up is required to supplement the mass media campaign. Although our review was limited in its evaluation of contextual moderators, some of the included reviews (e.g. the Cochrane Database Systematic Review of tobacco control campaigns 27 ) conclude that these can be important in the context of wider or multiple interventions, such as a comprehensive tobacco control programme. This should include the appropriate support services. Looking across health behaviours, Wakefield et al. 6 highlight that concurrent availability of and access to key services and products are crucial to persuade individuals motivated by media messages to act on them.

A further aspect of context is the prevalence of the behaviour in the population. Naugle and Hornik, 166 in reviewing the literature on child survival in low- and middle-income countries, highlight that, for mass media campaign effects to be detected, there ‘must be room to move the population on the target behaviour’. It is possible that this contributes to the positive outcomes of some mass media sexual health campaigns in non-OECD countries where baseline rates of condom use were low.

We found additional evidence regarding the effectiveness of mass media campaigns in review B. Our systematic review of primary studies of mass media campaigns targeting alcohol was the first comprehensive synthesis of evidence from such campaigns. The overall quality of the evidence base was low, predominantly owing to the use of weak study designs, risk of participant selection bias and self-reported outcome data.

Overall, we found very limited evidence that campaigns were associated with reductions in alcohol consumption, although the majority of reports did not state that reducing consumption had been an aim of the campaign. Most campaigns had aims such as improving knowledge of, awareness of and communication about alcohol. Despite this, it is likely that reducing consumption was an implicit long-term aim of all campaigns, as they all targeted outcomes that can be considered precursors to consumption within our logic model. Longer term evaluations following repeated exposure to campaign messages may be needed to detect changes in consumption, of which we found few. There are important social, cultural and environmental barriers to alcohol behaviour change, such as widespread alcohol advertising and pro-alcohol cultural norms. This provides a challenging context that contrasts with tobacco, for example, for which advertising is highly restricted and norms are antismoking. Other reviews have concluded that social norms interventions were ineffective at reducing alcohol consumption by university and college students and that reductions in drink driving could not be attributed to mass media campaigns alone. 77 , 167 Our findings add to this evidence and are consistent with the conclusion of Snyder et al. 168 that mass media campaigns should have modest expectations of effect on health behaviour. Alcohol campaigns in particular face a number of competing forces that may limit their effectiveness at reducing consumption.

There was some evidence in review B, from mainly weak-quality studies, that alcohol mass media campaigns were associated with increases in information-seeking and treatment-seeking behaviour. There were mixed findings regarding other proximal outcomes, such as attitudes, beliefs, intention and self-efficacy. Mass media campaigns face a number of challenges in terms of these sorts of outcomes: they may be perceived to be aimed only at very heavy drinkers (meaning that many in the population disregard them as not relevant) and can lack a clear call to action, typically advising limiting units consumed rather than abstinence. There was mixed evidence of interaction with campaigns and discussion or onward transmission of campaign messages, from mostly weak-quality studies. More encouragingly, studies reported high levels of campaign recall, and evidence that campaigns were associated with increases in knowledge about alcohol, especially where it had initially been low. This is a key finding and perhaps indicates where mass media messages about alcohol are currently best targeted to achieve change. This is particularly important given that knowledge about alcohol unit consumption guidelines and the health risks associated with alcohol consumption is reported to be very low. 169

Our searches for published English-language evaluations with no time limit applied produced only 24 campaigns (in July 2016). In comparison, a content analysis study by Dunstone et al. 170 identified 72 English-language campaigns conducted between 2006 and 2014. This suggests that a large proportion of alcohol campaigns have not been evaluated and published. A greater investment in alcohol campaign evaluation is needed in order to better understand its effectiveness. We found only two reports of campaigns that used online or social media as a primary channel. 86 , 102 An important challenge for future research is therefore to evaluate the effectiveness of newer digital media channels to communicate alcohol health messages.

Regarding the cost-effectiveness of mass media campaigns, review C examined evidence from 20 systematic and non-systematic reviews (published between January 2000 and January 2017), reporting on 15 individual primary studies. Included reviews were required to assess economic studies that evaluated both costs and benefits of mass media campaigns (i.e. full economic evaluations, not just intervention costs or cost savings). Taken together, the reviews and the findings of the primary studies within the reviews provided moderate evidence that tobacco control mass media campaigns can be cost-effective. There was weak evidence in relation to diet campaigns (restricted to a campaign seeking to reduce salt intake) and physical activity, and no evidence in relation to the cost-effectiveness of sexual health campaigns, despite efforts to identify such evidence in systematic reviews.

Recent work by Marsh et al. 171 on how to prioritise investments in public health ranked 14 intervention types in order of cost-effectiveness (cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained). Increasing alcohol and tobacco tax by 5% topped the list, national mass media campaigns for smoking were third in the list and national mass media campaigns for obesity were fifth in the list. However, overall, evidence on the cost-effectiveness of mass media campaigns was extremely limited for all health behaviours except smoking. Regarding smoking, the studies in the included reviews generally found tobacco mass media campaigns to be cost-effective. However, the fact that only effective interventions tend to be taken forward to an economic evaluation, and hence the potential for bias in reviews on this topic, should be taken into account.

  • How effective are mass media campaigns with different target populations?

The majority of the 36 reviews included in review A provided evidence on whether the effects of mass media campaigns were similar or different across subpopulations. Our analysis of this evidence found that mass media campaigns may reach and affect groups in the population differently. Although age differences were not always measured, reviews of tobacco and illicit drug campaigns found that mass media appeared to be more effective for young people, and particularly for younger children rather than for older teenagers. There was modest evidence that mass media outcomes for tobacco, sexual health and physical activity do not differ by sex and no clear consistent evidence was found for ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Looking at baseline measures of health behaviours, physical activity campaigns may be more effective for less active or obese people than for others.

This paucity of good-quality evidence on the differential effects of campaigns on behaviour across different population groups is a concern. It has been suggested that health promotion interventions might increase rather than decrease inequalities, and particularly socioeconomic inequalities, in health, because messages and interventions may have a differential take-up and success across different social class groups. 37 , 40 , 43 The reviews included in review A, all based on tobacco control campaigns in contexts in which there are marked inequalities in smoking prevalence and morbidity, provide mixed evidence regarding whether or not effects on behavioural outcomes vary across socioeconomic groups. Nevertheless, the evidence is more consistent that interventions will be more effective if appropriately developed and targeted to reach the intended audience, and this will be important to ensure that campaigns work to reduce inequality. We are aware of an ongoing systematic review on targeted mass media interventions promoting healthy behaviours to reduce risk of NCDs in adults from ethnic minority groups. 172

Evidence for the greater effectiveness of campaigns among the young, mostly based on tobacco control campaigns, is consistent with much of the communications literature. Advertising is well known to work effectively in children and young people, 173 , 174 and advertisers seek to use this to establish behaviour and brand preference at an early age. The evidence from this review suggests that anti-tobacco mass media messages can also be effective in the young, and that the impact may be greater on uptake of smoking than on cessation in adults, possibly because it is simpler to change behaviour before the onset of addiction.

  • What characteristics of mass media campaigns are associated with effectiveness?

We sought to identify characteristics of mass media campaigns that may be associated with effectiveness, drawing on evidence from the review of reviews (review A) and from the additional review of UK primary studies (review D). Overall, there was limited evidence on the contribution of media campaign characteristics to effectiveness, with only a small number of reviews and studies containing statistical analyses to assess the impact of different characteristics.

Across all the reviews included in review A, there was little evidence regarding the role that theory may play in campaign effectiveness, with most reviews simply listing which theories, if any, had been referred to in intervention studies. There was limited evidence regarding media channel as a potential moderator of effectiveness in three reviews, with findings varying depending on the types and topics of campaigns, and mostly having limited relevance to the contemporary UK context. Longer intervention duration or greater intensity/exposure were found to be related to effectiveness in several reviews, with most of the evidence relating to tobacco and to a lesser extent sexual health campaigns; however, there was little clear guidance or consensus on how long or intense campaigns should be to produce effects. One of the reviews noted a recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that advertisements should be aired for a minimum of 6 months to affect awareness and up to 24 months to have an impact on behaviours, and should be aired as frequently as possible. 44

Lack of formal statistical analysis in the reviews included in review A meant that clear conclusions about the type of messaging content that is most effective could not be drawn. There was evidence from the reviews that social norms campaigns and negative (i.e. hard-hitting messages on health consequences) messaging could change behaviour, but little evidence regarding whether or not these were more effective than other approaches. The reviews included in review A indicated that targeting can be effective, suggesting that messages needed to be appropriate to the target audience, taking into account a range of characteristics including age, sex, culture and level of engagement in the activity. There was evidence to suggest that targeting specific subgroups such as the young could be effective, but with caution to avoid patronising or stereotyping. There was no evidence from the reviews on the scale of campaign (i.e. whether it was implemented at a national, regional or local level) acting as a moderator of effectiveness. Regarding source, there was evidence that tobacco industry-sponsored campaigns were not effective.

The UK primary studies that we examined in review D for evidence regarding campaign characteristics were mostly concerned with tobacco, plus a small number of physical activity interventions. This limited the value of the evidence for other health behaviour topics, but an advantage of examining this evidence was that all the studies were relevant to the UK context, and when examining the role of message the primary studies examined a wider range of message types than did the reviews. The evidence from the UK primary studies in review D suggested that positive messages may also be important, with both positive and negative messages affecting smoking behaviour. Regarding messages for physical activity, there was mixed evidence regarding effective messages for poster campaigns promoting stair use. Evidence from the primary studies included in review D regarding intervention duration or intensity/exposure as moderators of effectiveness was consistent with that from the reviews, generally finding that more sustained and greater intensity campaigns were more effective. There was limited evidence that government and charity campaigns may be more effective than those from pharmaceutical companies (e.g. NRT manufacturers). Only one study compared different media channels within the same study (a comparison of audience engagement through different social media channels). As with review A, there was little evidence regarding the use of theory as a potential moderator of campaign effectiveness, and no evidence regarding scale as a moderator of effectiveness; the latter was not surprising, as any statistical comparison of the effect of scale (e.g. national vs. local-level campaigns) is more likely to happen at a review level than in a primary study, although none of our included reviews examined this.

Evidence from other literature regarding the characteristics of mass media campaigns associated with effectiveness is limited. A recent review by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 175 of physical activity mass media campaign design suggested that campaign success was more likely if a number of campaign principles (formative research, audience segmentation, message design, channel placement, process evaluation and theory-based) were used as part of campaign design and planning. Some of these principles were tested in a recent meta-analysis, published while our study was ongoing. 164 Five campaign design principles thought to be associated with effectiveness were examined in the meta-analysis: (1) the use of formative research to help develop messages and campaign content, (2) the use of theory, (3) message, (4) channel and (5) ‘environmental supplements’, in this case defined as efforts to educate health-care providers and supplementary materials/services (such as free condoms or reduced-cost screening). The study differed from ours in that it reviewed primary studies rather than reviews, and included a wider range of health topics. In total, data from 63 articles were included in the meta-analysis, which, overall, found little evidence that principles of effective campaign design explained a significant amount of heterogeneity in effect sizes. Some results were described by the authors as ‘puzzling’, such as findings that the use of formative research significantly reduced effects on behaviour change or that there was no improvement in outcomes when campaigns were theory driven, or that the use of more channels to disseminate messages was associated with lower effects on knowledge. The authors suggested that some inconsistent or unexpected findings may have been explained by small numbers of studies in some of the moderator analyses, by confounding by multiple moderators, or simply by studies failing to report certain moderators. 164

A recent review of mass media tobacco campaigns that focused on the relative effectiveness of different campaign characteristics found that young people were more likely to recall and think about advertising that includes personal testimonials, a surprising narrative, and intense images, sound and editing; however, it found mixed evidence regarding use of health consequences messages, a second-hand smoke theme or a social norms theme. 176 Since commencing our own review of systematic reviews, the Cochrane Database Systematic Review on mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people has been updated, 35 , 177 adding one more RCT to the evidence base but not changing the overall findings. Regarding mass media channels used in this updated review, the authors note that the ‘inclusion of only two studies from the last 10 years is concerning, particularly considering the rising use of social media among youth. More high-quality studies are needed’. 177

  • What are the implications for our logic model?

Our four reviews indicate that there is a lack of theory employed in the development of mass media campaigns and their evaluation. In this respect, our logic model provides a useful starting point for researchers, practitioners and commissioners planning future campaigns. The lack of theory underpinning current campaigns suggests a greater need to recognise the importance of utilising existing theories, concepts and logic models and to apply this knowledge in a systematic manner to the processes of campaign planning, development, implementation and evaluation. In particular, there is a need for future campaigns to be based on a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles of communication, persuasion and changing social norms, as well as an appreciation of the interplay between communication theories, behaviour change theories and the wider sociopolitical context in which mass media campaigns often operate. Indeed, mass media campaigns rarely operate in a vacuum, and our logic model would be further strengthened by empirical research that better explores the interplay between the political and mass media campaigns’ agenda-setting functions. Such insights would aim to explore the opportunities and challenges encountered in attempting to explore causal pathways and disentangling the effects of campaign activities from external influences – including political influences. Such research would develop better understanding of the complexity of mass media campaigns in the process of health improvement. McCoy and Hargie 178 echo this when referring to the prerequisite of effective evaluation as the deep understanding of its ‘nature, purposes and concepts’. Mass media campaigns can, if developed in a strategic way and informed by principles and theories of effective communication, be successful in conveying health messages to large sections of the population at a relatively low cost and, for this reason, are a useful tool to promote health. However, it is imperative to invest in research that develops a strong evidence base for understanding what works and in what context in order to maximise the effectiveness of mass media interventions.

The original logic model we developed (see Figure 1 ) did not adequately reflect the body of literature we found from the review of systematic reviews. The outcomes we identified at the outset were not discussed as proximal, intermediate or distal in the papers, which tended to refer to them as outcomes without distinguishing between them. In some ways this is understandable because behaviour change is rarely a linear affair, as many behaviour change theories suggest a more iterative process. Therefore, we conclude that, although the terms ‘proximal’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘distal’ were not useful labels in the data extraction tool, they may be useful in thinking through how to better identify the evaluation outcomes of an intervention.

  • Strengths and limitations of the study

This review adds value to the current literature on mass media interventions by bringing together a large amount of evidence for a variety of health topics and enabled a comparison between them. It combined the breadth that is offered when looking across review-level evidence with the depth obtainable from examining individual primary studies. In response to frequent calls for in-depth analysis of how campaigns work (e.g. Cassidy et al. 179 ), it examined intervention characteristics that are associated with effectiveness. The review has particular relevance to the UK context, and we sought feedback from stakeholders to assess its usefulness.

Methodological limitations

We were unable to conduct statistical synthesis owing to the considerable heterogeneity across the studies. This makes it difficult to draw firm explanatory conclusions about the causes of the variability in results, noted by Ferri et al. 62 among others. In the review of reviews, some of the primary studies were published in the 1980s and 1990s and, thus, were discussing technologies that are no longer relevant. The searches for review A, the review of reviews, were conducted in January 2016. Searches for the subsequent reviews were conducted later (up to January 2017 for review C), reflecting the sequential nature of the project. Although offering a breadth that would have been unachievable if only primary studies had been examined, the focus on reviews meant that, at times, we lacked contextual and intervention details, and there may have been some overlap in studies between reviews. It was difficult to assess bias within the existing reviews because this would have entailed redoing their analyses. Inevitably, our results are limited by the quality of the primary studies, and reflect a publication bias in which weaker campaigns are rarely evaluated, and interventions with poor results are less likely to be written up and published. 166

As noted above, there are a number of issues involved in assessing the cost-effectiveness of mass media campaigns. Data are generally limited, with few studies; this is the case even regarding tobacco use, the health topic that tends to be most frequently examined in mass media studies and reviews. Part of the reason for the lack of studies is likely to be the challenges associated with extrapolating short-term effects (e.g. increase in quit attempts) to long-term costs and outcomes, which requires expertise in mathematical modelling. The evidence is also likely to be biased, with ineffective evaluations being unlikely to undergo economic evaluation, thereby running the risk that the intervention under examination is likely to look more cost-effective than it is on average. Finally, approaches to the synthesis of economic evidence are still being developed. Cost-effectiveness analyses, in particular, are very context specific, and it is challenging to conduct systematic reviews of such studies while maintaining global relevance.

Limitations in scope/definitions of our study

Although the study was wide-ranging, necessary parameters in terms of scope and how mass media campaigns were defined meant that there were inevitable gaps in the evidence we could review. We focused on six topics relating to preventable risk factors for disease: alcohol use, diet, illicit substance use, physical activity, sexual and reproductive health and smoking. The focus on disease prevention meant that campaigns addressing related behaviours but with a different focus were excluded: we did not include alcohol campaigns whose main focus was drink driving. Mass media campaigns seeking to raise awareness, counter stigma and encourage help-seeking behaviour in relation to mental health issues were excluded, as were road safety campaigns (e.g. targeting speeding or seat belt use) and campaigns encouraging skin cancer protection behaviours. Mass media campaigns whose primary aim was to encourage participation in screening programmes were excluded, although campaigns that sought to encourage screening in addition to more lasting behaviour change (such as campaigns that encouraged condom use and HIV/AIDS testing) were included because of the behaviour component. Because of our focus on population behaviour change, we excluded evidence relating to the use of the media in a media advocacy context, in which news media coverage and other forms of media messages are used to foster public and policy-maker support for policies or legislation to promote health, such as changes in taxation, drink driving laws or restrictions on marketing activity. 180 – 182 Previous research has suggested that media coverage achieved as part of a multifaceted advocacy campaign can be one of the factors leading to successful policy change, although the challenges of demonstrating the particular contribution of media to the outcomes are considerable. 183

We defined mass media campaigns as the intentional use of any media channel(s) of communication by local, regional and national organisations to influence lifestyle behaviour through largely passive or incidental exposure to media campaigns, rather than largely dependent on active help-seeking (adapted from Wakefield et al. 6 and Bala et al. 27 ). We adopted this definition of mass media as it is potentially the most useful for campaign planners seeking an estimate of the effectiveness of campaigns implemented in naturalistic settings that do not require active audience engagement with a given channel to achieve message exposure. 164 However, this meant that certain types of communications-based intervention were excluded. Interventions that require individuals actively to seek out the information (such as websites) or to opt in or sign up (such as SMS/text messaging for smokers trying to quit) would have been excluded because they require active engagement by target populations. Not including these interventions has limited what the review can say about new/digital/interactive media interventions. However, that missing evidence may be limited in itself. A fairly recent scoping review of how digital media (including visual, electronic and online media) are used in the area of public health 184 found that current public health usage is predominantly the ‘outmoded approach of “telling and selling” and cast[s] the recipient in an individual and passive role’, based on 221 systematic reviews published between 2000 and 2013.

Large multifaceted community interventions that included a media element were included only if it was possible to relate effects to the media component of the campaign. For example, a review of interventions that involved a mass media campaign combined with health-related product distribution was included because the outcomes that related specifically to the mass media were reported and synthesised by the authors. 69 However, this meant that evidence from reviews such as the Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews of universal multicomponent prevention programmes for alcohol misuse and community interventions for preventing smoking 76 , 185 and the ‘Change4Life Smart Swaps’ intervention study (Wrieden and Levy 186 ) was not included in our reviews. We are therefore limited in what we can conclude about the extent to which mass media campaigns can interact with other interventions or services to improve health outcomes, which was one of our original objectives. However, our review of reviews found promising evidence regarding the ability of mass media campaigns to stimulate engagement with other services. We found that, overall, media campaigns can prompt calls to telephone quitlines for smoking cessation (although there is only moderate certainty in the strength of this finding). For helping to foster engagement with sexual health clinics or services, there was low-certainty evidence that campaigns can increase use of such services.

In examining characteristics of mass media campaigns that may be associated with effectiveness, we focused on campaign components that featured in the ‘Activities’ box of our logic model. We did not examine mass media campaign ‘Inputs’, which in our logic model included resources, staff, expertise/skills, technology and materials, although the full economic evaluation reviews in our rapid review of cost-effectiveness (review C) would have taken into account the upfront costs (resources) of mass media campaigns, when information was reported.

  • Gaps in the evidence and implications for future research

As noted above, the amount of evidence relating to mass media campaigns varies considerably across different health behaviours. The most commonly studied behaviour, as reflected in the number of existing reviews we found that met our criteria, was tobacco use, followed by sexual health and physical activity. Although there were a relatively large number of reviews of sexual health mass media campaigns, many of the studies in these reviews were conducted in non-OECD countries and so had limited relevance to the UK context. Just three reviews of media campaigns on illicit drugs were identified, and no single review examining the effectiveness of mass media for addressing alcohol use or diet was found, although these behaviours were addressed in reviews examining multiple health behaviours. We partially addressed this latter gap by conducting the first (to our knowledge) review of mass media campaigns on alcohol use, but were unable, within the time and resources available, to conduct a similar review for mass media campaigns addressing diet. This remains a gap.

In part, the variations in the amount of evidence reflect the amount and nature of activity in each topic area (e.g. several major campaigns on smoking cessation and second-hand smoke in the 1990s/2000s and a decline in mass media campaigns on sexual health in the UK after the 1980s/early 1990s). Another contributory factor to the apparent lack of evidence we found in some health behaviour topic areas is that our definition of mass media campaigns would have excluded media activity implemented and evaluated as part of multicomponent community interventions such as the Department of Health and Social Care’s Change4Life public health programme. In other words, the gaps in evidence we found in some areas do not necessarily mean that there has been no mass media activity or that this activity has not been evaluated, but rather that sometimes this mass media activity has taken place in the context of wider multifaceted interventions in which the specific contribution of mass media cannot be examined separately. The challenge of disentangling the contribution of mass media elements from the contribution of other intervention elements, in multifaceted interventions, is recognised elsewhere. 6 , 58

Naugle and Hornik 166 recommend that:

In the future, evaluators should address threats to inference of mass media effects by using unbiased samples, multiple comparison groups across time, levels of exposure, and treatment and control sites, statistical controls and advanced statistical methods, and data triangulation. The written report should reflect the measures taken to mitigate threats to inference. Published evaluations of mass media campaigns should provide detailed information about the campaign, exposure, and the evaluation to permit meta-analyses as the literature base grows. Reproduced from Naugle and Hornik. 166 © 2014 Naugle DA and Hornik RC. This is an Open Access article. Non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly attributed, cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built on in any way, is permitted. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted. Naugle DA and Hornik RC

After starting our reviews of the evidence, we became aware that the evaluation methods for social media and public health mass communication interventions are being appraised as an ongoing registered systematic review. 187

One of our objectives was to assess new or emerging evidence about campaigns employing different types of media, including new media. Overall, we found limited evidence regarding such campaigns. The nature of reviews of reviews is such that newer evidence tends not to be included; in our review of reviews published from 2000 to early 2016 (review A), the years covered by the identified reviews ranged from database inception to January 2015, with the most recent reviews including studies up to 2013. The review of UK primary studies published between 2011 and 2016 (review D) included some more recent evidence relating to interventions using newer media, but this was limited. In part, the limited evidence we found regarding campaigns using newer media reflected our definition of mass media campaigns as those involving incidental exposure, which as noted above would have excluded interventions that required individuals to engage in active information-seeking or to opt in to campaign participation (e.g. joining the Smokefree Facebook community or downloading the Public Health England One You Drinks tracker app). Reviews in this area have suggested that new digital media have the potential to be ‘user controlled and shareable’, 188 crucial elements for reaching a large population while at the same time providing interpersonal support to heighten the effects of public health campaigns; 189 and the scoping review of reviews by Clar et al. 184 showed that all six of our health topics are targets of digital media for public health. A review of 10 studies that evaluated the impact of new digital media interventions on adolescents’ sexual health found changes in sociocognitive outcomes (although not always in a positive direction), and two interventions showed a reduced risk of sexual initiation among young teenagers. 188

The ‘user controlled and shareable’ aspects of new/digital media interventions mean that they are not standardised products, and this poses challenges for evaluation. McGloin and Eslami 190 note that ‘although web-based, social-media-based and mobile-based studies tend to show positive results for dietary behaviour change, methodologies have yet to be developed that go beyond basic evaluation criteria and move towards true measures of behaviour change’. Guse et al. 188 suggest that evaluations using RCTs ‘can be laborious, with timelines that are inconsistent with the paces of technology and youth culture’. More research that tests new/social media interventions using rigorous methods, and that compares them with interventions using more traditional media (e.g. Jane et al. 191 ), is needed and we note that research into reviewing the evaluation methods for social media interventions is ongoing. 187

Another original objective of our study was to examine the relationship between local, regional and national campaigns and evidence of effectiveness where this exists. Although the reviews included in the review of reviews sometimes noted at what scale included interventions had been implemented (i.e. local, regional or national scale), none of the reviews compared or reflected on scale as a potential moderator of campaign effectiveness. There was similarly no evidence on scale of a campaign as a moderator of effectiveness in the review of UK primary studies; however, it is interesting to note that the review of UK primary studies included studies at both ends of the spectrum, ranging from national whole-population television campaigns on smoking to highly localised poster campaigns promoting stair use in a specific area or building. Future research could explore the potential relationship between scale of campaign and type of health behaviour change in more detail. For example, is physical activity more effectively promoted with a highly localised campaign focusing on physical activity in a particular location, or with a national campaign focusing on physical activity in general, and could highly localised campaigns be used to promote other types of health behaviour than physical activity? For commissioners of campaigns interested in how local/regional and national campaigns can be designed to work synergistically, it may be useful to examine process and other evaluations of campaigns that are designed to be implemented at both national and local/regional levels, such as National No Smoking Day or Dry January.

  • Cite this Page Stead M, Angus K, Langley T, et al. Mass media to communicate public health messages in six health topic areas: a systematic review and other reviews of the evidence. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2019 Apr. (Public Health Research, No. 7.8.) Chapter 7, Discussion and conclusions.
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1.3: Media Literacy and Media Studies Research

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  • Mark Poepsel
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“Understanding knowledge as an essential element of love is vital because we are bombarded daily with messages that tell us love is about mystery, about that which cannot be known. We see movies in which people are represented as being in love who never talk with one another, who fall into bed without ever discussing their bodies, their sexual needs, their likes and dislikes. Indeed, the message is received from the mass media is that knowledge makes love less compelling; that it is ignorance that gives love its erotic and transgressive edge. These messages are brought to us by profiteering producers who have no clue about the art of loving, who substitute their mystified visions because they do not really know how to genuinely portray loving interaction.” — bell hooks from her book All About Love: New Visions

The Academic Approach to Studying the Mass Media

If you have been reading the chapters of this text in order, by this point you will be aware of the powerful role the mass media play in society, but you may not yet question whether society benefits from this arrangement. In general, the mass media could do a better job of representing all sorts of groups and group cultures. The mass media could also represent abstract concepts like love, trust and greed in more meaningful ways. This is not to say that the mass media have failed in this regard, but there is much room for improvement.

As active audience members, as hybrid producer-users or “produsers” (to use a term coined by Axel Bruns), you must not only be selective but also critical of what you consume. Whether you become media professionals or not, it will u ltimately be your job as media consumers to remake the mass media in ways that better represent the depth of human experience.

Whether your interest is a religion, a fandom, or an abstract concept like love (one of the greatest of abstractions), you have the power to participate in the media production redefining how others understand it.

No, this is not a book about love. Yes, love and related concepts are commodified in the mass media; however, the disruption that has echoed in political spheres and often in the ways family and cultural group members speak to one another about politics also opens up space for critical thinking. That is, the same disruption described in Chapter 2 that allows for social upheaval also allows for a time of reflection and critical thinking about how society and its media function.

This chapter gives you some tools developed by mass communication scholars to develop your critical eye when viewing messages as products in the mass media. If massive numbers of “produsers” can reshape the media landscape , we have to re-think the role of mass media professionals. Assisting people in the process of meaning-making — that is, making mass media with audiences instead of for them, and aiding them in their own communication efforts — could open up a new purpose and new industries for those who are mentally prepared and daring enough to take the lead.

This chapter defines “media literacy” and touches on some key mass communication theories that are absolutely not meant to be left to molder in the digital cloud where this text”book” lives. Take these theories out, apply them and see how they work. Find out how useful they can be and what their limitations are.

This text presents an image of entire societies and cultures swimming in a sea of media. Consider these concepts your first set of snorkel and swim-fins.

Media Literacy Defined

Media literacy is a term describing media consumers’ understanding of how mass media work. It includes knowing where different types of information can be found, how best to evaluate information, who owns the major mass media platforms, how messages are produced, and how they are framed to suit various interests.

In a global society that gets most of its information through digital networks, it is incredibly important to know how and by whom media messages are made so that as consumers we can discern how the mass media are being used to shape our opinions. We can reply to or comment on messages in the mass media, or we can demand a seat at the table when messages are being constructed. This is the nature of participatory media outlined in the previous chapter. Being media literate gives us the tools to participate well and with purpose.

It is important to consider your role in contributing directly to mass media content. Your contributions to cultural trends and social change in the mass media can sometimes happen without your knowledge. If you post regularly to Facebook or other social media platforms, your data are being aggregated, and that information is used by advertisers, researchers, and news services to find out what you like and what you are like , as well as to create ads and political messages tailored just for you.

You are more than your preferences and the media you consume. You are encouraged to play an active role in shaping your digital identity beyond the one that has already been created for you .

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is media literacy put into action. Besides contributing to the creation of meaning by making your own mass media messages (perhaps in collaboration with professionals), you can ask who owns major mass media corporations. Scholars have found that more than half of the mass media channels available to mass audiences in America are owned by only five corporations or firms .

My own research, conducted with two research partners in graduate school , has shown that just by making people aware of the nature of media ownership, you can encourage them to be skeptical of mass media content.

This text has already established that mass communication is what makes society in the physical world work. Information, often in the form of messages in the mass media, permeates institutional interactions and passes between all of us in our homes and schools and businesses. The information conveyed in the mass media gets interpreted in organizational, group and interpersonal communication contexts. These systems influence each other, but mass media messages tend to envelop and permeate other forms of communication. Thus, if you learn to be skeptical of the information you receive in the mass media, you learn how to critique the whole global social system.

Critique this Book

Reading closely, you will have undoubtedly found value judgments in this text already. You may be inclined to assign political values to this text in our hyper-partisan cultural environment. You are welcome to do this. You are encouraged to do this. You must think critically about the cultural values expressed not only in this text but also in your other textbooks and in the history and literature you read.

But you also must think critically about your preferred media outlets. Where do they get their information from? Who owns them? No single revelation about the mass media will tell you everything you need to know. You have to begin to see nuance and to think for yourself what aspects of the mass media matter most to you, what things you think should change, how you might change them, and what you can live with.

It is part of the responsibility of citizens now to critique messages that come to us via mass media, as well as messages from leaders who bypass mass media gatekeepers and fact checkers. It is also a sound career strategy for those who go into the mass communication field to learn to be able to critique messages, messengers and owners in the corporate mass media field of work and play. To know where the mass media industry is headed, you must be able to think critically about where it comes from.

Much of the rest of this book breaks down different mass media channels and looks briefly at the history of how each came to be, what and whom each channel serves, and how convergence in a digitally networked society might affect the future of each medium. This text also returns several times to “big picture” questions about the dynamic relationship between media and society as seen from the perspective of the various mass communication channels and platforms.

The Dichotomy Between the Media and the “Real World”

For nearly the dozenth time in this text already, your author has referenced a “dynamic.” The mass media reflect our social norms and expectations and, dynamically, they shape our norms and expectations.

To the extent they are shaped by mass media, our perceptions of reality are very much artificial — but not entirely so. How artificial is too artificial? Different individuals and different cultures differ in the amount of nonsense they can tolerate.

The real challenge to us as young media professionals and scholars is to try to determine what is artificial in the vast array of messages delivered to us at all times by the mass media. One of the best ways to do this is to get off of social media platforms and talk to people in person. We should also dig a bit into the information we consume and ask, “How do they know?” Whenever a message comes to us from a mass media outlet or from a friend’s social media post, the media literate individual seeks to know what underlies each claim.

The question is not whether you believe it. The question is: On what grounds is a message in the mass media or in social media believable?

Now that people are constantly using technology and even wearing it , it is becoming more difficult to separate messages mediated by professionals, who pledge ethically to adhere to disseminating factual information (such as most journalists), from poorly-supported, opinion-only content or outright misinformation, which may be spread far and wide by friends and family.

We are living in a media age where we may not trust our own family members’ social media posts. Things they think are important might not only be unimportant to us, they might be distasteful or even wrong. There are real-world consequences to sharing misinformation on social media platforms. Question the sources’ sources. Talk to people in tangible spaces apart from social media platforms, and you can learn to see what is supported by fact in the physical world and its digital networks.

The Bad Dynamic

Your media choices matter. In the network society, when mass media content is ubiquitous on mobile phones and is often projected into public spaces, it can be difficult to differentiate between your independent preferences and the opinions you are encouraged to carry by advertisers who constantly bombard you.

Without human interaction outside of the deluge of electronic information, it can be nearly impossible to figure out for yourself if what you like is a response to the quality of the media content or if you are responding to carefully targeted marketing campaigns.


The system of checks and balances in which you can compare your real life experiences to what you see and hear in the mass media may break down. A pessimistic view is that we may enter a constant state of depression on a social level because we are cognitively incapable of comprehending all of the information presented to us and we lack ways of taking regular “reality checks.”

Feelings of isolation and inadequacy coupled with cognitive overload create the potential for a host of social issues. Additionally, the images we see in ads and the perfected versions of themselves people present on social media usually do not reflect applied critical thinking.

The “bad dynamic” that comes into play is one where glossy identities are carefully constructed and protected while our real identities rapidly disintegrate. We may establish a society where many people have identity issues, and those issues are constantly worsening. It may seem at times as though we are headed for a massive collective mental breakdown.

What good is media literacy? Thinking critically about the mass media and content spread on social media helps us critique constructed images and accept our own shortcomings. If we look for ways to relate to one another besides our overlapping common culture interests, we may find deeper connections are possible. We can share imperfections and tackle doubts, but only if we acknowledge them in our media world first.

What follows are a set of mass communication theories arrived at through the analysis of facts and data by thousands of scholars over the course of nearly 100 years. As an academic field, mass communication is young, but there are several theories, or guiding abstractions, that can help us to see how our society is structured and what roles the mass media play in society at all levels.

Critical Media Theory

There are many critical theorists among mass communication scholars . They work to develop better analytical theories that teach us how to analyze messages in media systems and the mass media and help us to discuss with clarity what is beneficial and what is harmful to society.

Academic work is about digging deep. Scholars will often analyze one medium at one period in time to explain how certain groups or ideologies are depicted.

Marxist critical theory questions the hierarchical organization of society — who controls the means of production and whether that control benefits society or only small groups of people. Every society has and needs leaders, and one of the most important functions of society is to manage a functioning economy. At question in Marxist critical thought is how the rules of each economy, including the global economy, are set up. Do they benefit most people? Do they allow for merit to be rewarded? Do they create a system of fair competition? Are they set up for collaboration and mutual benefit?

Most scholars who apply critical theoretical models would hesitate to call themselves Marxists. Marx was both a scholar and a revolutionary, a term which academics rarely self-apply. Most Marxist critical thinkers suggest changes that society could make to be more inclusive and fair for a greater number of people, but what is fair will always be debated. There is no single line of Marxist thought. There is a small number who demand complete change in the global economic system, and there are thousands of critical theorists calling for more narrow or specific changes based on their observations in their areas of expertise — not just mass media analysis but all kinds of social analysis.

Historically, Marxist thought has been employed by dictators, often using mass media channels, to take power and often to wield it in horrendous ways . Marxist thought also guides the reasoning of some mainstream economists who help manage social democracies, which historically garner more good will than dictatorships. Scholars working with the critical theoretical point of view often note broad ways for society to improve as well as practical solutions that might help (although getting leaders to listen is another matter). Making cogent arguments and convincing people to hear them are very different things.

That said, ideas about questioning hierarchies and asking for whom social systems really work are still central to modern critical theory. This is what Marxist critique in media studies is all about: looking at symbols and underlying messages in all forms of media and discerning what purposes they serve, and asking whether they represent exploitation, corruption or any other social ill often found in closed hierarchies.

Symbolic Interactionism

Another critical theoretical perspective is symbolic interactionism . The general idea comes from George Herbert Mead and suggests that people assign symbolic meaning to all sorts of phenomena around them. Our behavior is guided and influenced by our perceptions of reality and the symbols around us.

Mass media extend and limit our senses. When our senses are extended, we can become overwhelmed by the amount of information coming in, so we look for symbols, and we categorize ideas according to those symbols to make the messages easier to understand.

We sometimes apply the symbols ourselves, but in many (or even most) cases, the people editing messages in the mass media purposefully use symbols as a shorthand way of communicating. Not everyone understands every symbol or perceives them the same way. Symbols have a cultural context, but this is not much of a limiting factor in American society where there is a vast shared common culture and targeted marketing can tailor which images to deliver to which individuals.

You are encouraged to think critically about the symbols you see and ask whether they are meant to manipulate you. We will not stop using symbols in communication; however, if you ask, “Why am I being shown this symbol at this time,” you can take a practical step in critically analyzing media.

An example would probably help.

When asked to come up with an advertising campaign, college students often select a familiar category of beverage: energy drinks. RedBull uses the symbol of wings to show that an energy drink can pick you up and help you to move more quickly through your work. You can fly where you had stumbled. But that is not the only reason associate wings with Red Bull. Wings are a symbol of angels, saviors , and other powerful beings. If an individual has reservations about consuming something that may be unhealthy, moral symbolism and images of power are designed to subconscious guilt or misgivings.

It is up to you to critique images in the mass media as you see fit, but you should develop the skill and practice applying it.

Agenda-Setting Theory

Agenda setting is one of the most simple mass communication theories to understand, and it is one of the most widely cited.

It argues that the mass media tell us what to think about. In other words, the mass media help people to set their own agendas.

The idea is not that mass media companies come up with a specific agenda and then preach it to the masses; rather, mass media outlets learn what people are interested in and find similar topics based on what has been learned in the past. Then, the messages that appear in the mass media tell audiences what topics they should care about and how to prioritize them.

This is a dynamic process, and there is no evidence of a singular media agenda. All one needs to do is to flip through cable television news channels to see vastly different points of view presented to mass audiences at all times.

Instead, agenda setting highlights certain topics and stories and those topics become the public’s agenda based not only on what appears in the mass media but what people accept, care about and share more widely.

Messages in the mass media may or may not succeed in directing us how or what to think, but with great success, they tell us what we should be thinking and talking about .

The examples are easy to find. Many mass media outlets talked more about Ebola during October of 2014 rather than the midterm elections. People came to discuss Ebola more often than the elections despite the fact that the election might have a more direct effect on them than Ebola ever would. The assumption may be that professionals in the mass media are pushing an agenda about a scary world, but in most instances, they are promoting news they know people care about based on previous responses to similar topics.

For an agenda to be set, messages have to appear in the mass media, and they have to be accepted by massive numbers of audience members. The acceptance of messages in the mass media is known as salience . Here is how agenda setting theory works: Various mass media outlets have agendas for coverage that they develop. It may take years for a film company to develop a brand. News organizations change their coverage agenda several times a day. An agenda is just a list of issues a media outlet wants to discuss and a prioritization of those issues.

Research has shown thousands of times that those agendas are passed on to audiences. This is tested by surveying people about what issues they think are important and comparing that list to the issues that had been in the news and entertainment media in the weeks before taking the survey. The topics and the relative levels of priority are often (but not always) passed along.

Agenda setting still works even as the processes of de-massification continues, but the influence of mass media outlets may be diminishing. The theory is based on the assumption that there are mass audiences all consuming similar messages, but mass audiences are diminishing. That said, the messages people share on social media between one another often originate in mass media channels.

Gatekeeping Theory

Gatekeeping theory describes a practice where a person acts as a filter, deciding what information will be disseminated for public consumption via the mass media. A good example is an editor in a news organization looking at many stories from a newswire.

Newswires put out hundreds of stories per day. The same newspapers that publish wire stories from other areas may contribute stories to the newswire if something interesting to a broader audience should occur. Only a handful of wire stories make it into a TV news broadcast, onto a newspaper’s website or into the paper itself.


In television news, producers act as primary gatekeepers. Only a dozen or so national and international news stories make it into the average big city daily newspaper, where the task falls to an editor. The person with the job of selecting and editing wire stories for a news organization has to decide which news stories are noteworthy to the local audience. The practice started in the 19th century with the marriage of the telegraph to the newspaper, and it continues as text, images, video and information graphics are shared through digital networks.

The way gatekeeping works has changed significantly over the past two centuries. Now, we often think of gatekeepers guarding a gate with no fences because on the internet anyone can post almost anything. Mass media news outlets are no longer people’s only major source of news and information about the world. Social media platforms carry both messages produced by both mass media outlets and individuals free to share almost whatever they like online. Of course, sharing something online does not guarantee it will be popular. There are plenty of YouTube videos with very few views.

And where there are mass audiences, there is still plenty of gatekeeping going on. Humans do much of the work planning what goes into major newspapers and network news broadcasts as well as entertainment products for that matter.

On social media platforms and in search engine content, however, the task is increasingly managed by algorithms — sets of procedures or rules for computers to follow.

In the future, we expect to see fewer human gatekeepers and more gatekeeping work done by recommendation engines and the like. You are unaware of the full extent of Netflix’s available content because you only see what your preferences suggest you should see. The same is true for Google searches and advertisements pulled from databases filled with vastly different ads designed to target different individuals at precisely the right time.

There is also a new theory to be aware of that concerns the flip-side of gatekeeping. “ Gatewatching ” describes people who consume all sorts of news and other information and who stay current with new information as it arrives. It is as though they are watching professionally produced media messages come out of the gate and then almost immediately these media consumers post links to Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or other social linking sites and social media platforms.

Gatewatching is when someone takes a message already published, by professionals or amateurs (but more often by professionals working for mass media outlets), and shares it for others to see. It is not uncommon on Reddit to see stories from the national and international media ranked alongside funny cat videos and random thoughts people had in the shower. On the one hand, putting the power of gatewatching in the hands of users is a way for people to set agendas for one another. On the other hand, information-as-popularity-contest can promote biased views and can shut out not just what is politically unpopular but what people consider to be boring, which severely narrows the scope of discussion.

Try to consume mass media or social media for a day without seeing or hearing about pop music stars, Kardashians, major sports figures or odd news from far-flung places. It is a challenge, even if you tailor your social media experience to avoid trending topics.

Framing Theory

Framing is a basic mass communication theory with widespread implications. It suggests that the way a news organization (or an entertainment producer, for that matter) frames a story is purposeful and meaningful and can influence how people think about the topic. A news frame refers to the way a story is presented including which sources and facts are selected as well as the tone the story or message takes.

An example is the period leading up to a war. If the United States has plans to go to war, it can be framed as a risky proposition, a patriotic endeavor or a morally righteous thing to do.

For any major news story, there are usually a few dominant frames that emerge. The author of this text was a television reporter at the time of the buildup to the Iraq war, and our station framed the issue as a matter of patriotism. There were patriots and there were protestors. Our station built a “Wall of Heroes” to display photos of marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors killed in action. While any given story about the buildup to the Iraq war might have been objective, the decision to build a display wall framed our coverage in a certain way. The display remained on view for approximately 18 months. The station then stopped keeping track in that highly visible, demonstrably patriotic way, even though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continued for 15 more years on a reduced scale.

Whether you agree or disagree with the idea of remembering those who died in Iraq through local television news broadcast tributes, the point is that stories are framed by how they are covered. It matters what sources are selected for news stories and which sources are left out. It matters which terms are used and how prevalent they are. Framing analyses delve into news content to identify various themes and to show which ones receive preferential treatment.

Surveys of news and entertainment media consumers will reflect which frames were most salient; that is, not only which stories but also which frames stay in the minds of audience members.

Limited Effects Paradigm

A paradigm is a collection of theories from the social sciences, which are themselves collections of facts supporting an abstract idea meant to explain the phenomena of human behavior. A theory is supported by empirical facts. It’s not the same as when your buddy shotguns three beers and says “You know…I have a theory .” Social scientific theories are meant to be big ideas that help predict behavior or the results of certain behaviors.

In the field of mass communication, the limited effects paradigm is so-called because there are different kinds of theory relating to different media that all show the same thing: It is a complicated task to tie one set of messages to massive shifts in human behavior. Even small shifts in behavior like deciding to purchase one smartphone over another are only partially influenced by messages in the mass media. There are simply too many other factors influencing behavior to say that a certain set of mass media messages caused behaviors across a mass audience.

Influence is another matter. The mass media work in tandem with other social stimuli to influence all sorts of behavior. If there were no influence, there would be no reason for mass media advertising or government propaganda. It is because they work that both are a constant presence in the global mass media environment. At question is how much influence certain messages can have and under what conditions is the influence stronger or weaker.

The limited effects paradigm started as a response to theories such as the hypodermic needle theory. After Germany lost World War I, mass communication was just starting to emerge as its own discipline. One of the first theories American scholars of mass communication had was that propaganda infects a population like a needle injecting a viable virus into the body.

Scholars thought that propaganda turned Germany into an imperialistic, nationalistic country (that is, Nazi Germany), but propaganda never works that easily. When the Nazi Party unified the country between World War I and World War II, a large portion of the population, welcomed the shift in social policy, despite the accompanying racism and violence. It did not take as much convincing for many Germans, as many in the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust would like to think. Using many kinds of authority, the Nazis committed atrocities. Mass communication enabled it, but the theory that propaganda could, more or less by itself, create that kind of situation has not held true. There were social weaknesses and social structures in place that paved the way for the Nazis, who could not have risen to power by media influence alone.

This does not mean that the mass media have no effects. It would not make sense to argue that communication permeates society and then to suggest that it has little to no effect on people. What the limited effects paradigm suggests instead is that information does not sway people as often as it is assimilated into existing patterns of thought. And those patterns of thought are shaped by all sorts of social forces, not just mass media campaigns. To reiterate, other social forces at play include religion, family, education, economic status, health, crime and incarceration.

Changing people’s minds is difficult. Motivating behavior is difficult, and there are many variables guiding human behavior. Thus, the core concept is that the mass media have limited effects on society. Small effects are measured in mass communication studies all the time, and influencing thoughts is generally understood to be easier than influencing behavior.

Limited Capacity Processing Model

The Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (LC4MP), which we’ll call the Limited Capacity Model for short, is a theory that states that our cognitive abilities are limited, so we are unable to process all of the information that we see, hear and read.

Since we cannot perceive and understand everything, parts of our brain act as filters that either disregard information, very rapidly process it according to our long-held assumptions, or force us to pay attention to it. We can force ourselves to pay attention to information as well, but it is difficult (which you might notice while reading textbooks).

The theory goes deeper than this and explains how we process information when we do attend to it. The three stages are encoding, storage and retrieval.

Encoding is when you voluntarily or involuntarily pay attention to a message and its underlying symbols.

Once attention is paid, a message can be stored , or, recorded in our memories. Not all messages are easily retrieved , or, recalled when we wish to remember them.

Some are retrievable only in part, or they may be altered in the storage and retrieval process. There are voluntary and involuntary types of encoding, and what we store and how we store it has a lot to do with what is already in our minds. It is generally easier to store something when it connects to familiar thoughts.

All of this amounts to a quantitative approach to studying memory in the context of mass media messages. It does not presume effects.

In fact, since a message has to be encoded, stored and retrieved before it can influence behavior, the limited capacity model is part of what explains the limited effects model.

Even if we had all the useful information in the world, our brains could not store and use it all. Thus, even the best advertisements, political campaigns and in-depth news documentaries are up against the limits of our minds.

Keep this in mind as you think critically about the messages you see and share.

The Mass Media and Cultural Change

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The power of the media in society cannot be underestimated and the demand for new information, especially in the twenty-first century, has given the media more supremacy. Peoples’ need to have and access information is vital and as such, mass media play a tremendous role in satisfying it. Mehraj et al. (2014), on the one hand, argue that media occupy a high proportion of importance in an individual’s life and, thence, media information influences the behavior and decisions made by society. On the other hand, Singh and Pandey ( 2017 ) argue that society influences the media to the extent that it is perceived as society’s voice. With all these in mind, it is clear that to a larger extent, media reflect society and that it plays a major role in bringing about cultural change and socioeconomic and political development. For instance, Nyabuga and Booker ( 2013 ) argue that the media is an important actor that shapes how society operates. The media does this by articulating ideas and influencing perceptions and attitudes. In democratic societies, according to Nyabuga and Booker ( 2013 ), mass media and journalism act as vehicles that reflect public opinion by highlighting public concerns and informing people about state policies and important cross-cultural events and viewpoints. For instance, in Kenya, local stations that broadcast in vernacular tend to focus on discussions around areas of interest to a particular community.

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Kurgat, K., Jerop, C. (2023). The Mass Media and Cultural Change. In: Nasong'o, W.S., Amutabi, M.N., Falola, T. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Kenyan History. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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From the advent of the printing press to the emergence of photography, radio, television, and now the Internet and mobile devices, journalists have always found ways to adapt to new technologies by changing the way they tell stories and reach audiences. Interactive and participatory documentaries offer a new opportunity in that development. They provide immersive, visual, and mobile-friendly storytelling techniques; provoke creative collaborations across institutions, "desks" and with publics; and stimulate the use of often overlooked assets such as archives. By so doing, they provide an array of solutions for journalistic institutions that wish to reach a new generation of users and make use of today’s technological developments.

These are the conclusions of a new MIT report — “ Mapping the Intersection of Two Cultures: Interactive Documentary and Digital Journalism ” — released this week by the MIT Open Documentary Lab and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Drawing from case studies from The New York Times, The Guardian, National Public Radio, Frontline, and others, the report represents the first thorough mapping of the ongoing convergence between interactive and participatory practices within digital journalism.

It “contextualizes and maps the views of the people who are leading change,” write principal investigators William Uricchio, a professor of comparative media studies at MIT, and Sarah Wolozin, director of the MIT Open Documentary Lab. “Today's journalism is facing the same fragmented audiences that any other cultural form is facing, and it faces the same fierce competition from 'upstarts,'” Uricchio said. “But our report offers ways of keeping pace, strategies to enhance relevance, and sketches one of many futures for the form.” Leaders featured in these case studies have similar ambitions, concerns, and, to some extent, organizational structures, but they are approaching the challenges of digital journalism with very different strategies, the authors say. These leaders are finding that “reorganizing the production pipeline and means of distribution, listening to and working together with audiences, partnering with other media organizations, and looking to internal assets such as archives” provide the best ways to adapt to the digital age.

Among some of the report’s findings:

Begin with the user: Thinking about user experience, understanding user behavior, and being in dialogue with the intended public at the beginning of an interactive documentary or other journalistic project is fundamental to reaching and engaging with that public.

Let story determine form: The story and materials should determine the storytelling techniques employed, and not vice-versa; interactivity and participation provide an expanded toolkit that can enhance clarity, involvement, meaning, and “spreadability,” but they are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

Experiment and learn: Interactive and participatory documentaries can provide “research and development” opportunities for journalism organizations, which may then adapt relevant tools, techniques, and experiences for their future work.

Collaborate across borders: In an era when word, sound, and image flow together into one digital stream, media institutions fare better when they partner with like-valued organizations, form interdisciplinary teams, and co-create with their publics.

Shape conversations: Interactivity and user participation can enable and inform the connection between audiences and sources, helping journalism to shape conversations in addition to defining truths.

Use archives creatively: Legacy journalism organizations can make much better use of a defining asset — their archives — to build deep, interactive story environments, distinguishing their voices in a crowded news environment and empowering their users to explore how events and their coverage take shape.

Consider long-term impact: A cost-benefit analysis of interactive and participatory storytelling in journalism settings should include not only audience reach and impact, but also organizational innovation in the form of new teams, processes, and tools that can be integrated into other parts of the newsroom.

The authors conclude with the reminder that although the industry faces multiple pressures, it is also reaching new levels of excellence and impact, due in large part to the experiments and success outlined in these case studies. They argue that their insights provide “a scalable set of blueprints (and warnings) for organizations of all sizes.”

Other authors for “Mapping the Intersection of Two Cultures” are Comparative Media Studies/Writing graduate students Lily Bui, Sean Flynn, and Deniz Tortum.

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  • Part II Preface
  • Career Resources Site

Chapter 1: Understanding Mass Media, Convergence, and the Importance of Media Literacy

Chapter recap, practice quiz, recommended readings.

Chapter 1 sets the foundation for the rest of the book by differentiating mass communication from other types of communication, explaining the importance of convergence, and offering the tools you need to become media literate.

Chapter Objectives:

  • Discuss what mass media convergence means and why it is important.
  • Explain the differences between interpersonal communication and mass communication.
  • Explain why an unorthodox definition of mass communication makes the term especially relevant in today’s media environment.
  • Explain the meaning and importance of culture’s relationship with the mass media.
  • Analyze the ways in which the mass media affect our everyday lives.
  • Explain what the term “media literacy” means.
  • List the key principles involved in becoming media-literate.

Introducing Media Convergence

  • Media are the means of delivering messages to us. In the past, messages were delivered through a particular medium, such as a vinyl record or a DVD. Accessing that content required a device designed to retrieve the content from that medium, such as a record or DVD player. Media convergence happens when the content of the messages is no longer tied to a particular medium, and therefore requires no designated device to retrieve it. Music, for example, traditionally was distributed via records, cassette tapes, and CDs and required specific devices to decode the medium used. Digital music, however, allows access to songs through any number of devices, including cell phones, tablets, and computers. (3-5)
  • This idea of convergence is driving the changes in media industries and in their audiences. These ideas will be developed in more depth throughout the book. (3-5)

Introducing Mass Communication

  • The idea of a mass audience appears problematic in light of audience fragmentation, which is dividing audiences into smaller and smaller groups. (5-6)
  • The industrial nature of the mass communication process distinguishes it from other forms of communication and refers to the ways in which industries work together to create mass messages in order to reach mass audiences. (6)
  • Mass communication is one of several forms of communication, including interpersonal communication and mediated interpersonal communication. (7)
  • The word “communication” refers to people interacting in ways that at least one of the parties understands as messages. (7)
  • The source is the originator of the message. (8-10)
  • Encoding is the process by which the source translates thoughts and ideas so that they can be perceived by the human senses—in this case, primarily sight and sound, though encoding may also involve smell, taste, and touch. (8-9)
  • The transmitter performs the physical activity of actually spreading—distributing—the message. (8-9)
  • Channels are the pathways through which the transmitter sends all features of the message, whether they involve sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. (8-9)
  • Decoding is the reverse of the encoding process—it is the process by which the receiver translates the source’s thoughts and ideas to assign them meaning. (8-9)
  • The receiver is the person or organization that gets the message. (8-9)
  • Feedback occurs when the receiver responds to the message with what the sender perceives as another message. (8-9)
  • Noise is any element that interferes with the delivery of the message. (9)
  • One way to understand the various kinds of communication is to compare interpersonal communication, mediated interpersonal communication, and mass communication. (Table 1.1, p. 9)
  • Mass communication is the industrialized production and widescale distribution of messages through technological devices. (10)
  • Mass media are the technological vehicles through which mass communication takes place. (11)
  • Mass media outlets send out messages via mass media. (11)
  • Mass media firms create commodities with the potential to circulate to huge numbers of people on an array of platforms. (10-11)

Mass Media and Convergence

  • Media convergence can be thought of as consisting of the three Cs: content, corporations, and computers. (12)
  • An analog is a physical reproduction of content, such as a cassette tape holding a song. Digital turns the song into binary digits, and in turn allows the song to appear on CD. Convergence allows the songs, or digital content, to be accessed by different media. (13)

Mass Media, Culture, and Society

  • How people use the mass media:
  • Enjoyment refers to the personal gratification an individual gets from the media. (14)
  • Companionship, including parasocial interaction. (14)
  • Surveillance—through media surveillance, individuals learn about the world beyond their immediate neighborhood. (15)
  • Interpretation—media are the source of explanations for what happens in the world. (15)
  • Via the multiple uses of media content, particularly those that enable interactivity. (16)
  • Mass communication has many impacts on culture and society.  (16)
  • Mass media present ideas of the culture in three broad and related ways:
  • The mass media identify and discuss codes of acceptable behavior within the society and how to talk about them. (18)
  • The mass media tell people what and who count in our world and why. (18)
  • The mass media help people to understand themselves and their connection with—or disconnection from—others. (18)
  • Criticisms of mass media’s relation to culture include:
  • The use of stereotypes reinforces prejudices and political ideologies that reflect the beliefs of those who have the most power in culture. (19)
  • Concerns about a diminishment of cultural quality. (19)
  • Encouragement of political and economic manipulation of audiences. (19)
  • Some argue that these criticisms overlook how audience members respond to different media in different ways, not simply accepting but also often modifying and rejecting. (19)

Media Literacy

  • Six characteristics of a media-literate person (20):
  • Knowledgeable about the influences that guide media organizations,
  • Up-to-date on media-related political issues,
  • Sensitive to media content as a means of learning about culture,
  • Sensitive to the ethical dimensions of media activities,
  • Knowledgeable about scholarship regarding media effects,
  • Able to enjoy media materials in a sophisticated way.
  • Six principles of media literacy (20-22):
  • The media construct our individual realities. (21)
  • Media are influenced by industrial pressures. (21-22)
  • Media are influenced by political pressures. (22)
  • Media are influenced by format. (22)
  • Audiences are active recipients of the media. (22)
  • Media tell us about who we are as a society. (22)

Media Literacy Tools (See Figure 1.4 on page 21; also 23-25)

  • CONSIDER AUTHORSHIP  – Who created this message, and why are they sending it?  (23)
  • EVALUATE THE AUDIENCE –  Who are the intended targets of these media materials? How might people understand these materials similarly and differently?  (23-24)
  • DETERMINE THE INSTITUTIONAL PURPOSE –  Why is the content being sent?  (24)
  • ANALYZE THE CONTENT –  What values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented in (or omitted from) this message?   (24-25)
  • IDENTIFY THE CREATIVE TECHNIQUES –  What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?  (25)

Benefits of a Media-Literate Perspective (25-26)

Media literacy allows for a more sophisticated reading into the power of media industries, processes, and impact on culture. Media literacy allows for raising questions about:

  • Media conglomerate control of media channels,
  • Portrayals of sex and violence,
  • Consequences of audience segmentation,
  • Global media, cultural values, and free speech.
  • Learning media literacy and unlearning commercial messages
  • Amazon has built a subscription launchpad with Amazon Prime
  • It's Not Film. It's Not TV. It's Convergence. Here's What It's All About
  • Henry Jenkins on “Spreadable Media,” why fans rule, and why “The Walking Dead” lives
  • Social Media Literacy: The 5 Key Concepts
  • Reasons for Media Convergence
  • The Good, Bad and Ugly of Media Convergence
  • Convergence Is The Future Of Marketing

Chapter 2: Making Sense of Research on Media Effects and Media Culture

This chapter provides an overview of the different ways researchers try to explain mass media activities and their effects on audiences and culture.

  • Identify and explain what mass media research is.
  • Recognize and discuss the mainstream approaches to mass media research.
  • Recognize the shift from mainstream approaches to critical approaches.
  • Recognize and discuss the critical approaches to mass media research.
  • Recognize and discuss the cultural studies approaches to mass media research.
  • Harness your media literacy skills to understand and evaluate the media’s presence and influence in your life.

The Nature of Mass Media Research

  • Mass communication researchers have been grappling for decades with the most important social issues involving media. Knowledge of mass communication research traditions and discoveries is crucial to developing media literacy. (31)
  • Research is the application of a systematic method to solve a problem or understand it better than in the past. (31)
  • Mass media research, then, entails the use of systematic methods to understand or solve problems related to the mass media. It asks about the role mass media play in improving or degrading the relationships, values, and ideals of society and the people who make up that society. This chapter addresses society’s bottom line, not a company’s bottom line. (31)
  • Early critical studies scholars explored the ideas behind a mass society. Did widespread media allow for a greater sense of community? Some scholars, such as Dewey, saw these media as enabling democratic participation and the formation of a common notion of society. (32-33)
  • Others feared propaganda, or messages designed to change people’s attitudes and behaviors. (33-5)
  • Interest moved to the role journalists played in their selection of news to cover. Lippmann raised the notion of “agenda setting,” the idea that media create “the ideas in our heads.” (33)
  • The magic bullet or hypodermic needle approach suggested that propaganda affected everyone in the same way at the same time. This idea was quickly modified due to its oversimplification of audience responses. (34-35)
  •  The Payne Fund studies employed a range of techniques to examine the question of the impact of violent films on young people. They found that youngsters’ reactions to movies were not uniform. Rather, they depended on key social and psychological differences among children. (35-36)
  • In the 1940s, researchers put forth a new theory that  placed social relations—or the interactions among people—alongside individual social and psychological differences and the part those relations played in the way individuals interpreted media messages. (36)
  • Paul Lazarsfeld and other Columbia sociologists developed the two-step flow model of media influence. This model states that media messages are diffused in two stages: (1) media content is picked up by people who use the media frequently and (2) these people act as opinion leaders when discussing that content with others. Those others are then influenced by the media in a way that is one step removed from the original content. (36-37 and Figure 2.3 on p. 37)
  • Lazarsfeld and his associates developed the concept of an active audience, meaning that people are not simply passive receivers of media messages. (38)
  • Another outgrowth of the Columbia School research is the uses and gratifications model, which examines how people use media products to meet their needs and interests. This model of analysis maintains that it is as important to know what people do with media as it is to know what media do to people. (38)
  • Additional research approaches confirmed the limited effects of media on audiences:
  • Further analysis (Carl Hovland’s naturalistic experiments summarized as The American Soldier) emerged from the Second World War era and showed that even materials specifically designed to persuade people would succeed only under limited circumstances and with only certain types of people. This area of inquiry is called limited effects research. (39)
  • Findings indicate that, under normal circumstances, where all aspects of the communication environment could not be equal, the mass media’s ability to change people’s attitudes and behavior on controversial issues was minimal. (39-40)

Consolidating the Mainstream Approach

In the 1950s, researchers began building on previous findings. These later approaches can be divided into three areas of study: (1) opinion and behavior change, (2) what people learn from media, and (3) the motivations and applications of media use. (40-43)

  • In terms of opinion and behavior change, researchers look at the effects of TV violence on children and of sexually explicit material for adults. Family, social setting, and personality have a bearing on the results. Heavy exposure may lead to desensitization. (40)
  • In terms of what people learn from media, researchers have found that children can learn basic skills such as vocabulary. Media content, in theory, enables adults to participate in a democratic society; however, media content is also highly selective. Priming is the process through which the media affect how people evaluate media content. Not all people pay attention to media, nor does everyone have access to media content. This lack of access results in a knowledge gap, with those with access receiving information faster and earlier than other population segments. (40-43)
  • In terms of the applications and motivations for people’s media use, researchers draw on uses and gratifications research and sometimes media effects to develop answers to the question, “Why do people enjoy programming like radio soap operas and quiz shows?” A serious answer arises with the digital divide, that is, a separation between those who have knowledge access and those who do not due to limited education or income. (43-45; see Figure 2.4 on p. 45)

The Rise of Critical Approaches

Although mainstream approaches to research have laid a strong foundation for communication research, some scholars recognize two persistent problems: (45)

  •  One problem is the research stresses change rather than continuity. By stressing change over continuity, critics contend that much of mainstream research focuses on whether a change will occur as a result of media exposure, ignoring the possibility that the many important effects of the media have to do not with  changing  people but with encouraging them to  continue  certain actions or views on life. Although outlooks or behavior may not be changed by media content directly, they may be reinforced by it. (45-46)
  • The other problem is its emphasis on the active audience member in the media environment, rather than the power of larger social forces controlling that media environment. By focusing so much on the role of the individual, mainstream researchers are accused of ignoring the impact of social power. What ought to be studied, critics say, is how powerful groups come to influence the most widespread media images in ways that help them stay in power. (46)
  • “Critical theory” is the term used to describe these points of departure from mainstream media research. (47)
  • The Frankfurt School of researchers focused on the cultural implications of Marxism, or the belief that the direction of history would eventually result in labor’s overthrow of capitalism and, in turn, the more equal distribution of resources in society. Scholars wrote about the corrosive impact of capitalism on culture, emphasizing the ability of the mass media to control people’s worldviews. (46-47)
  • Co-optation is used to explain how capitalism takes potentially revolutionary ideas and tames them to express capitalist ideals. (47)
  • Political economy theorists, in contrast, focus on the link between economics and culture. They ask when and how the economic structures of society and media systems reflect the political interests of society’s rich and powerful. Most critical work in this area focuses on how institutional and organizational relationships create requirements for media firms that lead them to create and circulate certain types of material over others. McChesney raised the issue of media conglomeration as an exacerbating and alarming trend. Concerns are raised over corporate ownership and suppression of certain topics of reporting. (47-48 and Figure 2.5 on p. 49)
  • Some political economists who are concerned about the corrosive impact of U.S. media content on other cultures study cultural colonialism—the exercise of control over an area or people by a dominant power not so much through force of arms as by surrounding the weaker countries with cultural materials that reflect values and beliefs that support the interests of the dominant power. (48-49)
  • Cultivation studies researchers focus less on industry relationships and more on information about the work that people pick up from media portrayals. It differs from mainstream research by taking the following approach: when media systematically portray certain populations in unfavorable ways, the ideas that mainstream audiences pick up about those people help certain groups in society keep power over the groups they denigrate. Further, George Gerbner argued that TV violence causes people to feel more strongly that the world is a scary, mean place. (49-50)

Cultural Studies

  • Cultural studies scholars often start with the idea that media presents their audiences with technologies and texts and that audiences find meaning in them. These scholars examine what it means to “make meaning” of such technologies and texts and what consequences this has for audiences. (51)
  • Approaches to cultural studies include:
  • Historical, which ask questions about media and the past.
  • Anthropological, which explore how people use media in different settings.
  • Linguistic and literary, which incorporate multiple ways of reading media texts. Though complicated, the linguistic and literary approaches question where meaning is created in texts and understand that texts are polysemous, that is, open to multiple readings. (51-53)

Using Media Research to Develop Media Literacy Skills

  • Media research relates closely to media literacy. The history of mass media research provides students with tools to figure out three key ideas a media-literate person must know: (53-57)
  • Where you stand with respect to the effects of media on society. (54)
  • How to make sense of discussions and arguments about media effects. (54)
  • Part of becoming media literate involves taking an informed stand on why the media are important. New ideas on the subject are emerging constantly, and it helps to stay current with press coverage of media developments or academic journal articles in this area. (54)
  • The five key considerations in making sense of media effects analysis are: (54-56)
  • Are the questions the researcher is asking interesting and important?
  • Into what research tradition does the study fall?
  • How good is the research design?
  • How convincing is the analysis?
  • What do you wish the researchers would do next in their research?
  • How to get involved in research that can be used to explore concerns you might have about mass media. (56-57)
  • See Table 2.1 (p. 55-56) for an overview of the different theories used in media research. This table summarizes the key research efforts explained in this chapter.
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Chapter 3: The Business of Media

This chapter provides an overview of how the media industries identify and address audiences; how they use genres to group content; and how they produce, distribute, exhibit, and finance content.

  • Recognize how mass media personnel consider the audience an integral part of business concerns.
  • Describe the primary genres of the materials created by various mass media industries.
  • Identify and discuss the process of producing, distributing, and exhibiting materials in mass media industries.
  • Explain the way media firms finance the production, distribution, and exhibition of media materials.
  • Harness your media literacy skills to evaluate what media forms mean to you as a media consumer.

Identifying an Audience for Mass Media Content

  • Media practitioners carefully consider the following questions:
  • How should we think about and define our audience?
  • Will the material we create to attract that audience generate adequate revenues?
  • Was our target audience attracted to our products? Why or why not? (62)
  • Media firms think about members of their audience differently than the members think about themselves. Media professionals think of people primarily as consumers of media materials and other products.
  • The goal of audience targeting is to deliver audiences to advertisers in order to generate adequate revenue for their media enterprise.
  • They construct their audiences in four broad ways: demographics, psychographics, lifestyle categories, and behavioral information. (63-66)
  • Demographic indicators include factors such as age, sex, income, occupation, ethnicity, and race.
  • Psychographics group people by attitudes, personality types, or motivations. (see Figure 3.2)
  • The lifestyle categories approach considers different activities that mark people as different from others.
  • Behavioral information tracks user activity within a media firm’s cross-platform products (websites, apps, even physical locations).
  • Companies combine these approaches to do personalized targeting, offering advertisers the ability to reach people who fit specific profiles.
  • Figuring out whether the content that the company puts out is a success with the existing audience through an analysis of existing data can be simple or difficult, depending on the mass medium and the specific questions asked. (67-68)

Determining a Genre for Mass Media Content

  • Media content is organized into five major categories, called genres, and includes entertainment, news, information, education, and advertising. (68)
  • The entertainment genre follows a formula that includes a setting, typical characters, and patterns of action. The primary concern for creators of entertainment is audience enjoyment. (68)
  • The entertainment genre can be further divided into festivals, dramas, gaming, and comedy. (68; see Figure 3.3 on p. 69)
  • Genres also can be combined. A combination of two genres is called a hybrid. Dramedy, for example, mixes comedy and drama.
  • The news genre involves telling stories about events happening in the world around us. Most news stories are grounded in objectivity, strive for accuracy, and are written by journalists. (71)
  • News can be further divided into several subgenres, recognizable as hard news, investigative reports, editorials, and soft news. (73)
  • The information genre relies on facts that reveal something about the world. Information includes content obtained through searching databases. (76-7)
  • The education genre includes content crafted to teach people. Textbooks and instructional materials of all types fall into this category. (77-78)
  • The advertisement genre includes messages aimed at directing favorable attention to goods and services and includes informational ads, hard-sell ads, and soft-sell ads. (78-79)
  • A newcomer to a media industry needs to understand the various genres that characterize media content and the necessity of working within the formulaic limitations of the genres.

Mixing Genres in a Convergent Media System

  • In all mass media industries, organizations carry out five primary activities: production, distribution, exhibition, audience research, and finance. (80, see Figure 3.6)
  • Production for the mass media means the creation of materials (also called media content) for distribution through one or more mass media vehicles. (81)
  • A mass media production firm, like The Washington Post Co., is a firm that creates materials for distribution through one or more mass media vehicles. (81)
  • The production process typically requires the work of both administrative and creative personnel (either on-staff creative workers or freelance creative workers). (81)
  • Talent guilds, such as the Writers Guild of America, negotiate labor agreements with major production firms. (82)
  • Because the production process is so complex, the creative labor is typically a collaborative activity, and this positions a group or a company as the “author” of the material. (82 and Figure 3.7)
  • Distribution is the delivery of the produced material to the point where it will be shown to its intended audience; distribution is an activity that takes place out of public view. (83)
  • Without distribution, a production firm’s media product would literally go nowhere; some large media firms conduct distribution as well as production, whereas others rely on independent distribution firms to carry out this function. (83-84)
  • A powerful distributor can ensure that the media products it carries will end up in the best locations of the best exhibitors and presented to the best audience; without distribution, production is of no use. (84)
  • Exhibition is the activity of presenting mass media materials to audiences for viewing or purchase. (84)
  • Shelf space is the amount of area or time available for presenting products to consumers. (84)
  • Powerful distributors are able to negotiate the best space and the best time for the exhibition of their clients’ products. (85)
  • Large media firms, like major book publishing companies, are in a position to negotiate with exhibitors for the best space or time and often provide trade incentives and cooperative advertising deals to gain influence with exhibitors. (86)
  • In some media industries, major firms consolidate their marketplace strength by owning elements of all three functions, combining production, distribution, and exhibition under one corporate roof. This combination of all three functions is called vertical integration, an important strategy in the constant attempt to reduce risk. (86 and Figure 3.8 on p. 87)
  • Financing mass media content can be divided into two categories: money to fund new production and money to pay for already completed products. (87)
  • Funding new productions:
  • Borrowing money from an organization, usually a bank. (87)
  • Borrowing money (typically very large amounts) from an investment bank or syndicate that often specializes in loaning large sums to companies in particular industries. (88)
  • Some media firms raise money by means of stock offerings that encourage investment in their operations. (88)
  • Some media firms rely on venture capitalists that specialize in investing in startup or nonpublic (no stock offerings) firms. (88-89)
  • Following an investment by venture capitalists, the potential profit of a media firm may become so great that it takes action to issue an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. (89)
  • Funding when production is already complete. This concerns the generation of profits—the amount of money brought in by completed products (revenue) minus expenses.
  • Direct sales, allowing the purchaser to buy, and therefore own, an item directly from a producer, distributor, or exhibitor. (89)
  • License fees, allowing the purchaser to use an item, usually for a specified period of time and for specified purposes; the producer retains ultimate control of the item. (89)
  • Rentals, allowing a consumer the right to read, view, or listen to an item for a specified period of time, after which the item is returned. (89)
  • Usage fees based on the number of times that an item is employed (or used) by a consumer. (89)
  • Subscriptions, or the amount of money charged for providing a media product or service on a regular basis. (89-90)
  • Advertising, allowing a company to purchase space or time on mass media for the purpose of displaying an ad for a product or service. (90)
  • An additional concern for media practitioners is government regulation. (see Chapter 5)

Media Literacy and the Business of Media (90-92)

  • Knowing about the production, distribution, and exhibition processes helps one be a more aware consumer of mass media materials.  
  • Knowing about the means through which media products are financed, a media-literate person can influence sources of production revenue.
  • Knowing how media firms construct and target their intended audiences, a media-literate person can influence decisions that are potentially objectionable or arguably disruptive in some way.
  • In other words, a media-literate person has some potential leverage over decisions made by media firms and their sources of financing. The crucial issues, of course, lie in first understanding how this complex system works and then developing effective communication strategies of your own in order to influence it.
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Chapter 4: Financing and Shaping the Media: Advertising, Public Relations, and Marketing Communications

This chapter explores how advertising, public relations, and marketing activities shape the activities of the media industries.

  • Describe the roles that advertising, public relations, and marketing communications play in the media system.
  • Describe the kinds of firms involved in these activities and what they do.
  • Analyze the process of producing and creating ads and public relations material.
  • Explain how advertising, public relations, and marketing communications relate to convergence and what that means for the media system.
  • Discuss debates between critics and defenders of these businesses regarding topics such as commercialism, hidden persuasion, and targeting communication.

The Advertising Industry

  • Advertising is the activity of explicitly paying for media space or time in order to direct favorable attention to certain products or services. (96)
  • Advertising pays for the time or space they receive, clearly states its presence, and involves persuasion.
  • Advertising spending is a multibillion-dollar industry. (see Table 4.1, on p. 97)  
  • Advertising agencies specialize in the creation of ads for placement on media. (98)
  • Agency holding companies own multiple agencies. (98; see Table 4.2 for the top seven holding companies.)
  • Advertising agencies can be divided along four dimensions: (1) business-to-business agencies versus consumer agencies, (2) general agencies versus specialty agencies, (3) traditional agencies versus direct-marketing agencies, and (4) agency networks versus stand-alone firms. (98-100, see Table 4.3 for the top ten agency networks)
  • The three basic functions of an ad agency are (1) creative persuasion, (2) market research, and (3) media planning and buying. (100)
  • Production in the advertising industry (100-103):
  • Production activities are closely monitored by clients and most prominently involve creative personnel and market researchers, who help guide the creative work to reach the targeted market segment.
  • Market research creates portraits of society and identifies potential market segments.
  • The sales pitch is a message designed to show how a product can “solve a problem” for the identified target audience.
  • Branding involves the creation of a specific image of a product that makes it stand out in the marketplace.
  • Agencies position products by relating brands to the specific interests and lifestyle of the targeted segment.
  • Distribution in the advertising industry (103-105):
  • Media fragmentation has made the placement of ads an increasingly complex and challenging agency function.
  • Agencies rely on audience research firms for the specific data used to target audiences and to place ads in an effective and efficient way.
  • Research firms develop psychographic audience data that link demographic categories to personality traits of the targeted audience.
  • Research firms also provide lifestyle information about particular audience segments.
  • In-store media refers to the various ads that consumers see in retail stores.
  • Media planners typically want to know the following: (1) What is an outlet’s reach with respect to the target audience and (2) how efficient is the outlet in reaching the target compared to other outlets? (This is where cost per thousand, or CPM, comes into the decision making.)
  • Media planners are also concerned about the environment—or the media content--surrounding the ads they place.
  • Exhibition in the advertising industry (105-107):
  • The strategy of the advertising campaign determines how particular ads are exhibited to potential consumers.
  • Advertising conglomerates have developed cross-platform deals to reach an increasingly segmented audience.
  • Location-based advertising sends ads and coupons to consumers based on their geographic location.
  • An agency’s research division typically evaluates the success of a campaign by several research means, including the click-though analysis of consumer behavior on the Internet.
  • It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns.
  • Threats to traditional advertising (107-109):
  • Consumer resistance to ad exposure—and their use of new technologies to avoid ads altogether—is worrisome for the industry. Native advertisements are a growing form of ad placement which mimics the format and style of the media vehicle in which the ad is placed.
  • Agencies are attempting to make ads more relevant to the targeted segments.
  • Agencies are using product placement and viral marketing (buzz marketing, environmental marketing) to get around consumer resistance to ads.

What Is Public Relations?

  • Publicity is the practice of getting companies, people, and products mentioned in the media in order to get people interested in them. Public relations activities seek to create positive attitudes toward these products and to counter any potentially negative attitudes. (109-110)
  • Public relations departments are part of media industries and many other industries, as well as government groups and not-for-profit organizations. (111)
  • Although advertising activities are more recognizable to audiences, public relations activities attempt to be subtler. Also, whereas advertising is paid for (in terms of ad space, commercial slots, etc.), public relations activities typically are not paid for (e.g., public relations firms do not pay a newspaper for printing their press release). (110)
  • Public relations practitioners engage in three types of activities: media relations, internal relations, and external relations. Media relations involve any activities that deal with media (i.e., answering calls from reporters). Internal relations involve presenting the company image to people working in the company. External relations involve presenting the company image to those outside the company. (111)
  • Public relations firms also are part of agency holding companies. (See Table 4.4 on p. 112)
  • Global reach is important to agency holding companies. (112)
  • Prominent public relations activities fall under corporate communications, financial communications, health care, public affairs, and crisis management. (112; see Table 4.5 on p. 113 for examples of these types of activities)
  • Production in the public relations industry (114-115):
  • The press release is the most basic product of public relations.
  • It is very important for public relations specialists to understand the work routines and needs of media specialists in order to influence media content.
  • Distribution in the public relations industry (115-116):
  • Public relations distribution is achieved by locating proper media outlets for the materials provided by public relations specialists.
  • A variety of media technologies are used for the distribution of public relations materials.
  • Exhibition in the public relations industry (116-117):
  • Media outlets benefit from the “information subsidies” provided by the public relations industry.
  • The placement of public relations materials in media outlets does not guarantee that the subsequent stories will be beneficial for the public relations specialist’s client.

The Rise of Marketing Communications (117-120)

  • Integrated marketing communications (IMC) attempts to combine the activities of advertising and public relations in order to benefit a client.
  • Branded entertainment involves associating a company or product with media activities in ways that are not as obviously intrusive as advertisements.
  • Event marketing involves creating compelling circumstances that command attention in ways that are relevant to the product or firm.
  • Event sponsorship involves companies paying to be associated with particular activities that their target audiences enjoy or value.
  • Product placement takes place when a firm manages to insert its brand in a positive way into fiction or nonfiction content.
  • Direct marketing uses media vehicles created by the marketer to send persuasive messages. Database marketing involves the construction of lists of customers and potential customers, which can be used to determine what those people might purchase in the future.
  • Relationship marketing involves a determination by the firm to maintain long-term contact with its customers.

Advertising, Public Relations, and Convergence (120-121)

  • Advertising, public relations, and IMC have a substantial impact on the media. By bringing these activities together, companies can expand their reach in getting their messages out.

Media Literacy Issues Related to Advertising and Public Relations

  • Three key issues related to advertising:
  • Advertising and commercialism: The buying and selling of items is a highly valued activity, and sales pitches appear everywhere. These messages, some say, encourage people to buy more than they need and are part of a hidden curriculum that people unconsciously accept without thinking about it. Other critics claim this influence isn’t as strong as detractors claim. (121-122)
  • Critics claim that advertising targeting children is unethical because some children are unable to process the messages, and the advertising causes disagreements between parents and children. (122)
  • Critics claim that advertising and public relations activities produce excess waste and pollution. (122)
  • Advertising, public relations, and IMC maintain complicated relationships with the idea of “truth,” because these industries must always present the best possible image . Critics claim that even when these industries’ messages tell the truth, they still possibly can deceive their audiences. (122-124)
  • These industries turn to self-regulation to prevent government interference with their activities.
  • Targeting becomes another troublesome activity presented by these industries because in their search for desired audiences, they send out too many messages, and thus have access to an enormous amount of personal information.
  • Media firms can attract marketers by offering selectability, or reaching specific individuals with desired characteristics through targeted content; accountability to advertisers, or showing how individuals responded to ads; and interactivity, or cultivating a positive relationship with an individual. (125-126)
  • Critics claim that although this targeting of content to narrower and narrower audience segments might be beneficial to individuals, it creates a culture of separation that prevents people from learning about others and the world around them. (126-127)
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Chapter 5: Controls on Media Content:

Government regulation, self-regulation, and ethics.

This chapter provides an overview of the different ways that the government regulates media industries and the media industries regulate themselves, as well as the questions of ethics that arise in both cases.

  • Explain the reasons for and the theories underlying media regulation.
  • Identify and describe different types of media regulation.
  • Analyze the struggles between citizens and regulatory agencies in the search for information.
  • Discuss the ways in which media organizations self-regulate.
  • Identify and evaluate ethical dilemmas facing media practitioners today.
  • Harness your media literacy skills to comprehend how media regulation affects you as a consumer.

Why Do Media Firms Care About What Government Does?

Mass media regulation refers to the laws and guidelines that influence key media industry processes: production, distribution and exhibition. Three key arguments shape the media laws in the United States: how to define freedom of the press, what a good media system means, and how much government should guide it. (131)

  • Even though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says “Congress shall make no law” abridging “the freedom of speech, or of the press,” the reality of this situation is much more complicated and has often been raised in the U.S. Supreme Court. Questions center on determining which governmental body is making the law, what exactly defines “the press,” and what is meant by “abridging.” (132-134)
  • The Supreme Court has often approved government restrictions to abridge speech or the press that place limits on the time, place, and manner of expression. (134) Such restrictions are legal if they:
  • Are applicable to everyone,
  • Are without political bias,
  • Serve a significant governmental interest,
  • Leave ample alternative ways for the communication to take place.

More Allowable Government Control Over Media Content

Government regulation of media falls into three categories: regulation of content before it is distributed, regulation of content after it is distributed, and economic regulation. (134)

  • Prior restraint is involved in regulating content before it is distributed. (135)
  • Several areas that warrant prior restraint include obscenity, military operations, and copyright.
  • Obscenity means something that is offensive to standards of decency and modesty, although determining what is offensive and why is a challenging undertaking. (135-136)
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the government has a right to censorship via prior restraint when the national security of the United States is at risk, but the court has made it clear that national security is defined quite narrowly. (136-137) (see Table 5.1, p. 135, for other types of content for which the Supreme Court allows prior restraint)
  • The regulation and control of media content prior to publication during wartime military operations have occurred since the Civil War.
  • The military has developed strategies to control and shape wartime reporting, using pool reporting and embedded reporting.
  • According to the U.S. Constitution, the purpose of copyright is “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” (137)
  • The hesitancy of government agencies to stop the press from circulating content through prior restraint does not apply to copyright violations. (138)
  • The Copyright Act of 1976 lays out the basic rules of copyright law as they exist in the United States today. (138-139)
  • Fair use regulations allow writers and academics to use small portions of copyrighted material without permission. (139)
  • Fair use is typically supportive of nonprofit, educational uses of copyrighted material and of uses that do no harm to the original work or that significantly transform the original work, to include added interpretations, including parodies of the original work. (139-140)
  • Regulation of content  after  it is distributed:
  • Defamation is a highly disreputable or false statement about a living person or an organization that causes injury to the reputation that a substantial group of people hold for that person or entity. (140-141)
  • Libel is a form of published defamation, including libel per se (so-called “red flag” words) and libel per quod (words that become libelous because of their context). (141, see Table 5.2 for a list of “red flag” words)
  • Slander is a form of spoken defamation. (141)
  • There are two categories of libel plaintiffs: public figures and private persons. (141-142)
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has defined actual malice as reckless disregard for truth or knowledge of falsity; the court has defined simple malice as ill will toward another person. (142)
  • The court has defined simple negligence as lack of reasonable care by media organizations. (142)
  • Invasion of privacy activities include false light, appropriation, intrusion, and public disclosure. (Table 5.3, p. 143-144)
  • An emerging area of regulation concerns collection of data about individuals for marketing purposes and the protection of their privacy. (144-146)
  • Economic regulations are rules that determine how firms are allowed to compete with each other and affects the ways media organizations finance, produce, distribute, and exhibit their products. (146)
  • Antitrust laws prevent one company from controlling an entire market, which is called a monopoly. A few companies controlling a market is called an oligopoly. (146)
  • Antitrust policies are carried out through the passage of laws, the enforcement of laws, and federal court decisions. (146-147)
  • Two government agencies are important in the regulating of the mass media: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (147; see Figure 5.1) These agencies are responsible for creating technical order, encouraging competition, and protecting consumers. (147-150)

Media Self-Regulation

Self-regulation regimes are codes created by companies that define ethical codes of conduct within them. (150)

  • Although self-regulation pressures do come from the government, external pressures to self-regulate also come from members of the public, advocacy organizations, and advertisers. (151-152)
  • Self-regulation practices include editorial standards, or written statements of policy and conduct, and ombudspersons, or those who act as intermediaries in conflict situations. (153)
  • Professional codes of ethics are created by members of professions spelling out what practitioners should and should not do. Journalism reviews report on and analyze examples of questionable ethics in the news industry. (153)
  • Content ratings and advisories offers guides for determining the age-appropriate nature of films, television shows, or video games. See Table 5.4 for video games (154), Table 5.5 for movies (155), and Table 5.6 for television shows (155).

The Role of Ethics

Ethics is a system of notions about right and wrong that guides a person’s actions. (156) Bob Steele, a faculty member with the Poynter Institute, suggests ten questions to ask yourself when considering ethical questions while working in media. (156-157)

  • What do I know? What do I need to know?
  • What are my ethical concerns?
  • What is my journalistic (or informational, entertainment, advertising, or educational) purpose?
  • What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider?
  • How can I include other people, with different perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision-making process?
  • Who are the stakeholders—those affected by my decision? What are their motivations? Which are legitimate?
  • What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders?
  • What are the possible consequences of my actions in the short term? In the long run?
  • What are my alternatives to maximize my truth-telling responsibility and minimize harm?
  • Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my decision to my colleagues? To the stakeholders? To the public?

Ethical duties are related to different constituencies, including self, audience, employer, profession, promise-holders, and society. (157) Ethical standards occur at three levels: person, professional, and societal. Values, ideals, and principles cut across these levels. (158)

Media Regulations and the Savvy Citizen

  • Determination of what is ethical conduct cannot be resolved by government regulation. Media-savvy citizens need to understand when it is appropriate to ask the government to intervene on media concerns. (160)
  • There are few easily agreed-upon media ethics due to the complex and varied media industry in the United States. (161)
  • Even if you’re not a media practitioner, thinking seriously about the formal and informal controls on the media content you see and hear each day is crucial to your role as a critical consumer of media. (161)
  • ‘A Threat to Internet Freedom’
  • How revenge porn sites rely on legal loopholes and anonymity
  • The Media Piracy Report
  • The War Against Movie Piracy: Attack Both Supply And Demand
  • Do Not Track – Interactive Documentary about privacy online
  • Online Defamation Law
  • How Privacy Vanishes Online
  • Creative Commons
  • 10 common misconceptions about the public domain.

Preface to the Media Industries: The Forces Driving Convergence in Media Industries

The first five chapters of the book provided the foundations for thinking about different aspects of the media, including convergence, genres, structures and funding, and media regulations. Expanding on the ideas of convergence, this preface provides some key themes that underpin the different industries addressed in the following chapters. Many of these themes began before digital media and the Internet, but convergence has accelerated their growth and change.

The Spread of Digital Media

  • Devices with computer processors allow access to digital media (text, audio, and visual materials.) Examples of these devices include laptop computers, tablets, and cellphones. (167)
  • The Internet has accelerated the spread of convergence. (167)
  • As much as the Internet has created opportunities for media, it also has created a lot more competition. With lower barriers to entry, almost anyone can create and distribute digital content. (167-168)

The Importance of Distribution Windows

  • A distribution window is an exhibition point used to generate profits on media content, such as a movie theater, a retail store, or an online store. (168-169)
  • Redistribution of the same material through different “windows” provides additional revenue opportunities. (169) See figure p.1 on p. 168.
  • Convergence offers an even greater number of distribution windows than before. (169)

Audience Fragmentation and Segmentation

  • Audience fragmentation, which began before the rise of digital media, refers to the splitting of audiences across the growing number of media outlets. (169)
  • Channel fragmentation refers to this increase in mass media outlets, particularly during the last two decades. This was discussed in Chapter 1. (169-170; also 5-6)
  • With the introduction of each new method of accessing content, the audience using that medium gets smaller—a process called audience erosion. (170)
  • Audience segmentation refers to the ways in which media producers divide audience members into groups, and create media that target these groups. Targeting involves reaching for desired groups that the media company has identified. More desired audiences get more attention from the media as a result. (170-171) See figure P.2 on p. 171.  


  • Globalization is the movement of media content around the world. (171-172)
  • Trying to reach global audiences is a way of making the potential audience larger and of possibly generating more profits. (172)
  • Sending media content outside the United States poses a risk of global audiences not liking the content, so media companies might create divisions to address specific global audiences, or engage in co-productions, which are deals between two firms for funding and tailoring media material for international markets. (172-173)


  • A mass media conglomerate refers to a media company that holds stakes in several media industries. For example, Disney has its own television channels, film production facilities, radio network, publishing arm, recording division, and streaming channel. (173) See figure P.3 on p. 174. 
  • These conglomerates used to treat each production arm separately, but now companies require them to work together to generate more revenue. (174-175)
  • Vertical integration refers to one company owning all the means of media content creation from production through exhibition. This system used to be illegal, but recent laws have changed to allow it in some industries. (174)
  • Horizontal integration is ownership of multiple parts of media content creation across multiple industries and the use of these outlets to ensure a profit across them. (174)
  • Synergy refers to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In this case, media industries use their various outlets to maximize exposure, both nationally and globally, for their media products. (174)
  • Media conglomerates also engage in joint ventures, the sharing of resources and revenues by two or more firms, to maximize economic gains or political influence. (175)

These five media trends will be key to the discussions of individual media industries in the following chapters.

  • Facebook’s Subtle Empire
  • Let the Nanotargeting Begin
  • Captain America: Civil War’ Soars to $14.9 Million Overseas on First Day
  • ‘Captain America’ title will be changed to ‘The First Avenger’ in Russia, South Korea
  • Co-Productions in New Zealand
  • South Africa's film industry
  • The World’s 10 Largest Media Conglomerates
  • Who Owns the Media?

Chapter 6: The Internet Industry

Interactive timeline.

This chapter explores the Internet industry, which supports the explosive growth of convergence activities, and changing relationships between media and Internet industries and their audiences.

  • Discuss the history of the Internet and the devices that link to it.
  • Understand the Internet as a technology.
  • Describe the Internet industry, its relationship to convergence, and its impact on media organizations and their consumers.
  • Analyze concerns that observers hold about Internet privacy issues.

The Rise of the Internet

  • The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that uses a standard set of commands to link billions of people worldwide. (177)
  • Through the use of packets, these systems could maintain multiple data conversations at one time. (177-178)
  • Hyperlinks connect documents and files through special coding that makes them “clickable.” (178)
  • HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, defines the structures of web pages and allows their interconnection. (178)
  • The Internet started within military and academic institutions and became more available for public use by the mid-1990s. (178)
  • See Figure 6.2 for more history of the Internet’s development. (180-181)
  • Internet use is very common among adults in general, though younger people are more typical users than older ones. Figure 6.1 breaks down the demographics of adults who do not use the Internet. (178)
  • Table 6.2 provides statistics on the online platforms most popular with teens. (182)

Production, Distribution, and Exhibition on the Internet

  • Unlike most other industries, the roles among production, distribution, and exhibition often blur online. Users and industries can take on multiple roles more easily than in other venues. (182-183)
  • People often create content for places that they can’t control. (182)
  • User-generated content (UGC) is made by people who often use the same website, such as someone making a video and uploading it to YouTube. (182)
  • The parent sites will format the content and determine how (and if) other users receive it, serving in the role of producer and distributor. (182)
  • Internet service providers (ISPs) allow audiences to access the Internet. ISPs take on the role of exhibitor. (183)
  • Wi-Fi allows people to access the Internet without using a wire. (183; see Figure 6.4 on p. 184)
  • Net neutrality refers to the idea that ISPs will not restrict people’s access to any specific website. Some companies and libraries will block certain sites that would waste time or embarrass employees. (184-185)
  • The net neutrality controversy comes up with ISPs claiming that they want to charge some sites for exhibition due to their heavy bandwidth, but many argue that such a practice would affect society in negative ways. (185-186)

Social Media Sites and Search Engines

  • Social media sites (also called social networking sites) allow people to interact with others around different types of content. Popular examples are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (178)
  • A search engine allows you to look for information on the Internet. Google is the most popular search engine. Web crawlers create an index of sites, and then algorithms, or mathematical rules, determine which results get returned to you. In Google, this is referred to as natural or organic search results. (186-187)
  • Some search engines allow advertisers to pay to have their sites place higher in the search results when someone searches a keyword they have purchased.
  • Social media sites and search engines are seeing ways to bring their services together through a social search, which allows people to search among their connections to find popular items. (187-188)

Funding Online Content

  • Search engines and social media sites compete for advertising dollars, though there are other approaches to making money through websites. (188)
  • Sites involved in image making get people to interact with their products, such as Jell-O. (188)
  • Other companies sell subscriptions to content, such as magazines or media content. Some subscriptions are tiered (sometimes referred to as “freemium” pricing), and others are flat rate. Consumers are still resistant to subscriptions. (188-189)
  • Advertising also generates revenues for sites, and some claim the advantage online is in reaching very specific audiences with customized messages. (189-190)
  • Keyword advertising and contextual advertising offer ways to customize those messages. (189-190)
  • Profiling refers to creating a description of an audience member in order to tailor specific messages to them. Information for these profiles comes from voluntary information you enter, including your e-mail address and your interest categories. It also comes from cookies, or small files that track your progress through a site. (190)
  • Clickstreams refer to your mouse clicks through a site. (190)
  • The companies then use these data to deliver specific messages to you; this is called behavioral targeting. (190)
  • The process that brings millions of profiles together is called data mining. (190; see Figure 6.5, p. 191)
  • An ad network connects different websites together in order to sell ads on them. (191)
  • Ad exchanges are electronic auctions that publishers and ad networks use to offer advertisers the ability to reach specific types of people when they enter certain sites. (191-192)

“Web-Centered” and “App-Centered” Businesses

  • Applications, or apps, bring material to audiences through the Internet, but not through the Web. Users access the content through the app instead of through a website. (192)
  • Mobile applications, or mobile apps, work specifically on feature phones or smartphones. (192)
  • Some publishers view mobile users as separate from web users, but some publishers do not and will create content for both computer-based and mobile-based systems. (193)
  • Advertising is an important component of mobile apps and the mobile Web as ways to finance content production. (194)

Media Ethics: Confronting Internet Privacy

  • Media critics worry about the protection of people’s privacy online. Part of this concern rests on the two-way function of the Internet. We might not want to share everything that we enter into a website registration form or other ordering form. (194-195)
  • Although cookies don’t allow access to personally identifiable information, critics claim that companies still can get this information easily. (195)
  • Media executives claim that they need this information in order to remain competitive for advertising and that people often provide this information willingly. (195-196)
  • Privacy advocates suggest that an opt-in approach would work better, but marketers prefer the opt-out approach because of the difficulties in getting people to opt in. (196)
  • The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires firms that use people’s data to disclose what they do with them and to get permission before collecting the data. This is seen as a model by some American data privacy advocates. (196)
  • Privacy is not just web-based but is also on mobile phones and even television. (196)
  • Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites
  • How Twitter's Trending Algorithm Picks Its Topics
  • What You Need to Know About Twitter’s Algorithmic Timeline timeline/
  • The 7 ‘creep factors’ of online behavioral advertising
  • The State Of Mobile And The App Economy In 2015
  • Block ads? That only makes you more attractive to advertisers
  • Adblockers: US growth could remove $12bn advertising by 2020

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Statistical Machine

Emanuel Goldberg and Robert Luther in Germany receive a U.S. patent for a “Statistical Machine” an early document search engine that uses photoelectric cells and pattern recognition to search for specific words on microfilm documents. This device was an early version of a search engine. Goldberg’s interest in linking bits of knowledge quickly may have influenced Vannevar Bush’s ideas about text linking.

"As We May Think"

Scientist Vannevar Bush publishes the article “As We May Think” in The Atlantic magazine predicting the invention of technology that would allow ideas in different parts of text to link to one another. This was a key public expression of the idea of the hypertext, which became reality with the invention of the World Wide Web.

Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC)

University of Pennsylvania engineers create ENIAC, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. This is the first programmable, electronic digital computer. There are several predecessors to ENIAC, but this invention ushers in the computer age.

ENIAC: The First Computer

United State Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA)

President Eisenhower requests funds to create the United States Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Responding to the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite, ARPA was to lead the development of new military technologies. It was renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972.

DARPA-Military Secrets Scientists

Packing Switching

Larry Roberts at MIT sets up an experiment in which two computers communicate to each other using packet-switching technology. This experiment is a major move forward in the creation of a network of interacting computers.

Story of Packet Switching

ARPANET project begins in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Larry Roberts is in charge. The goal is to create a packet-switching interconnected network of computers that can continue operating even when one part of the network is disabled by war.

ARPANET Connects

ARPANET connects computers at four U.S. universities. The first ARPANET message is sent between the University of California and Stanford University. The aim is to connect scientists at universities around the U.S. using a computer network. 1969 marks the first successful venture in this direction and paves the way for more and more computers to be joined into the network.

Internet History part 1: The First Time Two Computers Were Ever Connected

First Email Program

Ray Tomlinson creates the first email program, along with the @ sign to signify “at.” This is the start of specific “applications” on the network.

Ray Tomlinson: The Inventor of Email

The U.K. and Norway Connect

ARPANET establishes connections to two universities in the UK and Norway. The linkage between computers becomes international.

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Apple Computer

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak found Apple computers. The company will become a major force in spreading the internet and its uses and redefining the home computer.

The History of Apple in Under 10 Minutes

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The Personal Computer and DOS

IBM announces the first personal computer (PC). Microsoft creates the PC’s disk operating system (DOS). This marks the beginning of Microsoft’s race to become a powerful company in computing, the internet, and video games.

IBM 5150 PC: CBS Sunday Morning

Domain Name System (DNS)

Paul Mockapetris and Jon Postel create the domain name system for the internet. These included the suffixes of .edu, .gov., .com , .mil, .org., .net, and .int. (Previously people used a series of numbers, such as In 1985, becomes the first registered “domain” on ARPANET/Internet. Domain names serve as words that refer to places of internet participants on the internet that are fundamentally defined in terms of numerical addresses. It is a key step in organizing the internet for widespread use.

Cisco Routers

25 million PCs are sold in the U.S. and the first Cisco routers are shipped. These developments reflect the popular growth in personal-computer use and the beginnings of connections of these computers to the internet. Routers are devices that forward data packets between computer networks. Reading the internet address information in the packet, routers perform the “traffic directing” functions of the internet.

How the Internet Works in 5 Minutes

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The World Wide Web

ARPANET formally ends. Tim Berners-Lee creates the World Wide Web. This system of interlinked hypertext documents changes the way people access information.

PBS Special on 20th Anniversary of the WWW—interview with Tim Berners-Lee

Mosaic Web Browser

Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina invent Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It quickly becomes a popular way to access pictures and text on the World Wide Web. It becomes the model for the popular Netscape browser and others that came afterwards. This browser development marked the beginning of the Web as a popular and commercial destination.

Early days of Mosaic & Netscape Browsers: Marc Andreessen, Jim Clark, and John Doerr

Campus-Wide Internet

Carnegie Mellon University offers the first campus-wide wireless access to the internet.

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Microsoft releases Windows 95. Borrowing the idea from Apple, this PC operating system used a graphical user interface, start menu, and task bar. It quickly became the most popular desktop operating system.

Windows 95 Commercial

The New York Times Online

The New York Times establishes a website. It reflects the beginnings of the movement of offline journalism online. (See Chapter 8.)

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

U.S. Congress passes the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA reflects concerns in U.S. society about the ways marketers and other agencies track people, including young people, online and use their information without permission. This law singled children out for special concern. Effective in 2000, the act specified what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page incorporate the search engine Google. It becomes the preeminent search engine and powerful internet advertising force.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google History

Internet Crime

The European Council adopts the first treaty addressing criminal offenses committed over the Internet. Countries are beginning to grapple with how to think of law as it relates to the internet necessitating new specializations within law such as internet law, media law, and information technology law.

Apple introduces the iTunes media player and library application. It is the beginning of what will become Apple’s wildly successful venture into selling music tracks, videos, books, and other digital products for its desktop and mobile devices when they launch the iTunes store in 2003.

Apple iMac Ad: iTunes 1(2001)

Lawsuits for Copyright Infringement

The RIAA sues 261 individuals for allegedly distributing copyrighted music files over peer-to-peer networks.

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Facebook Acquires Instagram

Mark Zuckerberg and fellow Harvard students create the Facebook social networking site.

Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass launch Twitter.

Mashable - The Illustrated History of Twitter

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Google Acquires YouTube

Google, Inc. acquires YouTube for $1.65 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction.

A Message From YouTube's Founders

Google Website Reaches #1

Search engine giant Google surpasses software giant Microsoft in having the most visited website.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger create Instagram.

Digital Charlotte - What is Instagram?

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Smartphone Adoption Increases

Over one third (35%) of American adults own a smartphone.

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Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy create Snapchat while students at Stanford University.

GeneralTechHQ - What is Snapchat?

Facebook purchases Instagram for $1 billion.

Smartphones Become Widespread

Nearly two thirds of Americans (64%) own a smartphone, and one in five rely solely on smartphones to access the internet.

Internet Society Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The nonprofit Internet Society was established in 1992 to “ensure that a healthy, sustainable Internet is available to everyone.”

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality rules

The FCC repeals 2015 net neutrality rules saying a restoration of the Federal Trade Commission’s authority over internet service providers would benefit consumers.

Facebook Data Breach

Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, accesses information of millions of Facebook users, opening Facebook to an investigation by the FTC about privacy protections.

Chapter 7: The Book Industry

Chapter 7 is the first chapter of the book to delve into the structures of the more traditional media industries and their reactions to the impact of convergence. Watch for the themes mentioned in the preface to Part II to connect across the following chapters. Each of these chapters will contain a timeline with several key themes related to the historical development of each medium.

  • Understand today’s books in terms of the development of books over the centuries.
  • Differentiate among the different types of books within the book publishing industry.
  • Explain the roles of production, distribution, and exhibition as they pertain to the book publishing industry.
  • Realize and evaluate the effects of new digital technologies on the book publishing industry.
  • Analyze ethical pitfalls present in the book publishing industry.

The History of the Book

  • Although the growth of e-book readers has been strong and digital audiobook sales are growing, paper-based books are still the largest segment of book sales. (200)
  • At its core, the history of the book is about humans trying to use technology to record and circulate ideas. (201)
  • Three themes from the timeline (202-203, Figure 7.1) include:
  • The modern book did not arrive in a flash as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (201)
  • The book as a medium of communication developed as a result of social and legal responses to technology during different historical periods. (201-203)
  • The book as a medium of communication existed long before the existence of the book industry. (203-204)

The Book Industry Today

  • The book industry is growing and economically healthy.
  • Books are currently divided into two categories:
  • Educational and training books, marked by their use of pedagogy (particular teaching approaches), including learning objectives, chapter summaries, and questions for discussion (204-205). They include these three subcategories.
  • K–12 books and materials created for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
  • Higher education books that focus on teaching students through college and postcollege learning.
  • Professional books that help continue the learning process beyond college.
  • Consumer books, aimed at the general public. (197) They include these subcategories (205-206, see Table 7.1 for percentage of sales by type):
  • Trade books are general-interest titles, including fiction and nonfiction; typically sold at retail bookstores and to libraries; divided into adult and juvenile.
  • Mass market paperbacks are smaller than standard-size trade paperbacks and are sold at mass market outlets such as drug stores and supermarkets.
  • Religious books are trade books that contain religious content; sold at religious bookstores and general bookstores.
  • Professional books, as noted earlier, help professionals in their careers.
  • Scholarly books are published by university presses for those working in research, higher education, government, or even corporate settings.

Book clubs are organizations through which individuals who have joined can select books from the club’s catalog and purchase them through the mail or via the club’s website; traditionally, they have operated on a negative-option plan, requiring consumers to cancel their memberships or otherwise receive “main selection” books on a monthly basis.

  • Mail-order books are advertised on television and in mailings and require consumers to use an 800 phone number to order books with a credit card.
  • Subscription reference books constitute various “great books” series, dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias, sold door-to-door or via direct mail; several volumes are sold at one time with a deferred payment schedule.

Variety and Specialization in Book Publishing

  • Financing book publishing (207-210):
  • The Census Bureau count of book publishing found 2,280, with only around 70 large enough to have 500+ employees. Most had one to four employees. (208)
  • Small publishing houses can reap benefits of readers and revenue, such as Writers’ Coffee Shop, which published the  Fifty   Shades  series. The series outpaced the selling of the  Harry   Potter  titles. (208)
  • Only a few publishers accounted for almost 90 percent of both paperback and hardcover best-seller lists in 2012: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, and Macmillan. Several of these publishers are part of larger media conglomerates. (208-209)
  • Book publishing is about finding, preparing, marketing, distributing, and exhibiting titles to particular audiences. (210)

Production in the Book Publishing Industry

  • Production in trade publishing (210-211):
  • The acquisitions editor recruits and signs new authors and titles.
  • Authors may be paid a flat fee or may earn royalties from the sale of the book.
  • Literary agents market manuscripts to editors, publishers, or other potential buyers.
  • In the hardcover trade end of the industry, a bestseller achieves sales of 75,000 hardcover or 100,000 paperback copies; a blockbuster achieves sales of well over 100,000 copies.
  • Production at a university press (211):
  • Major success means selling several thousand copies (far fewer than in the hardcover trade area); success is often based on commanding respect from professors who tell their students and university libraries to buy copies.
  • Editors rely on consultants who give them tips about young professors (potential writers) whose work seems promising; established professors can’t meet the entire demand for scholarly work.
  • Academic conferences are typically used to publicize books; brochures are sent to scholars who specialize in a given topic.
  • Book production in the electronic age (212-214):
  • The biggest book publishers are active in creating books for the electronic market.
  • Interest in devices known as e-readers has soared with the Kindle, Nook, and others.
  • Sales of e-books took off, accounting for almost 50 percent of new best-seller sales. But e-books sales have dropped in recent years, with some pointing to pricing as the issue.
  • Reducing the risks of failure during the production process:
  • Three of these strategies include the following (214-216):
  • Conducting prepublication research to see if audiences might be interested,
  • Using authors with positive track records,  
  • Offering advances on royalties, or a payment made before the book’s publication, based on what the publisher thinks the author will earn.

Distribution in the Book Industry

  • The role of wholesalers in the distribution process: they purchase copies from publishers and then sell them to retailers (exhibitors) at a discount; wholesalers risk giving too much storage space to a title; publishers risk having unsold copies returned, so the publisher must be realistic about the print run (the number of copies printed). (217)
  • Wholesalers use three indicators to assess a title’s popularity potential (218):
  • The size of the print run,
  • The content of reviews,
  • The scope of the marketing plan (including the author’s book tour).

Exhibition in the Book Publishing Industry

Many different kinds of bookstores exist, and the online presence of publishers, as well as electronic publishing, is changing the means of exhibition in the industry. (219)

  • Exhibition of consumer books (219-220):
  • Bookstore chains (brick-and-mortar stores) took over bookselling from independents in the mid-1990s.
  • These chains are struggling in the face of and other online markets.
  • In addition to promoting more awareness of books, lower prices at online outlets offer competition to physical stores.
  • Exhibition in textbook publishing (220-221):
  • The exhibition area for K–12 books is constituted by the evaluation boards that determine purchases; Texas and California are most influential in this process, because the selection process is centralized, and the states are very large.
  • College-level textbooks are assigned by professors; new editions of college textbooks have two purposes:
  • New editions have more up-to-date information.
  • Publishers discourage used book sales in order to maintain profit; revised editions of popular textbooks keep publishers in business.
  • Several states have passed laws that attempt to keep textbook prices as low as possible.
  • Renting digital texts for a semester is a growing option for students.

Convergence and Conglomeration in the Book Industry

Book publishers are frequently part of larger media and other corporations. (221-222)

  • A title that moves content across media boundaries is typically presold (the publisher expects it will sell well to specific audiences because it ties into material that is already popular with the target audience); book lovers are concerned about this process, because they fear it may drive out other titles from the marketplace. (222)
  • The media-literate person may well ask these questions about the book industry:
  • To what extent are the books that garner the most media attention today generated as a result of an author or character’s popularity in another medium? (222)
  • Are we seeing an increase in cooperative activities between movie companies and book publishers owned by the same conglomerate? That is, are movie companies mostly using the publishers to sell books that publicize the movies, and are book companies trying to come up with titles that can become films? (222)

Ethical Issues in Book Production

Ethics issues in book production start with plagiarism, which involves using another person’s work without citing the original author. (222)

  • Ethical issues for authors (223):
  • For fiction writers, it involves taking passages without citing.
  • For nonfiction authors, it involves making up “facts” or quotes.
  • Ethical issues for editors and literary agents include stealing ideas from unknown authors and assigning better-known authors the job of turning the ideas into books; sometimes, unscrupulous agents charge authors fees to represent them but then don’t follow through. (223-224)
  • E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps
  • Tablet and E-reader Ownership Update
  • Kindle Most Popular Device For Ebooks, Beating Out iPad; Tablets On The Rise
  • Readers Want More Value for Ebooks, New Study Suggests
  • Popularity of eBooks has changed library circulation
  • Ten Things You May Not Know About Ebook Prices
  • Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money?
  • Ebook timeline
  • The 6 Most Popular eBook Formats To Know About
  • 2016 Predictions for the Self-Publishing Industry

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3000 BC The Papyrus Roll

Ancient Egyptians invent the papyrus roll. Predecessor of all modern printed materials, laid foundations for print communication.

Art of the Scribe: Works on Papyrus

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2500-3000 BCE Lampblack Ink

Lampblack ink or "India ink" is introduced in China. The carbon based material allows for permanence in writing.

Early Christians popularize the codex. Rather than the traditional scroll, it is an unbound manuscript of single pages. Manuscripts began to take on look of the book.

British Broadcasting Company - The Codex Sinaiticus: The Oldest Surviving Christian New Testament - The Beauty of Books – (BBC)

Woodblock Printing

Woodblock printing appears in China

The Early Printing Press

Printing process using wooden blocks developed in China. This remained the most commonly-used printing method in East Asia until the 19th century. The technique was used in Europe until the 15th century.

China Engraved Block Printing Technique

Gutenberg's Printing Press

Gutenberg develops the printing press. Only 100 years after invention of printing press about 9 million books were available in Europe Before then, only a few thousand had been available.

Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press

First censorship of books. Pope Innocent VIII issues a Papal Bull (on November 17, 1487) that requires church authorities approve all books before they are printed. Although the Church had always censored printed materials, the advent of the printing press made distribution of printed materials easier, thus, they established this formal rule forbidding book shops to stock books that were not approved by the Church.

Introduction of a Licensing System

King Henry VIII establishes licensing system. It creates a list of prohibited books and established that only printers with authority from the crown can use printing presses. This marks the establishment of censorship on a government level.

Restrictions on Licensing

Licensing procedures are further restricted to consolidate British Royal power. Only 23 printers are allowed to use presses, and there are now harsher penalties for printers that continue to use their presses without authority from the monarch.

Printing Press Appears in America

First printing press in the U.S. The first printing press in the U.S. is established in Cambridge, Massachusetts with some assistance from Harvard University. Interestingly, this link between the printer who initially sought to set up a printing press in the U.S. (Rev. Joseph Glover) and Harvard University came to pass after Glover died at sea while bringing the equipment to the U.S. and his widow went on to marry Harvard University president, Henry Dunster.

The Statute of Anne

The Copyright Act of 1709, also known as “The Statute of Anne” (referring to Queen Anne), protects printed works for specific periods of time and sets forth penalties for those who stole the material under copyright.

Emergence of Large Printing Companies

Books continue to be printed by small, family owned businesses. This will change as expensive steam-powered printing presses allow for the growth of large companies that can manufacture many books quickly.

Establishment of Formal Publishing Industry

With the widespread mechanization of printing, publishers are established as separate entities from booksellers.

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The Hoe steam-powered cylinder

Hoe’s steam-powered cylinder is able to produce 4000 double impressions on paper in an hour—which is four times faster than Gutenberg’s press. This invention leads to the ability or printers to mass produce books on larger scale.

Trains Contributed to the Distribution of Books Throughout the U.S.

Book Distribution

The U.S. experiences a growth in the construction of canals and railroads, leading to a demand for reading material for long journeys. Publishers’ are also now able to send books throughout the continent and distribute their content in a faster, large-scale way.

Immigration and Literacy Increases

There is a great influx of immigrants to America. In English and in other languages, book publishers have more potential consumers available as populations and literacy levels increase.

Immigration Through Ellis Island: Award Winning Documentary

Book Publishing Becomes an Industry

Large book-selling companies begin to emerge with departments specializing in different types of books aimed at different market segments. During this time, companies such as Little and Brown, Houghton, Scribner, John Wiley and Sons, and J.P. Putnam—many of which are still around today—were established as major publishing houses.

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U.S. Authors

The number of successful U.S. authors grows. Authors such as Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Washington Irving (The Sketch Book with the story “Rip Van Winkle”) end up selling hundreds of thousands of copyrighted books in this decade. This literary period is sometimes called the “American Renaissance.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe & “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Domestic Novels

Rise of domestic novels in the U.S. These tearjerker stories are aimed at women, and are the predecessors of TV’s soap operas and the current publishing industry’s Harlequin romances.

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The International Copyright Convention

U.S. joins International Copyright Convention. U.S. publishers now want the government to join this convention because they are losing revenues on the books they are publishing. This is because foreign companies have begun to copy and sell American books without paying royalties (just as American publishers did with English books in 1855).

Offset Lithography

Offset lithography is developed as a commonly used printing process. This printing process allows for rapid color printing, thus increasing the number of books that are printed in full color.

Four Color Printing Process Explained

Book-of-the-Month Club

The Book-of-the-Month Club is founded by Harry Scherman, Max Sackheim, and Robert Haas. The BOMC provided hardbacks at lower cost than bookstores and for people who did not have bookstores near them. It also made recommendations for other books subscribers might be interested in based on what they’ve already read that they could easily order through the Book Club. It spawned several imitators.

Random House

Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer start the Random House publishing company. From the idea they would “publish a few books on the side at random,” it grows into the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world, now owned by Bertelsmann.

The Great Depression

This Great Depression financial crisis hurts the book industry since many people no longer have the extra money to spend on purchasing entertainment items such as books

The Crash of 1929 and The Great Depression (PBS)

Pocket Books

Inspired by the example of cheap Penguin Books in the U.K., Pocket Books produces first mass-market paperback books in U.S. The first ten small, inexpensive books with popular titles such as Lost Horizon, Topper, and Bambi are extremely popular. They sell more 1.5 million copies in a year and start a new form of American book publishing.

Major Corporations Enter Book Industry

Growing conglomerates express interest in the book publishing industry. Major corporations such as Time Warner, CBS, and Advance Publications buy companies in the book business in the 1960s. In addition, European book companies start purchasing American book publishing companies beginning in the 1980s.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg, a volunteer-led project that digitizes and archives cultural works, is founded. This is the first digital library, and is a clear sign of things to come for the book industry in terms of digitization and how books are distributed.


The first desktop publishing program for the pathbreaking Apple MacIntosh personal computer, MacPublisher, is introduced. This substantially lowers the cost of formatting books and encourages low-cost publishing.

Macintosh Commercial: Apple Desktop Publishing

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page create a web crawler to index books—the precursor to Google’s PageRank algorithm and Google Books.

Bookstores Decline

Independent bookstores decrease by over 50% in the U.S., from 4,700 to 2,000.

Google Books

Google begins scanning millions of books with the goal of offering electronic access and sale. The activity ignites much controversy—and lawsuits—as authors and publishers demand to be consulted and paid. Click on the link for the New York Times article, “Some Fear Google’s Power in Digital Books.”

The Future of Google Books: Google Co-founder Sergey Brin

The Amazon Kindle introduces the Kindle electronic book reader. It proves to be the beginning a move to huge readership of electronic versions of books. Other companies follow with their own versions of the “eReader”. Click here for the article, “A Year Later, Amazon’s Kindle Finds a Niche.”

Amazon Kindle Commercial

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Digital Book Sales Increase

Amazon announces that it sold more Kindle e-Books for Christmas than it did physical books. This development highlights the growth of eBooks and supports USA Today’s decision in 2009 to incorporate Kindle sales into its weekly list of bestselling books. Click here for the Business Insider article, “Kindle Milestone: Amazon Sold More Kindle Books Than Physical Books on Xmas.”

Introduction of the iPad

The highly popular iPad is introduced and becomes another major vehicle for electronic book reading. Throughout the years, the iPad incorporates more and more interactive features to make eBooks more than just a flat document on an electronic device.

Apple iPad Ad (3/7/2010)

Kindle Owner’s Library

The Kindle Owners' Library Lending launches. The aim is to encourage libraries to purchase and circulate electronic books in a manner that makes money for Amazon. Other firms, notably owned by Adobe, also offer libraries software for lending eBooks. Click on the link for the Washington Post article, “Amazon Launches Kindle Lending Library.”

Borders Books

Borders Books goes out of business. Although some observers note that Borders had some specific problems (not necessarily related to digital sales) that caused its demise, many nevertheless see it as a sign of the decline of brick and mortar stores in the age of Amazon. Click on the link below for the Daily Mail article, “Borders Goes Out of Business After 40 Years, Leaving 11,000 Without Jobs.”

Borders Closes the Book as Decisions Come Back to Haunt Chain (PBS)

E-book Expansion Continues

E-books make up 30% of all book sales in the U.S.

Number of Independent Bookstores Increases

Independent bookstores begin to make a resurgence, growing from 1,651 stores in the U.S. in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014.

Amazon Opens “Bricks and Mortar” Bookstore

Amazon gets physical with the opening of a full-service bookstore in a Seattle shopping mall, with others planned around the country.

Obamas Receive Record Advance

Penguin Random House pays Barak and Michelle Obama $65 million in a joint deal for their memoirs.

Audio Book Sales Up, E-book Sales Down

Sales of audio books rise 37.1% over 2017 sales figures with E-book sales down 2.8%

Chapter 8: The News Industry

As with books, newspapers predate  the development of the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry has also faced serious challenges following convergence.

  • Describe key developments in U.S. newspaper history.
  • Explain the production, distribution, and exhibition processes of various types of news outlets.
  • Recognize and discuss the challenges faced by the newspaper industry today and some approaches to dealing with them.
  • Apply your media literacy skills and ethical compass to evaluate activities of the newspaper industry and their impact on your everyday life.

The Development of the Newspaper

  • Newspapers are defined as printed products created on a regular basis (for example, weekly or daily) and released in multiple copies. (228)
  • Three themes in the newspaper’s development (228-229, see Figure 8.1 for timeline):
  • Like the modern book, the modern newspaper did not arrive in a flash as the result of one inventor’s grand change.
  • The newspaper as a medium of communication developed as a result of social and legal responses to technology during different historical periods. For example, an adversarial press argued with the government, which didn’t always respond favorably.
  • The newspaper as a medium of communication existed long before the existence of the newspaper industry.

An Overview of the Contemporary Newspaper Industry

The industry is divided into the publication of dailies and weeklies.

  • Daily circulation has decreased, caused by the prominence of online news and an audience who doesn’t read print editions. (232-234)
  • Daily newspaper chains don’t tend to have competition from other papers. They used to hold power in deciding advertising costs, but the growth of the Internet cut into those profits. Many struggled to stay afloat after accruing large debts they struggled to repay.
  • In seeking specialized audiences, weekly newspapers have fared better. (234)
  • They are often given out for free and place a large emphasis on arts and culture.
  • They typically cover four areas: neighborhoods within cities, suburbs, rural areas, and groups of people divided among identity, occupation, or interests.
  • Alternative weeklies target young, urban audiences, and shoppers aim at particular neighborhoods.
  • Newspapers offer a variety among weekly and daily papers for addressing different audiences and professions, such as African Americans or lawyers. (234-235).

Financing the Newspaper Business

Papers generate revenues in two ways: advertising and circulation. Advertising is the dominant source of money. (236) Advertisers evaluate purchasing ad space in newspapers by looking at the cost per thousand readers (CPM).

  • Types of ads include the following (237-238, see Figure 8.2 for sources of advertising revenue):
  • Retail ads serve local businesses and are the most lucrative.
  • Classified ads are short announcements for products or services and are the second most lucrative.
  • National ads come from large companies not located in the local area; cooperative ads are co-sponsored by a national company and a local retail outlet.
  • Freestanding inserts (FSIs) advertise particular products and services; they’re added to the newspaper and distributed with it.
  • Circulation generates less revenue than advertising, yet circulation numbers are important to advertising for determining the cost, appeal, and CPM. (238-239)
  • Concerns with circulation include whether young people will stop reading the printed edition and whether audiences will pay enough for a digital edition for the newspapers to survive. In addition, more and more advertisers are moving their content online where they can reach young audiences themselves. (239-240)

Production in the Newspaper Industry

  • The publisher is in charge of a newspaper’s operation, and policies are implemented by the editor and managing editor. (240-244, see Figure 8.3 for a newspaper content creation flowchart)
  • The advertising–editorial ratio, which sets the daily “news hole,” is determined by the publisher.
  • Reporters include general assignment reporters, beat reporters, and freelancers; news reports also come from wire services, including the Associated Press, and from syndicates (companies that sell a variety of newspaper content).
  • Reporters work on a deadline, or a time by which their stories must be submitted. Copy editors check and edit submitted stories.  
  • With print, deadlines were set by the press run times. Online news has made deadlines “24/7” with reporters expected to update stories as they happen.
  • Online news requirements for reporters often include preparing photo or video versions of stories and writing blog postings or other updates on social media.  
  • Increasingly, newspaper websites encourage their readers to engage with the news through commenting on stories, liking or sharing stories, or contacting reporters directly.
  • Pagination is the ability to display and compose completed pages, with pictures and graphics on screen; digital technology allows editors to submit images to plates in the printing operation. (244)

Distribution and the Newspaper Industry

  • Newspaper distribution means bringing the finished issue—either print or digital—to the point of exhibition. (244)
  • In determining where to market the newspaper, newspapers consider:
  • The location of consumers that major advertisers would like to reach,
  • The location of present and future printing plants,
  • The competition of other papers,
  • The loyalty to the paper, if any, that people in different areas seem to have. (245)
  • An alternative practice is to buy newspapers in several communities and then offer space to advertisers through the group of them. The papers save money by combining staffs and draw on existing reader loyalty. (245)

Exhibition in the Newspaper Industry

  • Exhibition options include websites, newspaper vending machines, homes, and businesses. (246)
  • Total market coverage (TCM) refers to reaching nearly all the households in a newspaper’s market area. Newspapers could claim that in the past, but they can’t anymore. (246)
  • Direct mail firms and marriage mail outfits compete with newspapers and offer TMC. (246)

A Key Industry Issue: Building Readership

  • The recent downturn in readership trends has newspaper publishers and editors concerned, and they are looking for ways to build readership using analog and digital strategies. (247)
  • Analog strategies (print) involve the print edition and include colorful layouts, appealing sections, and emphasis on local issues. (247-248)
  • Digital strategies include podcasts, mobile feeds, and online advertising, though the advertising doesn’t bring in enough revenue to support the paper.
  • Some papers use paywalls to generate revenues as well. These have been, for the most part, insufficient ways to generate revenue through circulation. (249)

The Future of Newspapers Versus the Future of Journalism

  • The newspaper industry is still searching for a viable business model.
  • Increasing numbers of local communities are without a local newspaper outlet.
  • Some argue that society would suffer without newspapers, and that argument might guilt some people into offering support to journalistic enterprises.
  • Others say the best forms of journalism do not necessarily come from traditional newspaper companies. Investigative journalism nonprofits are filling an important role. (249-251)

Ethics and New Models of Journalism

  • Some claim that competition within journalism is unethical and destructive to the profession. They cite in particular two activities that devalue the work of journalism:
  • Sites that use newspapers’ work without paying,
  • Content farms that develop quick content on trending topics in order to draw web traffic. (251-253)
  • NiemanLab Predictions for Journalism 2016
  • Long-form journalism starts a new chapter
  • Digital Media Ethics
  • What are the boundaries of today’s journalism, and how is the rise of digital changing who defines them?
  • Meet the robots writing your news articles: The rise of automated journalism
  • The Podcasting Scene Will Explode
  • Serial Podcast (long-form investigative journalism in a podcast)
  • A History of Clickbait: The First 100 Years
  • How Facebook Is Changing the Way Its Users Consume Journalism
  • Algorithms, clickworkers, and the befuddled fury around Facebook Trends

Newspapers in the UK

Newspapers become a regular feature in Britain. After years of controlling the English press, the ruling monarchs finally give into the demands of Parliament. Newspapers are printed on a flatbed printing press similar to Gutenberg’s (see Chapter 7). Click on the link for more information on the history of newspapers in Great Britain.

John Peter Zenger Trial

In a landmark case, John Peter Zenger is charged with seditious libel for printing facts in his newspaper that reflected badly on the royal governor. The American jury found that, unlike in English law, truth could be used as a defense against libel. Even though a guilty verdict is the proper outcome under British law, Andrew Hamilton, Zenger's lawyer, persuades the jury that his client is innocent. The jury decision reflects an idea that became the First Amendment, that “Nature and the Laws of our country have given us a Right—the Liberty—both of exposing and opposing arbitrary Power . . . by speaking and writing Truth."

Why Were New York City Newspapers Burned in 1734?

Adversarial Press

Britain imposes a series of paper taxes, from the Stamp Act to the Townshend Acts, to finance war with the French. The policy angers the American colonialists and they begin to publish strong denunciations on the British colonial policy of taxation without representations. This contributes to increased belief in an adversarial press—a press that had the ability to argue with government.

Stamp Act of 1765

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The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly protects the press, is adopted. The Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This sets into law the right of the press to have an adversarial relationship with the government.

“The First Amendment and You” Episode 1, Part 1

The Cost of Newspapers

Daily newspapers tend to be supported by political parties and to be read by merchants and politicians. The papers are a nickel apiece, expensive for typical Americans-- and they are sold by subscription, a year in advance, which adds to the expense. In addition to the cost, widespread illiteracy discourages the growth of daily newspapers among all but the well-off and well-educated.

The Steam Powered Printing Press

A steam powered printing press, invented by Frederick Koenig, is used for the first time by the Times of London. The speed of the new press along with cheaper ways to make paper substantially lowers the per page cost of newspapers.

Literacy in Labor Unions

During this decade, early labor unions create newspapers specially for their members. Literacy among labor union members is growing. Yet, when the unions declined after this decade, their newspapers declined as well. A number of entrepreneurs took note that there might be an untapped audience for daily newspapers.

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The Liberator

William Lloyd Garrison starts The Liberator, a weekly anti-slavery newspaper, in New England championing the non-violent abolition of slavery through moral persuasion. While its initial circulation is relatively limited (fewer than 400), its readership grows so that by the Civil War it has wide influence among anti-slavery groups.

The American Experience - The Abolitionists - William Lloyd Garrison

The New York Sun

Benjamin Day starts New York Sun daily for a penny per issue. Its slogan is" It Shines for All." The slogan reflects Day’s desire to entice the general public, not just those with money, to read its material. Sold by hawkers in the street, the newspaper makes money one issue at a time. Within six months, the paper circulation reaches about 8000, almost twice that of its nearest rival. This marks the beginning of the Penny Press era.

“Making of a Newspaper” Circa 1929 The Sun (New York)

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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, a former slave, publishes the North Star in Rochester, New York, inspired by Garrison’s The Liberator. The anti-slavery North Star takes the position that Garrison’s approach to emancipation by moral persuasion is not enough. Political action is necessary. This paper and its successor, Liberty Party Paper (begun in 1852 with Gerrit Smith), are influential in developing the ideology that guides strident political demands for the downfall of slavery.

America: The Story of Us -Frederick Douglass

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The New York Herald

New York Herald, a penny newspaper, is innovative in appealing to different segments of the population within the same issue by using separate sections. Sections include a sports section, a critical review column, society news, and a financial section. These sections and the growth of reporters working for the paper herald a new approach to news by American newspapers.

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Hoe’s Rotary Press

Increased newspaper circulation leads to the widespread use of Hoe’s rotary (or “type-revolving”) press. Instead of placing the type on a flatbed, Hoe puts it on a cylinder, with different parts of the cylinder holding type for different pages of the paper. By 1855, Hoe’s ingenious machine prints 20,000 sheets per hour. The new technology enables newspapers to print quickly and cheaply, befitting their large circulations.

Richard M. Hoe

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Technological Advances

Reporters speed their words to the printing presses via carrier pigeon, Pony Express, the railroad, and eventually the telegraph. Practice of newsgathering develops with technology.

The Birth of Telecommunications

Bylines and Headlines

The byline (which identifies the story’s author) emerges, as does the date line (which tells where and when the reporter wrote it). Modern news conventions develop. Also emerging during this period are different sizes of headlines, which cue readers into the relative importance of stories. Those with larger headlines are designated as “more important” by the newspaper publisher, therefore they use the larger typeface to draw the reader’s attention to those stories.

The Associated Press

Seven New York City newspapers establish the Associated Press (AP) as a cooperative newsgathering organization. Newspapers in other cities join the service, discharges of membership the in return for sending it stories to the papers over the telegraph wires. The AP facilitates the national sharing of news.

The Inverted Pyramid

The “inverted pyramid” style of reporting evolves with the widespread use of the telegraph during and after the civil war. Writers summarize all the major facts at the beginning of the dispatch and then elaborate on the events after that initial summary. It is still the style used for most hard news stories today.

Newspaper Circulation Grows

The number of English-language general-circulation dailies increases from 489 in 1870 to 1,967 in 1900. Foreign-language newspapers also grow steeply in number and readership, which leads to a dramatic increase in newspaper circulation.

Advertising in Newspapers

A new business philosophy in newspapers develops: using advertising instead of circulation revenues for their profits. The percentage of newspaper revenue coming from advertising rose 50% in 1880 to 64% in 1910. This contributed to the advertising revolution in newspapers.

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Full-Color Newspapers

Full-color presses, first used in Paris, France, are adapted in the United States and used especially for Sunday comics. Aesthetic changes in newspapers. In 1897, high-quality reproductions of photographs make their first appearance in the New York Tribune.

The Boston Sunday Herald

Yellow Journalism

The term “yellow journalism” is used for a newspaper characterized by irresponsible, fickle, and sensational news-gathering and exhibition. The rise of yellow journalism. The publishers of these papers use sensational stories of sex and murder, along with publicity gimmicks, to lure readers into buying their newspapers.

Yellow Journalism: Origins and Definition

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The Spanish-American War

Rise of sensationalistic coverage of the Spanish-American War, led by publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who are competing for circulation in New York. When the battleship the U.S.S. Maine blows up in Havana Harbor, publisher William Randolph Hearst offers a $15,000 reward (which he advertises in his New York newspaper, The World) to the person who can prove who was responsible destroying the ship. When the United States goes to war with Spain over the incident, The New York Journal –American (also owned by Hearst) covers the conflict in antagonistic, highly emotional tones. In response to social and governmental indignation regarding the rise of yellow journalism, the newspaper industry turns to self-regulation. That includes the establishment of university schools and departments of journalism (University of Missouri in 1908 and Columbia in 1912)—often with the support of wealthy newspaper publishers. The goal of the schools is to turn journalism into a respected craft, with its own clear set of procedures, norms, and ethics.

Rise of the tabloids: the most popular of this sort of newspaper was the New York Daily News, which dubbed itself “New York's picture newspaper.” Like its imitators, in its earliest years the Daily News reflected the idea of a newspaper that had been stripped of real news (i.e., that which the new journalism schools were trying to promote). Instead, the reader got large doses of the entertainment part of the traditional paper: gossip, comic strips, horoscopes, advice columns, sports, and news about movie stars.

An ethic of objectivity develops among professional journalists, who increasingly develop formal rules and codes for journalism.

Competition From Other Media

The Great Depression and the rise of radio adversely impact the newspaper industry, as many advertisers switch to radio. Between 1937 and 1939, one-third of salaried employees in the newspaper industry lose their jobs as circulation numbers decline.

Newspaper Chains

In the midst of the Depression, powerful newspaper chains – – that is, companies that own a number of papers around the nation – –are established. The 1930’s saw the creation of newspaper chains, which led to the consolidated control by these chains over Americans’ news. By 1933, the six most powerful chains – – Hearst , Patterson – McCormick, Block, Ridder, and Gannett-- control about one quarter of all daily circulation in the United States. Hearst alone controls almost 14% of daily and 24% of Sunday newspaper circulation in 1935.

The Rise of William Randolph Hearst

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Emergence of the Television

By the late 1950s, most U.S. homes (86%) have at least one television set. Newspapers must now compete with another media format—the television. Like radio, television competes with newspapers for advertising revenue.

Television Set

Decline in Newspaper Circulation

Young readers migrate to free Web and app news sources such as blogs and link-collection (or aggregation) sites (for example, Google News). This development speeds up newspaper circulation declines.

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Newspaper Revenue Decreases

A global recession along with huge debts of certain newspaper chains leads to major decreases in total newspaper revenues during 2008 and 2009. Newspaper industry woes deepen. The drop in print circulation due to people's use of the web for news makes the situation even more difficult for those in the industry.

Financial Crisis Depicted in Newspaper Headline

Six large newspaper companies file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. Newspaper industry woes deepen leading some to wonder—is the newspaper industry dying?

The Death of American Newspapers

Migration to the Internet

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer moves to an online- only format to save money. The move to an online format by the Post-Intelligencer is just the beginning of what will become a significant migration of newspapers (or newspaper content) to the web. The Advance newspaper chain is the next to announce this migration when it states t will offer its Ann Arbor News only online.

Kenneth Lerer: Hearst New Media Lecture

Closing of Rocky Mountain News

The Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado, prints its final issue just two months shy of its 150th anniversary.

Original Content in Online News

ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news organization, becomes the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Amazon acquires the Washington Post

Jeff Bezos, the founder of, pays $250 million for The Washington Post, ending 80 years of local ownership of the paper by the Meyer-Graham family.

ABC 'This Week' Panel - Amazon's Jeff Bezos Buys the Washington Post

Declines in Advertising

Annual newspaper advertising revenue in the U.S. is $16.4 billion, down dramatically from $46.7 billion in 2004.

Automated Reporting

Using new “automation technology,” the Associated Press begins to release computer-generated rather than reporter-generated stories about company earnings.

Corporate Concern about Newspapers

Gannett and several other big media companies spin off their newspaper divisions.

Public Trust in Media at New Low

According to Gallup only 32% of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly”, the lowest level in Gallup polling history.

Social Media Tops Newspapers as News Source

Pew Research Center finds 20% of U.S. adults say they get news via social media. The percent tops the number saying they reads newspaper (16%) for the first time. Television remains most popular medium for news. (49%)

Chapter 9: The Magazine Industry

Like books and newspapers, magazines existed before the magazine industry. Today’s magazine industry faces challenges similar to those discussed with the newspaper industry: how to attract advertiser support and how to adapt to new media platforms.

  • Connect the importance of understanding magazine history to understanding magazines today.
  • Describe the physical and digital production, distribution, and exhibition of different types of magazines.
  • Explain the view that magazines are brands that need to follow their readers across a variety of converging platforms.
  • Analyze ethical issues regarding the influence advertising has on magazine content.

The Development of Magazines

  • The term “magazine” derives from the French term meaning “storehouse.” (257)
  • The history of the magazine includes three key themes (257-260):
  • The modern magazine did not arrive in a flash as the result of one inventor’s grand change.
  • The magazine as a medium of communication developed as a result of social and legal responses to technology during different historical periods.
  • The magazine as a medium of communication existed long before the existence of magazines today.

An Overview of the Modern Magazine Industry

  • Despite their immense variety, all magazines share two traits: they are collections of articles and are released on a regular schedule (although digital versions may include continual updates). (261)
  • The five major types of magazines include the following (262-266):
  • Business-to-business magazines (trade magazines) target a particular profession or industry. The Standard Rate and Data Service directory divides these specializations into more than 200 categories.
  • Consumer magazines reach a variety of audiences whose members buy and consume products and services advertised within them. (See Table 9.1 for circulation figures for magazines on various platforms.)
  • Literary reviews and academic journals reach targeted audiences in academia, politics, or business. These are generally nonprofit, funded by associations or foundations, not advertising.
  • Newsletters reach small numbers of readers and include specialized information for people in a variety of businesses or other areas of professional life.
  • Comic books tell stories through pictures and words. They differ from graphic novels, which are longer and have more developed narratives.

Financing Magazine Publishing

  • Magazines bring in money through advertising and through readers’ subscriptions (266-268, see Table 9.2 for the top ten magazine advertisers). Circulation declines make advertisers cautious about spending to reach audiences in magazines.
  • The audiences for controlled circulation magazines are determined by publishers. They target specific audiences of interest to advertisers, which fund the publication. (267)
  • Custom magazines are both consumer magazines and controlled circulation magazines with the goal of reaching customers. (267)
  • Paid-circulation magazines are financed by subscription.
  • Advertisers considering space in these magazines look at their circulation, or the number of units made available or sold during a publication cycle. (268)
  • Magazines also will offer media kits to help entice advertisers. (268)
  • These kits will highlight the market segments that the magazine can reach. (268-269)

Digital Circulation

  • Subscriptions to digital editions of magazines, intended to help boost the traditional print versions’ readership, have been disappointing. (269)
  • Most magazine executives feel an online presence, such as a website or a tablet format edition, is a necessity in this age of convergence. (269)
  • These editions use interactive features to draw and keep audiences. (269)
  • Magazine media kits will differentiate the audiences for different versions of the publication to help advertisers select ad placement options. (270)

Production in the Magazine Industry

Production in the magazine industry has five goals:

  • Drawing an attractive audience: magazines attempt to reach upscale readers (and others of potential interest to advertisers) and develop content with such readers in mind. (272)
  • Drawing a loyal audience: magazines attempt to build brand loyalty among their readers, so the readers become engaged with the content and presumably with the ads. (272)
  • Creating a conducive environment: magazines generate content that is conducive to the presentation of the ads that are published. (272-273)
  • Setting an efficient price: magazines are able to provide special editions that reach specific and lucrative audiences, even though the cost per thousand (CPM) for such special audiences may be higher than for nonspecially targeted editions. (273)
  • Producing the magazine as a branded event, bringing together the magazine’s image across multiple media platforms. This includes “brand extensions” such as conferences, education programs, etc. (273-274)

Distribution in the Magazine Industry

Magazine distribution refers to the channels through which the magazine reaches its exhibition point, either in print or online. (274)

  • Subscription and single-copy sales are the traditional methods of distribution. (275)
  • The print magazine distribution system involves a distributor, a wholesaler, and a retailer. (275)
  • Digital magazine distribution occurs through websites or apps. (275-276)

Exhibition in the Magazine Industry

  • Although publishers don’t face too much inference with online exhibitors, print exhibition is much more competitive. (277)
  • Most rack space goes to larger circulation magazines, and thus smaller magazines struggle to get a slot. (277)
  • Larger companies will pay retail stores slotting fees to ensure their products get prominent placement. (277)
  • Single-copy exhibition displays in stores are supplied by only two wholesalers. (277)
  • Single-copy sales are on the decline, which creates a problem for magazines that use single-copy sales to get subscriptions. (277)

Media Ethics and the Magazine Industry

  • Advertising is at the center of complaints about the magazine industry. In particular, critics worry about advertiser influence on magazine content. (278)
  • Some industry executives find the relationship between advertisers and content both beneficial and inevitable. (278)
  • Some magazines, such as  Time , have policies that keep content and advertisers separate. (278)
  • The labeling of advertising that does not clearly look different from editorial content must not be labeled “advertisement” as a way to protect consumers. (278)
  • Other magazines are more fluid in their integration of advertisers’ products and messages within their content, particularly in online editions. (279-280)
  • Media literacy asks whether this blurring of the line is unethical or beneficial. (280-281)
  • Twenty-Two Tweetable Truths about Magazine Media (PDF) context=insights-resources/research-publications/magazine-media-factbook-2015
  • Magazine Media Factbook 2015
  • In Its Third Year, New York Magazine's Vulture Festival Is Bigger Than Ever It's also an opportunity for sponsors to connect with cultured millennials
  • Ad of the Day: This Porsche Magazine Ad Uses LEDs to Light Up the Car's Insides Brand follows its Fast Company hologram with cool Inc. placement
  • Paper & Paint – Tablet Magazine
  • The Engagement Project: the VICE Guide to Engagement

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Magazines in England

Magazines begin to be published regularly in England. Two prominent magazines, The Tatler and The Spectator, serve up both politics and literature by famous writers of the day. Unfortunately for the publishers of these magazines, widespread illiteracy and the high cost of magazines mean that many people do not purchase them.

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Magazines in the U.S.

The first magazines appear in the United States. Andrew Bradford’s The American Magazine, published in Philadelphia, precedes Benjamin Franklin's General Magazine by three days. With the publication of these two magazines, the industry officially launches in the U.S.

The American Magazine and Historical Chronicle

Prohibitive Cost of Magazines

Cost of magazines prevents the widespread publication of magazines in the U.S. Magazines are too expensive, and the illiteracy rate is too high, for periodicals to gain a foothold among ordinary Americans. As a result, fewer than 100 magazines are published in the U.S.

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Magazines as Mass Media

The transformation of magazines into commercial operations. During this period, between 4000 and 5000 new magazines are introduced in the U.S. Like their counterparts in the newspaper and book industries, magazine entrepreneurs take advantage of the rising levels of education, the new steam-powered presses, and postal loopholes to expand the market. Most of the new magazines die quickly, but theses magazine launches signify that business people are beginning to see a large market emerging for periodicals.

Harper’s Weekly

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Godey’s Lady’s Book

Godey's Lady’s Book, founded in 1830, reaches a circulation of 150,000 readers and becomes the most widely circulated magazine before the Civil War. The magazine contains poetry, engravings, articles and other features from well-known artists and writers. The magazine was managed by editor Sarah Hale (also credited with writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) from 1837-1877, who facilitated the publishing of many original American manuscripts within the magazine, even having three special issues in which all the contributors were women.

The Postal Act

The Postal Act of 1879, intended to create distinctions between different classes of mail, lowered postage rates for magazines, making them more affordable and easily circulated.

Advertising in Magazines

Magazines increase their reliance on advertisements as a source of revenue. During this great American industrial boom, manufacturers want to reach out to potential customers. Magazine publishers, such as Frank Munsey, realize that they can make a lot of money by selling advertisers space in his magazines, enabling them to reach large numbers of readers. They attract those large numbers of readers by charging low subscription prices. This period marks the beginning of mass circulation magazines in the United States.

Captains of Industry: Frank A. Munsey

Ladies Home Journal

Cyrus H.K. Curtis launches Ladies’ Home Journal with his wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis, as editor. The magazine would become one of the most influential of the coming century, and the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia would become a magazine and advertising powerhouse.

Captains of Industry: Cyrus Curtis

Advertising Revenues Over Customer Revenues

Frank Munsey drops the price of Munsey’s Magazine to ten cents and the subscription cost to one dollar. That causes the circulation to skyrocket.

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Ladies Home Journal Sells One Million Copies Per Month

Ladies Home Journal becomes the best-selling magazine in the United States, selling one million copies per month. In addition to promoting ideas on interior decorating and the appearance of cities, the magazine campaigns for women's suffrage, pacifism, environmental conservation, improved local government, and sex education. Click here for the article, “Why Women Should Vote.”

The Ladies’ Home Journal

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The Saturday Evening Post

Curtis Publishing’s Saturday Evening Post, America's best-selling magazine, sells more than 1 million copies a week. Aimed to appeal broadly to all American adults, this magazine published works by some of the best U.S. writers of the time: Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sinclair Lewis, among others.

“Modern Classic” NBC News Story on The Saturday Evening Post

Rise of Alternative Magazines

The rise of upscale and topical magazines such as The New Yorker and Business Week as alternatives to mass circulation magazines.,21428,c_time_history,00.shtml

Selection at a Magazine Stand

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Competition with Television

Magazines must now compete with television. By the late 1950s, 86% of U.S. homes have at least one television set. The huge popularity of the television begins to hurt mass circulation, even popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post.

A Family Watching Television

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Magazines Geared for Specific Audiences

The era of mass circulation magazines ends, and a new era of specialized, audience-targeted magazines begins. Lifestyle-oriented magazines such as Psychology Today and Self that target specific audiences that advertisers would like to reach allow companies to make substantial profits with magazines that reach hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands, of people instead of millions.

Magazine Conglomerates

Time Warner's Time Inc., Hearst Corporation’s magazines division, Advance Publications, and Meredith Publishing Company dominate consumer magazines.

First Online Magazine

HotWired (sister publication of Wired magazine) launches as the first commercial magazine on the web. This marks the beginning of the magazine industry’s entry into the digital age. HotWired also serves as the site of the first online banner ad.

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Apple releases the iPad. Magazine companies see apps on tablets such as the iPad as a possible way to gain many advertisers and readers in the digital era.

An iPad Displaying Magazine Titles

Apple’s Magazine Apps

Apple requires magazines offering apps on iTunes to adopt Apple’s new subscription system for magazines and newspapers, Newsstand, and share any resulting revenues with Apple.

Reader's Digest

Reader’s Digest is founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker is founded, and quickly becomes a preeminent forum for long-form journalism and fiction.

Activist Magazines

Gay rights organizations like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis begin to publish alternative magazines (the Mattachine Review and The Ladder) advocating for the civil and political rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

Young third-wave feminists begin to publish “zines”: creative, collage-driven, Xeroxed handmade magazines that promote feminist causes.

Seventeen pledges to limit altering of women's photos

In response to an online petition by a 14-year-old reader, Seventeen magazine pledges not to digitally alter the body sizes or face shapes of the young women it features.

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Charlie Hedbo Shootings

Two gunmen open fire in the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly magazine, killing 12 and prompting worldwide debate over freedom of expression, violence and the limits of satire.

Charlie Hebdo: Paris terror attack kills 12

Apple replaces Newsstand App

Apple ends its Newsstand app, and launches News, a new content-aggregation app that allows magazines and other publishers to deliver their content directly to users.

Flipboard Users Hit 145 Million

The magazine app, Flipboard, founded in 2010, hits a record hit of 145 million users and 11,000 publishers contributing content to the app.

Meredith Acquires Time Inc.

Iowa-based publishing company, Meredith, becomes the largest publisher in the U.S. after its acquisition of Time Inc.

Glamour Goes Online Only

After 80 years of publication Glamour’s last print issue will be January’s, moving to online only with its February edition.

Chapter 10: The Recording Industry

Like many other industries, the recording industry has been strongly affected by digital technologies, but the industry remains vocal in its claims of the devastating effects of piracy and video streaming services, which make money from advertising on music but which provide little compensation to music publishers or copyright holders.

  • Sketch the history of the recording industry.
  • Describe the enormous changes taking place in the industry as a result of digital technologies and convergence.
  • Explain how a recording is developed, from the time an artist creates a song to the time the recording ends up in your collection.
  • Explain the ways in which artists and recording companies make money.
  • Decide where you stand on the major ethical issues facing the recording industry today.

The Rise of Records

  • During the last century people’s experiences with music shifted from performance to consumption, from playing instruments to listening to recordings. (286)
  • Three themes emerge in the history of sound recording (see Figure 10.1 for a timeline of music industry history):
  • Sound (or audio) recordings did not arrive as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (286)
  • Audio recording as a medium of communication developed as a result of social and legal responses to technology during different periods. (287)
  • The recording industry developed and changed as a result of struggles to control audio recordings and how they reach an audience. (288-290)

An Overview of the Modern Recording Industry

  • Ownership is international: the major players are the largest media conglomerates operating globally. (290-291)
  • The three largest recording companies are Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group. (291)
  • Though global companies, such businesses look for local and regional talent, as that is where the money seems to be. (291)
  • Production is dispersed: There are thousands of smaller, independent record companies, and digital technology makes it easy for new players to jump in. Independents (indies) are now the fourth largest distributor of recorded music in the United States, after Sony. (291)
  • Distribution is concentrated: The three major recording companies base their clout on domination of distribution worldwide. (291-292; see Table 10.1 for global revenues)
  • Multiple factors determine whether people buy music. Men and women are equally likely. Caucasian people also are more likely, whereas Asians, African Americans, and Latinos are less likely. Those ages 55 and older are less likely to buy than those younger, particularly with digital purchases of music. (293)
  • The turn toward digital and away from physical music products has grown since 2011, the year more digital recordings than physical were sold. Now physical represents just 18 percent of industry sales. (293; see Table 10.2 for a breakdown of digital and physical sales in the United States.)
  • Singles versus albums:
  • Singles are important for radio airplay, but companies and artists make their money from album sales. A single refers to one to two songs, whereas an album is a collection of songs. (293)
  • Subscription and ad-supported streaming firms, such as Pandora, cut further into individual purchases of music. (294)
  • Diverse music genres (294-296):
  • Multiple types of recorded music genres are now available worldwide. In 2017, for the first time, R&B/hip-hop overtook rock music as the most popular genre. (294; see Table 10.3 for share of total volume by genre for audio consumption by format)
  • Billboard now differentiates between songs streamed by paying subscribers and those streamed on ad-supported sites when reporting music consumption data. (295)

Production and the Recording Industry

  • Artists and labels seek each other out, but the industry is still a tough one to break into. (296-297)
  • A label is a division of a recording firm that releases a certain type of music and reflects a certain “personality” or image. (297)
  • An A&R (artist and repertoire) person has the responsibility of locating and signing new talent for record labels. (297-298)
  • Groups typically hire managers to coordinate their development. (298)
  • Artists may belong to the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). (298)
  • The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) collect royalties for the various uses of recorded music. The royalties are a source of income for artists and are of two types (299):
  • Performance royalties are paid to the composer, publishers, and labels when material is used in front of audiences.
  • Mechanical royalties are collected as a result of the sale of physical media (e.g., CDs) or digital downloads (songs, albums, ringtones.)
  • A producer is the person who keeps projects on budget, produces the record and handles details such as booking studio musicians and clearing copyrights. They are compensated on a royalty basis (about 2 to 4 percent of total retail sales). (299)
  • Compensating artists (299-300):
  • Studio musicians who help make an album are typically paid by the hour, beginning at union scale.
  • The major artists are paid in royalties.
  • Overall, making money in music is not easy, and the amount earned depends on the music format.

Distribution in the Recording Industry

  • Distribution is the key to success in the recorded music industry; major labels send their releases directly to retail outlets, but much of the distribution is handled by wholesalers who move products to various outlets; the wholesalers work with both the majors and the independents. (301-304)
  • The major labels create buzz about an impending release, and this gives them an advantage with wholesalers and retailers. (303)
  • Independent, self-produced artists get to keep more money from their sales but are less likely to get their albums into stores. (302)
  • Promotion has the goal of generating audience excitement around a recording artist; convergence allows these industries to push this promotion across different media outlets. (303-304)
  • The recording industry and the radio industry (304-305):
  • Radio stations rely on record companies for products; record companies rely on radio for airplay that stimulates record sales.
  • Radio programmers tend to be very conservative in their music selections, and they may add only one new release to their playlists per week; the competition is daunting to get a new release on air.
  • The Broadcast Data System tracks every song played on radio stations; SoundScan records sales at retail outlets; trade publications track airplay and sales. These lists help radio programmers make airplay decisions.
  • Music promotion techniques (305):
  • Music promoters are constantly contacting program directors to influence the airplay of releases.
  • Payola is an illegal payment of money to a program director or DJ for the on-air use of a release; this is regarded as bribery.
  • Video, television, and movie promotions (305-306):
  • Cross-platform distributor VEVO brings music videos to different platforms for Sony and Universal.
  • Various cable TV channels and Internet websites have emerged as important promotion avenues for recorded music.
  • TV series and movies are also used to highlight recorded music, especially the work of new artists.
  • Concert tours (306-307):
  • Tours generate a lot of money and afford the opportunity to promote the artist’s albums in a variety of media along the way.
  • A local promoter may be involved in setting up a particular date and venue as one part of the tour.
  • Live Nation is a promotion company that helps with making arrangements and sharing the financial risks.
  • The majors are starting to see that more money comes in through concerts than record sales.

Exhibition in the Recording Industry

  • Exhibition is divided into two broad categories: digital downloads and physical sales (307-310)
  • Subscription services such as Spotify have seen sharp sales growth. (308)
  • Digital downloads occur through such programs as iTunes, but it is not as robust a sales point as it was. (308-309)
  • Physical sales still occur, but are declining. (309-310)
  • Independent music stores are slightly growing on the sales of vinyl records. (309)

Ethical Issues in the Recording Industry

  • There are divided ethical views about song lyrics.  (310-311)
  • Rap lyrics in particular come under fire, with some advocates calling for their cleanup, and others asking for warning labels. Others claim that rappers are artists and are seeking free expression. (311)
  • 'Music Isn't a Commodity': Warner Music CEO Stephen Cooper on That Streaming Milestone, the 'Value Grab'
  • 'It's a System That Is Rigged Against the Artists': The War Against YouTube
  • For Free Songs, Video Trumps Audio
  • Data to Date: The Rapid Rise of Social and Streaming
  • SoundCloud Starts Subscription Plan, Taking On Spotify and Apple
  • In Shift to Streaming, Music Business Has Lost Billions decline.html?action=click&contentCollection=Media&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
  • After Beyonce, Tidal's Exclusive Strategy Remains Its Best (Perhaps Only) Weapon
  • Grammys: This Is the Man Behind All Five Album of the Year Nominees
  • 2016 Grammys: Which Nominees Perform Best on YouTube, and Where Are They Most Popular?

Sheet Music Publishing

Much sheet music publishing in the U.S. was facilitated by music stores or “serious” music publishers. The music publishing industry was relatively small. Music stores did sell songs that became popular through minstrel troupes or touring singers.

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The Phonograph

Thomas Edison invents the first phonograph. The device records sound on a foil-covered cylinder. To play back the recording, the person would connect the needle to a hollow horn, place the stylus on the cylinder, and turn the crank.

Invention of Phonograph

The Graphophone

Chichester Bell (cousin of Alexander Graham Bell) and Charles Tainer introduce the graphophone, which improves upon the phonograph by using a wax-covered cylinder for recording rather than the phonograph’s more fragile tinfoil surface.

Wax Recording History - Media Recording History 1870-1900

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The Gramophone

Emile Berliner patents the gramophone, the first recording device to use flat disks rather than cylinders. The 12-inch discs have wide grooves play back at 78 revolutions per minute (RPMs). Berliner develops a system for using the zinc disks to make molds that would press out copies of the records on hard rubber. The molds can be used to make copies in almost unlimited numbers, thus making the disc more efficient than the cylinder.

History of the Gramophone

The Victrola

The Victor Talking Machine Company, led by a former colleague of Berliner, introduces the Victrola, an easy-to-use gramophone that is also a piece of furniture. The product helps speed adoption of the disc and solidifies the strength of Berliner’s Victor Talking Machine Company. Eventually the discs are pressed on both sides. Because of their wide grooves and 78 RPM speed, they are limited to less than five minutes of recording per side.

Record Sales

Record sales hit 30 million. The number reflects the growing popularity of phonographs (both cylinder and disc players). The recordings from all the manufacturers are acoustic. That is, the sound waves themselves move the needle creating the record grooves. No microphone amplifies the sound.

Disc Production

Edison’s company begins producing discs. Consumers prefer Berliner’s flat discs over the cylinders because they sound better and are easier to store without breaking.

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) is founded as the first U.S. performing rights organization by Victor Herbert in New York City. The aim is to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members, who are mostly writers and publishers associated with New York City's popular-music business neighborhood, called Tin Pan Alley. ASCAP's earliest members included the era's most active songwriters — Irving Berlin, Otto Harbach, James Weldon Johnson, Jerome Kern, and John Philip Sousa.

Sheet Music Sales

Sheet music sales fall dramatically. The public prefers to listen to recordings more than to learn to play the music. Prices fall to 10 cents from 40 cents in 1902. Songwriters begin to make most of their money from recordings rather than sheet-music sales.

Electric Recordings

A number of firms (most prominently Bell Telephone) work to develop “electric recordings,” which Victor Talking Machine and Columbia Phonograph release in 1926. Electric recordings involve the use of microphones to amplify the sounds of the artists who are recording the sound on records. This development transforms recordings, as they now can pick up sounds that are softer and more subtle than the acoustic technology could.

“Mr. Jelly Lord” by Jelly Roll Morton’s Incomparables (Gennett Electric 1926)

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Commercial Radio

The development of commercial radio threatens record sales. Certain music genres radio stations won’t play—such as jazz, blues, hillbilly music, and ethnic songs—keep record companies going.

Oldtime Radio Documentary “The First 50 Years” The History of Radio Part I

Corporations Merge

Victor Talking Machine Company merges with the Radio Corporation of America, owner of the NBC radio networks. An indicator of radio’s power over music and competition with the recording industry.

The Great Depression hits the recording industry hard. Sales collapse to one tenth of previous levels as people rely more on radio for music. By 1935 only two major U.S. record companies remain in business, Victor and Columbia-Brunswick.

New Music Rejuvenates Sales

Record sales rebound as a result of swing bands and celebrity musicians. The new bands such as those led by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller encourage youngsters to buy records. Radio begins to be seen as a way of publicizing records rather than as a competitor.

The Long-Playing Record

CBS introduces the LP (long-playing record). The new product is a 12-inch, fine-grooved disc played at a speed of 33 1/3 RPM. Each side of a 12-inch LP can play for more than 20 minutes—much longer than the traditional record. A year later RCA introduces a 45 RPM, 7-inch record that allows more time than the traditional record but less than CBS’ invention. Many record players allow for three record speeds—the traditional 78 RPM as well as the 45 RPM and 33 1/3 RPM. The “45s” tend to be used for an artist’s single song on each side, while the 33 1/3 becomes the actual long-playing record. Long-playing records allow musicians to try out ideas that were much longer and more conceptual than the traditional three-minute song that has been standard since the start of records.

Emergence of Radio Stations

The rise of television leads radio stations to emphasize music as an economical element and to compensate for types of programming lost to TV. Development of formats allows greater targeting of audiences by record companies. College radio stations, for example, become useful vehicles for introducing “alternative” music, which most commercial stations would not touch until it had sold well in stores. Recording executives hate that they must rely on the interests of radio programmers to get their music out to potential customers. The pressure to get “airplay” encouraged bribes with money, drugs, and other gifts, and produced a number of scandals.

Technological Improvements Arrive

Improvements in technology encourage the purchasing of recorded music, driven by teen-oriented rock ‘n’ roll radio. First was the introduction of the longer-playing record formats, which permitted longer recordings. Second, the sound quality of records was enhanced by the introduction of high-fidelity and stereophonic record players. Third, almost unbreakable vinyl replaced highly breakable shellac as the material for making records.

RCA Victor - Living Stereo: 1958 Vinyl Records Educational Documentary

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Audiotape Technology

Audiotape technology gives musicians more freedom in creating music. It also encourages manufacturers to create lightweight players that play music cartridges. The idea of recording and playing sound on tape originated in Germany in the years leading up to World War II; German tape recorders were discovered by Allied soldiers toward the end of the war. Tape technology allows musicians to create different sound tracks and then edit and combine them into the finished recording. Cartridge tape players powered by transistors and light batteries change the way audiences buy and listen to music. Now the albums of their choice were portable. For the first time, people could take them to the park or the beach and even play them in their cars.

RCA Victor - RCA Victor Presents…A Revolution in Tape

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Compact Tapes

Phillips releases the first compact cassette tape and recorder.

Warner Cable starts the MTV (Music Television) cable network. The twenty-four hour network provides an opportunity for recording companies to reach target audiences beyond radio using music videos.

History of MTV

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The Compact Disc

The compact disc is introduced. Analog sound reproduction is replaced by digital. The recording industry promoted the CD as an alternative to the standard vinyl record; it argued that CDs had superior sound, were more durable, and would never wear out. Although there were skeptics (and there still are), recorded music sales surged as people rebuilt their collections of records and tapes with CDs.

How It’s Made: Compact Discs

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Napster P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing service is launched. It allows for the illegal distribution of copyrighted music and begins an era of rampant music “piracy.” Although people had long been making copies of records through their tape recorders, the analog duplication method degraded the sound quality, while digital reproductions are identical to the originals.

1999-2011 The History of Napster: Two Extremes with the Same Name

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Apple releases its iPod. The iPod makes it possible to for people to store up to 1000 songs and listen to digital MP3 files in a sleek, portable format. Although other MP3 players started entering the market in 1998, the iPod quickly became the standard for portable digital music.

iPod History (2001-2010)

iTunes Store

Apple allows users to purchase songs on iTunes, its online music store. In addition to selling full albums, customers have the option to purchase individual songs starting at $0.99 each.

Apple Music Event 2003-iTunes Music Store Introduction

Recording Industry Lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) files 261 lawsuits against people it claims have illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted music.

Tracking of Digital Music Sales

Nielson SoundScan, a sister company of the industry trade magazine Billboard, begins to include digital music sales in its famous popularity charts in which they provide sales data about the most popular albums and singles. Digital music has become mainstream.

YouTube for Billboard Magazine

Digital Music Sales

Digital recordings make up a bit more than 50% of the unit sales of recordings in the U.S. Digital music has become mainstream and is having a major impact on how the record industry functions since fewer and fewer people are purchasing full albums online or physical CDs at the stores.

Streaming Services

Streaming music sales outpace CD sales for the first time

Tracking of Streaming Services

Billboard begins to track on-demand streaming (via sources like Spotify and Google Play) as a component of its Billboard 200 chart, which tracks the top 200 albums of the week.

Rise of Streaming Services

Jay-Z and other celebrity musicians announce the launch of Tidal, a more artist-led service than others that offers higher-quality sound.  Apple debuts Apple Music, a subscription streaming service to make up for the downtown in its sales of individual songs and albums on iTunes.

Artists Percentage of Revenues

A Citigroup report states that music artists received only 12 % of the $43 billion industry in 2017.

Spotify Sued for $1.6 Billion

Wixen Music Publishing sues Spotify for using their music catalog without proper licensing or compensation, the latest of several lawsuits for the streaming service. The suit is settled a year later.

Stream Ripping

32% of consumers worldwide illegally download music through stream ripping, according to IFPI (International Federation of Phonographic Industry.)

Chapter 11: The Radio Industry

Digital sources of music, including MP3s and online streaming services, have deeply affected terrestrial radio, which attempts to compensate through targeting specific audience segments and joining online activities.

  • Sketch the history of the radio industry.
  • Explain the relationship between advertising and programming.
  • Detail the role of market research in the radio industry.
  • Examine critically the issues surrounding the consolidation of radio station ownership.
  • Discuss ways in which new digital technologies are challenging traditional radio.

The Rise of Radio

Three themes emerge in the history of radio (see Figure 11.1 for a timeline of radio’s history):

  • Radio as we know it did not arrive in a flash as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (316)
  • Radio as a medium of communication developed as a result of social, legal, and organizational responses to technology during different periods. (317-318)
  • Technology was particularly important to radio’s development. A patent trust was developed so that companies could share the patents and keep other companies out of the industry. (317)
  • U.S. courts broke the patent trust as a monopoly, paving the way for advertiser support, networks, and federal regulatory bodies to serve the “public interest.” (317)
  • The radio industry developed and changed as a result of struggles to control audio channels and their relations to audiences. (320)
  • Audio channels were broadcast through AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation). (320)

An Overview of the Terrestrial Radio Industry

  • Despite competition for audiences and advertisers, the number of radio stations has grown. However, ownership of stations in and around big cities has grown concentrated. (321)
  • Nielsen, the company that measures radio audiences, says more Americans tune into AM/FM radio than watch TV or use digital devices. Radio’s strength is its portability. But at-home listening is in decline. (322)
  • The demographics of radio listeners are changing. (see Figure 11.2)
  • The industry can be divided into AM and FM stations and into commercial and noncommercial stations, each of them with characteristic formats. (323-324)
  • Radio market size (see Table 11.1):
  • Market size tends to determine the number of stations available to consumers. (324)
  • Program format segmentation has accompanied audience segmentation. (325)

Production in the Radio Industry

  • A radio station’s format is governed by four parameters: the style of music the station plays, the time period of the music’s release, the music’s activity level (its dynamic impact), and the music’s sophistication (simplicity vs. complexity). (325-327, see Table 11.2 for a listing of top formats among stations)
  • There are numerous program formats, sometimes determined with the help of a format consultant. (See for a guide to radio formats.)
  • The term narrowcasting refers to radio’s ever more specific targeting of audience segments. (327)
  • Radio programmers try to determine the listening patterns of their audiences to effectively segment them. Consultants help stations develop personalities that listeners can readily recognize by means of so-called interstitials (jingles, speech patterns, etc.). (328)
  • The general manager is in charge of the station’s entire operation, and the program director is in charge of maintaining the station’s format or sound; on-air talents work within the format and have several responsibilities during a typical on-air shift. (328-329)
  • In order to maintain the integrity of the station format, DJs pull music from the station’s established playlist, formulated from audience research involving burn music tests and focus groups. (330-331)
  • Stations use a so-called “format clock” or “format wheel” (a circular chart) to help on-air personnel maintain the requirements of the format (331; see Figure 11.6, p. 332)
  • Morning and afternoon drive times are the periods of the day when most stations have their largest audiences and when the advertising rates are highest. (332)

Distribution in the Radio Industry

  • Networks and syndicators provide programming geared for specific formats and aimed at specific audience targets. (333)
  • Format networks provide a subscribing station with all of its programming, and automatic technology keeps the station on the air and running; such stations have little or no local programming. (333-334)
  • Syndicated programming comes to stations often without costs. Instead, a barter allows the program to air and the syndicator gets to keep several minutes to sell advertising. (334)

Exhibition in the Radio Industry

  • In radio, the exhibition point is the moment at which the program is broadcast. (335)
  • There are several different kinds of advertising in radio: spot advertising with messages from major national advertisers, network advertising from the networks, local advertising from local businesses, digital advertising from a station’s website and/or app, and off-air revenue such as staged concerts. Local advertising, in particular, plays an important role in generating revenues for local stations. (335)
  • Advertisers rely on research companies for information about radio station audiences; research is based on keeping listening diaries, portable people meters, streaming audio measurement, and focus groups. (336-337)
  • Promotions such as contests or events are used to highlight advertisers and provide responses from listeners to advertisers. (338)
  • Poor ratings often lead to changes in personnel and sometimes result in format changes, even though this is a risky move. (338-339)

Radio and the New Digital World

  • Terrestrial radio has seen plummeting profits as audiences turn to other digital sources of music. (339)
  • Satellite radio requires a special receiver. Sirius XM Radio provides subscription-based programming. (See Figure 11.7 on p. 340; 339-340)
  • Online radio, also called audio streaming, uses the technologies at the core of the Internet. Two types include streaming by category or interest and streaming on demand. (341-342)

Traditional Radio’s Responses to Digital Music

  • Although digital options do cut into terrestrial radio’s industry, some people see power in the curation function of traditional radio, meaning that radio still tells people about new music. (343)
  • HD, or hybrid digital/analog radio, expands the number of stations available on a given frequency. (343)
  • But digital options also allow and encourage curation among friends and other listeners. (343)
  • One advantage is that most cars still come with radios, although connectivity in vehicles to mobile devices may prove challenging to terrestrial radio. (343)
  • Terrestrial stations also join the online activities, including site streams, listener incentives, and other features. (343-344)

Media Ethics and the Construction of Radio Audiences

Three questions to ask about audience research (345-346):

  • How do the methods used in audience research affect the kinds of facts collected about the people who use a medium?
  • How do these facts, in turn, lead to certain ideas or pictures of those people?
  • How do these ideas and pictures affect the extent to which, and the way in which, advertisers want to spend money to reach them?
  • Electronic Smoke Signals: Native American Radio in the United States
  • This Machine Builds Movements: The Case for Indigenous Community Radio
  • Aggregators Help Radio Reach Online Audiences
  • Taylor Swift Scuffle Aside, Apple’s New Music Service Is Expected to Thrive
  • To Apple, Love Taylor
  • Painting on a Radio Canvas: KCHUNG Gives Los Angeles Artists a Voice on the Airwaves
  • Low Power Radio
  • Radio Survivor: Low Power FM Watch
  • Streaming Music is Gaining on Traditional Radio Among Younger Music Listeners
  • Don’t Count AM/FM Radio Out Just Yet

Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending wireless messages over long distance using Morse code. The company reinforces radio’s commercial shipping and naval military potential. Radio operators hear the code via headphones.

Guglielmo Marconi Showing Demo of Radio TX/RX

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The Radio Transmitter

Marconi patents the first radio transmitter. Because the Italian government shows no interest in Marconi’s find, he takes it to England, where people quickly see its value to the far-flung British Empire. The Marconi Company is formed to equip the commercial and military ships of England, the United States, and other countries with wireless telegraphy for communicating with one another and with shore points around the world.

Guglielmo Marconi and the Invention of Radio

Reginald Fessenden

Reginald Fessenden manages to broadcast speech and music with Marconi’s device. This technology further increases the technology’s business and military utility.

Guricht: Birth of Radio

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The Audion Vacuum Tube

U.S. inventor Lee de Forest patents the Audion vacuum tube. This invention makes it possible for people to listen to the radio in groups through speakers. He envisioned stations sending out continuous music, news, and other material that people can listen to in various venues, including their homes.

AT&T Archives - Bottle of Magic

The Radio Act of 1912

Congress passes Radio Act of 1912. It empowers the Secretary of Commerce to issue licenses to parties interested in radio broadcasting and to decide what frequencies should be used for what kinds of services. The broadcasters could use any frequency they wanted, as long as the frequency they used was within the designated range of public frequencies.

The U.S. Navy and Domestic Radio

During World War I, the U.S. Navy takes control of domestic radio for military purposes. After the war, the Navy seeks Congressional permission to retain control over radio for reasons of national security. The rationale is that if enemies of the United States got control of radio stations, they could disseminate propaganda that could be damaging to the interests of the country.

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Privatization of Radio Broadcasts

Congress decrees that broadcasting is to be a privately sponsored enterprise. They have major broadcast patents. Their goal is to control the new radio business through patents on the transmission and reception of signals.

Vintage Radio

Radio Companies Begin Stations

Westinghouse Corporation founds KDKA radio station in Pittsburgh with the purpose of providing programming over the air so people will buy Westinghouse radio sets. The station is the nation’s first commercial broadcast station. RCA, GE, and AT&T also start stations during the next few years. Stores also get in on the action, using in-store stations as publicity for the radios they sell. Sears in Chicago calls its station WLS, World’s Largest Store.

KDKA Pittsburgh—1st Commercial Broadcast

Selling of Radio Spots

AT&T allows the Queensboro Realty Company to pay $50 each for five “talks” on AT&T’s New York City radio station, the WEAF. Queensborough’s aim is to extol properties it has for sale. This activity marks the start of radio advertising.

Emergence of Radio Networks

The earliest radio networks, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and United Independent Broadcasters, are founded. By that time, AT&T had sold its broadcast stations to RCA, so the company owned two stations in New York. It therefore started two NBC networks, the Red and the Blue, which carried different programs.

The earliest radio network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is formed.

Columbia Broadcasting System

United Independent Broadcasters is reorganized into the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Though it struggled during its early months, CBS eventually stabilized and became a formidable competitor to NBC.

Federal Radio Commission (FRC)

The Radio Act of 1927 creates the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) to issue radio licenses and bring order to nation’s radio airwaves. Because until now any station with a license can claim any radio frequency, stations are broadcasting on top of one another. The FRC kicks some stations off the air and tells the remaining ones the maximum power at which they could broadcast. These stations getting the best deals are generally commercial broadcasters, and often they are network affiliates. Educational and religious stations were consigned to inferior positions on the dial, if they stayed on the air at all.

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FDR’s Fireside Chats

News slowly develops into an important part of radio. The major networks create their own news divisions and beef them up during the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of World War II in Europe. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized the importance of radio for informing the nation and embarked on a series of radio talks to promote his administration’s policies—these popular broadcasts became known as “fireside chats.”

Fireside Chat 1

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Entertainment on the Radio

Varied entertainment genres develop in radio. Network radio programs include morning talk shows, afternoon soap operas, and after-school children’s programs as well as music variety programs, situation comedies, and drama series in the evenings. The networks also schedule weekend public service programs. Local stations schedule variety and talk programs, carry syndicated radio shows (sent to them on records), and play recorded music. Ratings companies develop to measure programs’ popularity. Many of the actors on the radio shows become major stars the many of the shows being aired last for years.

Early 1930s Radio Broadcasting

The Federal Communications Act

The Federal Communications Act of 1934 turns the Federal Radio Commission into a larger Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Act also held that the spectrum on which radio waves are broadcast constitute a public resource, and in return for the use of this resource, the FCC retained the right to make certain demands of broadcasters. The FCC is empowered to review station activities and revoke their licenses if they are not operating in “the public interest, convenience and necessity.” The law does not spell out the meaning of this phrase, and the revocation of a license is extremely rare.

Frequency Modulation (FM) Radio

Columbia University engineer Edwin Armstrong invents frequency modulation (FM) radio. From the start, leading radio executives realized that the static-free sound of FM was far superior to the sound produced by the AM (amplitude modulation) technology upon which existing radio transmitters and sets were based. Broadcasters worried that their huge investment in AM would be threatened if they developed FM as a substitute. They also worried that the development of a whole new set of FM stations would reduce their profits by dividing both audiences and advertising money. So they pressured the FCC to stall the allocation of FM radio stations. The companies that have FM stations simply use them to simulcast their AM programming.

Tribute to Armstrong and History of FM

American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

NBC Blue is sold and becomes the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Over time, ABC becomes a radio and television broadcast powerhouse.

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Transistor Radio

The transistor is invented as a smaller and more efficient replacement for the Audion vacuum tube. The invention leads to the minimization of radio receivers. Now radio is something that people can literally take with them throughout the day.

Invention of the Transistor

Radio Networks Become Television Networks

NBC, CBS, and ABC begin to shift the profits of their radio networks into building television networks. Some of radio’s biggest stars—Jack Benny, George Burns, Ed Wynne—moved their programs to TV, and a number of other entertainers—Milton Berle, Sid Caesar—become major celebrities as a result of the television. Advertisers follow these stars and begin purchasing ad spots on TV.

Music Takes Over the Radio

Audiences and advertisers leave network radio for television. Local radio stations begin to program specific types of music to reach audiences. “Rock and Roll” stations aimed at the growing teen market become popular. Local radio stations thrive as transistor radios allow people to listen to radio music virtually everywhere. Suddenly, the medium had a new life, and companies rushed to get new radio licenses from the FCC. The number of stations jumps dramatically, from about 1,000 in 1946 to nearly 3,500 in the mid-1950s.

FM Radio Separates Itself From AM Radio

The FCC passes rule that prohibits companies from simulcasting more than 50 percent of their AM broadcasts on their FM stations. FM stations, looking for things to play and not having many commercials, developed formats that played long cuts of songs or even entire albums, an approach that AM stations resisted. Many listeners migrated to FM; they liked the music and the static-free sound.

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Programming for Specific Audiences

Radio stations increasingly tailor their programming for audience of particular social categories. Industry consultants helped station executives relate particular social categories (age, race, gender, ethnicity) to particular formats (album-oriented rock, Top 40, middle of the road, country, and multiple variations of these) to signal to people scanning the airwaves whether or not a station was for them.

Modern Car Radio Interface

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The Walkman

Sony releases the Walkman, a portable cassette player. Sony also releases a compact and extremely lightweight headset for the player. The Walkman represented the first major outdoor competition with portable radio. People could buy or create cassette tapes and play them while walking, bike riding, or reading. By 1995, total production of the various Walkman models reached 150 million units.

Sony Walkman- Design Classics (series of three films)

Internet Talk Radio

Carl Malamud creates the first internet talk radio station, calling it “Internet Talk Radio.” It is the first of several pioneering activities of the 1990s that experiment with streaming audio.

Telecommunications Act of 1996

Congress passes the Telecommunications Act of 1996. eliminating the cap on nationwide radio station ownership and deregulating the market substantially. This sparked the creation of large radio conglomerates, most notably Clear Channel Communications, which controlled large proportions of radio advertising in markets across the country.

Napster’s creation encourages the sharing of songs via the internet. The availability of music on this new digital platform greatly impacts the radio industry as it allows people to create their own playlists and actually download the music they hear.

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Satellite Radio

The first satellite radio companies, Satellite CD Radio (the precursor to Sirius Satellite Radio) and XM Satellite radio, develop, raising money to launch satellites into orbit shortly after the year 2000.

Pandora streaming radio founded. Through this free streaming service, users can have Pandora generate their own “stations” by selecting artists that they like and providing feedback (“thumbs up” or “thumbs down”) on the songs the program puts on your station. While the station is free, users do have to listen to commercials every so often.

Pandora: An Inside Look at the New Service

Rhapsody Music

Rhapsody Music allows people to choose their music. Similar to Pandora, except users have to pay a subscription fee to use Rhapsody. In exchange for paying for the fee, there are no commercials). Rhapsody also offers the opportunity for users to download music on the spot with the click of their mouse, for a discounted rate. The service also allows you to create custom playlists.

Explaining the Rhapsody Internet Service

Sirius XM Radio

Sirius and XM Satellite Radio merge into a single entity, Sirius XM Radio.


Clear Channel creates iHeartRadio, an internet radio platform that aggregates content from hundreds of stations nationwide. This is the first foray of a large radio company into the increasingly competitive world of streaming radio. This service allows users to create custom radio stations, with links to hundreds of existing popular radio stations under the Clear Channel umbrella.

What is iHeartRadio?

Copyright Royalties

Numerous associations concerned with protecting music-publishing and online interests come to an agreement about royalties for streaming and downloads to a limited number of devices. The compromise is the beginning of a long process involving the Copyright Royalty Board, the courts, and Congress to calculate how much audio-streaming sites should pay to publishers, and whether that should be higher than the amount radio broadcasters pay.

Radio Stations Remain Popular

There are 15,455 licensed radio stations in the U.S.

Sirius XM Radio experiences growth

Eight years after the merger, Sirius XM radio claims a larger audience than any other radio broadcasting company in America, with 28.4 million subscribers.

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Spotify, the internet streaming music service, hits 20 million paid subscribers and 75 million active users.

iHeartMedia Files for Bankruptcy

Flat advertising revenues and large debt force iHeartMedia to file for Chapter 11.

Chapter 12: The Movie Industry

In the hands of a small number of distributors, the global reach of today’s movie industry raises questions about its influence and impacts on cultural diversity and local cultures.

  • Explain the history of movies in the United States and how it affects the industry today.
  • Analyze the production, distribution, and exhibition processes for theatrical motion pictures in the United States and recognize the major players in each realm.
  • Describe how movies are financed and how they make money through various exhibition arrangements.
  • Analyze the relationship between movie distributors and theaters.
  • Explain the impact of new technologies and globalization on the movie industry.
  • Consider the impact of American movie culture on world culture.

The Rise of Motion Pictures

Three themes emerge when we consider the development of motion pictures: (see the timeline)

  • The movies as we know them did not arrive in a flash as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (351-353)
  • The movie as a medium of communication developed as a result of social, legal, and organizational responses to technology during different periods. (353-354)
  • The movie industry developed and changed as a result of struggles to control its distribution to audiences. (354-355)

An Overview of the Modern Motion Picture Industry

  • Virtually all theatrical films (feature films)   made in the United States are now made available in a variety of nontheatrical locations, although their release still typically begins with theatrical showings and places importance on the box office receipts. (356-358)
  • Spending on moviegoing has gone up fairly consistently (as have ticket prices). (356)
  • People aged 25 to 39 buy the highest percentage of movie tickets.  (356, see Table 12.1 for a breakdown of ticket purchasing by age)
  • Blockbusters are films that make more than $200 million in their U.S. theatrical release. (356-357, see Table 12.2 for 2017’s top 25 films in terms of box office)
  • The international market for movies has become crucial to making profits on movies and have grown faster than U.S. box office revenues. (358)
  • Exhibition is characterized by multiplexes (eight to fifteen screens) and megaplexes (more than sixteen screens). (358)

Production in the Motion Picture Industry

  • The major studios   remain very powerful in Hollywood, but they produce only one-third or less of the films on which their names are attached. Most films are produced by other companies—the majors act as distributors. (358)
  • Film production firms come up with the material and the personnel to make the movie; film distribution firms find theaters and other outlets in which to show the films. (358)
  • Independent producers also create titles that the majors pick up for distribution. (359)
  • See Figure 12.2 for more about the process of making a movie. (360)
  • Concepts coming from any number of places are turned into treatments   and scripts, sometimes offered by a little-known writer on spec to a producer, who may turn it into a film; they also are presented in a pitch.   Books are a major source of film concepts that may get the “green light.” (361)
  • Foreign distribution has become a major source of revenue for Hollywood, explaining why action films are potentially so profitable. (361)
  • Co-production agreements between countries help smooth the reception of movies in diverse populations. These are often problematic. (362)
  • Signing a star to appear in a film sometimes involves the producer entering into back-end deals or offering percentages of the gross in negotiation with the star’s talent agent. (362)
  • Producers must also meet the standards set by various unions and guilds. (362-363)
  • A film is often chosen based on the available financing for its budget; so-called genre films   are typically low budget. Different types of films are distributed in different ways. (363)
  • Independent production companies (those not owned by a studio) often have very close ties to a studio’s distribution division. Selling the distribution rights to a film can help bring in money. (363-364)
  • A good way to develop an understanding of the complexities of film production is to simply watch the credits at the end of a film. (see Figure 12.3, p. 365)
  • A film line producer   has the important function of making sure that the necessary equipment and personnel are where they need to be during the production phase. (366)
  • One crucial element in the production process (as well as in the early stages of development when a producer may be looking for investors) is a contractual deal with a completion bond company ,  a specialized insurance firm that guarantees the film will actually be made, even if it runs over budget. (366)

Theatrical Distribution in the Movie Industry

Major distribution firms have two mandates: to get the films they distribute into theaters and to market these films effectively to target audiences. Major distributors distribute their own work and the work of others. (366-369)

  • A film’s release date is an important part of the distribution strategy and uses two main strategies: wide release (including saturation releases) and limited release. (367-368)
  • The marketing of films involves title testing and audience previewing of preliminary versions called rough cuts,   sometimes resulting in significant changes to a film before it goes into distribution. (368)
  • Publicity might involve appearances on talk shows, press conferences, a big premiere, and other activities. Word of mouth also sells the films among groups of friends. (369)
  • Most movies make their greatest profit in the first few weeks of distribution, and tracking studies   are used to understand how well (or poorly) the film is doing at any given time. (369)
  • Marketing amounts to about half of the film’s negative cost (the total cost of making and editing the film). (369)

Theatrical Exhibition in the Motion Picture Industry

  • The six largest theater chains control 56 percent of the screens on which films are shown in the United States. (370)
  • Tension exists between distributors and exhibitors over the selection of films and the kind of deal that will make it possible for both parts of the industry to make a profit, the details of which are worked out in complex exhibition license   agreements. (370-372)
  • The financial arrangement typically involves a percentage of the ticket sales for the distributor or a percentage above-the-nut   (the cost of doing business) for the exhibitor. (371)
  • Digital and 3D screens, involving the distribution of films to theaters via satellite instead of sending reels of film, are now in nearly all U.S. movie theaters. (372)

Convergence and Nontheatrical Distribution and Exhibition in the Motion Picture Industry

  • Money doesn’t just come from theatrical showings; “post-theatrical” sales, it also comes from television, streaming services, and DVD sales. (372)
  • Sell-through outlets let customers buy videos and not just rent them. (373)
  • Rental outlets allow people to rent the title on a pay-per-day basis. Although these used to be available in stores, Netflix now offers through-the-mail rentals, and Redbox offers rentals through vending machines. (373)
  • The industry also has shifted to digital marketing and to online and mobile downloads. Social sites help spread word-of-mouth support for films. (373-373)
  •  Video games are often inspired by popular movies and provide interest in renting or purchasing the original film. (373)

The Shift to Online and Mobile Downloads

  • Evidence of digital convergence in the motion picture industry can be seen in the variety of platforms to which films are made available to consumers. (374)
  • Downloads can be replayed and migrated from one device to another. On-demand movies allow viewing on a variety of devices, but only for a set amount of time. (374)
  • See Table 12.2 for a sample breakdown of total film revenue by revenue type. (375)

The Problem of Piracy

  • Film piracy, the unauthorized duplication of films for profit, is a major industry problem. Technologies allowing people to stream premium video channels without paying are also a concern. (376-377)

Media Ethics and the Motion Picture Industry

  • The movie industry remains a central element within American and global culture and is dominated by a handful of major distributors. (377)
  • All of the major studios and distributors are tied to the major media conglomerates that use their Hollywood assets in concert with other parts of their operations. (377)
  • Critics of the Hollywood system sometimes argue that its industrial practices narrow the range of cultural diversity in films and that the enormous influence of U.S. distributors results in cultural colonialism in countries with smaller economies. (377-380)
  • Movie Studio by Amazon for Screens Big and Small
  • Europe Seeks Greater Control Over Digital Services
  • China’s Film Industry: A Blockbuster in the Making
  • China Rising: How Four Giants Are Revolutionizing the Film Industry
  • The Status of Women in the Media 2015

Introduction of Magic Lanterns

Magicians and other performers use the magic lantern, an early projection system, in shows. Those performances use slides to project mystical pictures onto smoke rising from canisters in darkened theaters. This activity was a predecessor to the projection of movies.

1790’s: An 18th-Century Motion Picture: Carmontelle’s Figures Walking in a Parkland

The Illusion of Drawings Moving

Inventors create devices that make still drawings appear to move. The approach involves preparing a series of drawings of objects in which each drawing is slightly different from the one before it. When the drawings are made to move quickly, it appears to the viewer that the objects are moving. This early motion-picture process foreshadowed the one used in the creation of filmed “movies,” especially filmed animation.

A Brief History of Film: An Animated Documentary

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Multiple Camera Motion

In California, photographer Eadweard Muybridge becomes the first successful photographer to capture motion, recording a galloping horse using multiple cameras. He sets up twenty-four cameras close to one another at a racetrack to capture the movement of a horse as it runs by. Muybridge later continues his stop-motion photography work at the University of Pennsylvania, where he explores the mechanics of movement. His work influences Thomas Edison.

First Race Horse Film Ever 1878 Eadweard Muybridge

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The Kinetoscope

Under the direction of his employer Thomas Edison, William Dickson invents a moving-picture device called Kinetoscope. The Kinetoscope projected the movie in a box designed for the motion picture to be viewed individually. Edison and Dickson used the flexible photographic film developed by George Eastman and managed to create the illusion of a moving object within the device. This marks the beginning of the motion picture as we know it.

Edison’s Kinetoscope-Museu de Cinema

Commercial Exhibition

Edison invites people to use Kinetoscopes for a fee in New York City. It is the first commercial exhibition of motion pictures in history.

Edison Kinetoscope Films: 1894-1896

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Louis and Auguste Lumière

Louis and Auguste Lumière patent a combination movie camera and projector. The Lumières train people around the world to show their movies using their equipment and they focus on documenting “real life,” such ass treet scenes and parades. The projection of movies is initially scorned by Edison, but he soon changes his mind.

Cinematograph Lumiere-Museu de Cinema

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The Edison Vitascope

Edison buys the rights to a projector invented by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins and calls it the Edison Vitascope. Edison arranges for its public debut on April 23, 1896, in New York City. When the Vitascope premiers, the sensation of the evening is a film titled Rough Sea at Dover, made by Robert Paul. The view of waves crashing on Dover Beach is so realistic that people in the front rows actually shrink back in their seats, fearful of getting wet. Motion picture projection begins to take hold in the U.S.

Rough Sea at Dover

Voyage to the Moon

Georges Méliès produces Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon), a silent movie that becomes the earliest example of science fiction in film.

Voyage to the Moon/Le Voyage Dans la Lune (1902)

The Great Train Robbery

Edwin S. Porter was a pioneer of early film editing. When moving pictures were first invented in the 1890s, a reel of film lasted approximately one minute. Early filmmaking practice was simply to point the camera at a scene, either outside or in a studio such as Thomas Edison and William Kennedy Laurie Dickson’s “the Black Maria,” and roll film until the film ran out. Whatever footage was shot was the moving picture, or “movie” for short. Georges Méliès took filmmaking a step forward by crafting individual scenes as vignettes (brief incidents or sketches), each of which lasted several minutes. These vignettes were then spliced together to form the larger film story that took roughly fifteen minutes to tell. Porter took filmmaking another giant leap forward with his work in film editing. He reduced film to its smallest possible element: the shot. By dividing a film into single units of shots instead of larger units of scenes or even whole reels of film, Porter maximized the medium’s stylistic and narrative potential.

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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Popularity Increase for Nickelodeons

Popularity of movie theaters (nickelodeons) grows in the United States, particularly among immigrants. The immigrants streaming into the United States from eastern and southern Europe in the early 1900s are especially attracted to nickelodeons—not only because of their low cost (a nickel) , but also because the doesn’t require much English knowledge. Stories are told through mime, with title cards inserted into the films at special moments to tell viewers what is going on.

Man Looking into a Nickelodeon Film Machine

Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC)

The Edison company encourages formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) (also known as the Movie Trust, the Edison Trust, or simply the Trust). It attempts to gain complete control of the motion-picture industry in the United States, primarily through control of patents.

The MPPC Dissolves

The Supreme Court rules that the MPPC violates antitrust laws and must cease its activities. This dissolution of the trust opens the road to competitors to the MPPC members and ultimately allows a new firms making films in Hollywood to control the industry.

Censorship in Entertainment

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that movies are “entertainment” and so are not protected by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantees. The rule encourages states and cities to ban objectionable movies or to require the studios to edit them in certain ways. Fearing an overwhelming number of different editing requirements, leading industry executives move toward self-regulation aimed to head off such censorship activities.,9171,857201,00.html

Birth of a Nation

Film Birth of a Nation, directed by W.D. Griffith, is released. Originally titled The Clansmen, the film Birth of a Nation was a controversial, but commercially successful film. The film techniques and captivating nature of this 3 hour film led to it being the first motion picture shown at the White House. Griffiths released Fall of a Nation in 1916—the first sequel in movie history.

Birth of a Nation by W.D. Griffith Trailer

Vertical Integration

Several of the major Hollywood production and distribution firms—MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Twentieth Century Fox—also own (or are owned by) large theater chains. This ownership structure is called vertical integration. It allows the movie companies to be sure they will be able to place the products they create in major theaters of major cities.

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The Studio System

The major Hollywood production and distribution firms—Paramount, MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Universal—develop the “studio system,” which features long-term contracts for film stars, high production values and centralized creative control by studios. The studio system helps cement the power of the major producer-distributors. It is comprised of two elements: (1) a “star system” through which the place actors under contract and cultivate their careers; and (2) an A and B movie system, through which expensively produced movies (A pictures) garner prestige and less expensive ones bring profits. Through an activity called “block booking,” theaters receive A pictures only if they agree to accept the studio’s B pictures.

The Big Picture-Hollywood History 101-Part 1

The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA)

The major studios form the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. By creating a movie “code” accepted by the major studios, the MPPDA manages to stave off government regulation and keep the studios in control of their products. It also sets a precedent for self-regulation in other media industries, including radio, television, and comic books.

Kodak 1922 Kodachrome Film Test

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The Jazz Singer

Warner Bros. studios risks a lot of money experimenting with sound in movies and releases The Jazz Singer. The Jazz Singer is the first full-length movie to incorporate speaking and singing actors. The film’s success leads the other major studios to rush to adopt sound for their motion pictures.

Clips from The Jazz Singer: “Mammy” Al Jolson (The Jazz Singer performance)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Disney. This is the first feature-length animated film and marks the first time a film’s soundtrack and movie-related merchandise was available to further bolster profits from the film.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Original Theatrical Trailer #1) 1937

Citizen Kane

Release of Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles. Though Welles was only 25 when the film preleased, the techniques he employed changed how films were created for years to come. Welles was 23 years old and had never made or starred in a Hollywood film before he did Citizen Kane-he had gained his celebrity doing radio programs.

Citizen Kane The Theatrical Trailer

War Propaganda Films

Release of war propaganda films Why We Fight directed by Frank Capra in response to Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. This series of films by director Frank Capra (later famous for It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr Smith Goes to Washington) and commissioned by the U.S. War Department demonstrates early use of the film medium as a way to change public opinion. At the time of these films, the American public was not supportive of involvement in the war.

Why We Fight #1-Prelude to War

Antitrust Lawsuit Settled

The U.S. Justice Department settles an antitrust suit against Paramount, Warner, MGM, and Fox. The settlement forces the firms to split off their production and distribution divisions from the theaters where the films are exhibited. The agreement opens the major studios to competition with some independent production and distribution firms who now have access to theaters they could not enter when the major studios owned them.

Winchester ‘73

Release of Winchester ’73 by director Anthony Mann. The film was the first time an actor acted independent of the studio he was contracted to. Jimmy Stewart broke his contract with MGM and did a movie with Universal Studios for a smaller salary, but the condition that his salary be tied to the gross profit of the film. This is now standard practice in Hollywood.

Winchester ’73 Trailer

Sunset Boulevard

Release of Sunset Boulevard by director Billy Wilder. First film to blend fiction and non-fiction and incorporate the realities of film-making into an actual film. The film features scenes involving the actual Paramount Studios and legendary directors Cecil B. DeMille, and Erich von Stroheim. As such, the film offers commentary on the new Hollywood Studio system.

Sunset Blvd. (1950) Trailer

Fear of Television

The major movie studios refuse to sell old movies to television or to make programs for TV. Movie executives declare that the audience will soon tire of the small screen and go back to the movie theater. It doesn’t work. By the late 1950s the movie majors realize television is here for good.

The first movie shown on primetime TV was The Wizard of Oz (1939) on November 3, 1956

Surge in Television Viewing

By the late 1950s, about 90% of U.S. households own at least one television set. Among other reasons, the great surge in television viewing leads to a great drop in movie attendance. Realizing that creating a steady stream of A and B pictures is no longer viable, the major studios release far A pictures and mostly cease production of B pictures for the theaters. They dismantle the system that cultivated and controlled actors and actresses within the studio system. They also try to lure audiences back with wide screen technologies such as Cinemascope and Todd-AO.

Early Television-“Magic in the Air” 1955

First Amendment Protection

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1915 ruling and states that movies are entitled to First Amendment protection, marking the beginning of the decline of American film censorship. This decision leads producers and directors increasingly to ignore the motion picture association Hays Code and to compete with television industry, which has essentially adopted the code. Motion picture producers increasingly turn out pictures with scenes of violence, sex, addiction, and other subjects.

Widescreen Technology – The Robe

Release of The Robe, directed by Henry Koster. In direct response to the film industry’s growing concerns about losing customers to the increasingly popular television, Hollywood developed the anamorphic widescreen technology—making widescreen, colourful movies the new standard and distancing themselves from the black and white small TV screens.

The Robe (1953) Clip

Disneyland Available for Television

The Walt Disney movie studio sells a TV series, Disneyland, to the ABC Television Network. Though Disneyland is not a movie (it distributes its films through one of the majors), this step is nevertheless a major break in Hollywood’s refusal to sell content to television.

The Disneyland Story-Part 1

Warner Bros. becomes the first major movie studio to create an original series, Cheyenne, for a television network, ABC. This is the beginning of the major Hollywood firms’ relation with television. Apart from selling the networks and stations old movies, the studios sell them series—essentially what used to be the B pictures.

Cheyenne (Episode 1) “Mountain Fortress”

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Television ownership increases

87% of U.S. households own at least one television set, up considerably from just 9 percent of households in 1950.

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The Video Cassette Recorder

The video cassette recorder (VCR) is introduced. It creates the movie rental industry. It also creates industry worries that criminals will copy the cassettes and sell them. This concern marks the beginning of large-scale concerns about piracy.

TV Commercial for the Sony Betamax VCR#1 1977

Westworld becomes the first feature film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI).

This was the first movie to be marketed to the mass public through a series of primetime TV ads ahead of the nationwide release of the film.

Jaws (1975) TV Spot

Release of Star Wars directed and written by George Lucas. Not only was the film wildly successful and profitable, but because Twentieth Century Fox could not foresee the success of this film, they allowed Lucas to keep 40% of merchandising rights in exchange for a smaller director’s salary. The profits on merchandise from the Star Wars franchise brought in millions of dollars—merchandising rights are now an important part of movie contracts.

Star Wars (1977) Original Trailer

Emergence of Cable Television

The spread of cable television in American life creates a new venue for movies after their theatrical release. Movie companies develop the concept of “windows” for post-theatrical distribution.

Emergence of Multi-Media Conglomerates

Warner Bros., Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, and Columbia become part of major international multi-media conglomerates. The conglomerates see their most important movies as major popular-culture events that start in theaters, cross many media, and result in spinoffs such as toys, clothes, books, and motion-picture sequels.

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Pixar’s Toy Story becomes the first computer-animated feature film.

International Box Office Success

The amount of box office money the U.S.-based major studios received from outside the U.S. exceeds the amount they receive within the U.S. for the first time. Increasingly, Hollywood movie firms consider international prospects of a film as critical to its success.

The Blair Witch Project

Release of the Blair Witch Project, directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. This marks the first time a film used the web for movie promotion and marketing, which led to a gross profit of $248 million with only $1 million spent on marketing.

Blair Witch Project Trailer

Rising Interest in Documentaries

Documentary films rise in popularity as a commercial genre.

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Paramount releases James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D, which becomes the highest-grossing film of all time, earning over 2.8 billion gross worldwide. The popularity of Avatar in 3D—especially outside the U.S.—encourages the major studios to release an increasing number of movies in 3D. Estimated production costs are between $280 and $310 million plus $150 for marketing.

Avatar Trailer-The Movie

100 Years of Studios

Major studies Paramount and Universal Studios mark their 100th anniversary in the industry.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World sets a record for the biggest global box office weekend in history, pulling in $524.1 million in a single weekend.

Jurassic World Trailer

AMC Acquires Carmike

AMC Entertainment, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, acquires Carmike Cinemas. They now control one out of five U.S. movie theaters.

Domestic Down, International Up

Domestic theater attendance fell to lowest point since 1992, but global box office revenue is up.

Streaming Services Win Oscars

For the first time, streaming services Netflix and Amazon won Oscars for their productions.

Chapter 13: The Television Industry

Digital technologies have changed the ways in which we “watch television.” At the same time, advertisers are trying to find ways to address audiences through tighter and tighter targeting of their messages through different devices and platforms.

  • Compare and contrast broadcast, cable, satellite, and over-the-top (OTT) television.
  • Explain the role of advertisers in these four forms of television.
  • Name and describe the different types of cable, satellite, and OTT services.
  • Identify the ways in which broadcasters, cable companies, satellite, and OTT companies produce, distribute, and exhibit programming.
  • Describe the issues facing the TV industry and society in a rapidly changing TV world.

The Rise of Television

Three themes emerge in the historical developments of television (see Figure 13.1 for a timeline of television history):

  • Television as we know it did not arrive in a flash as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (384)
  • Television broadcasting is the electronic scanning and transmission of image and sound, which, when received, is reconverted into visual images. (384-385)
  • Television as a medium of communication developed as a result of social, legal, and organizational responses to technology during different periods. (385)
  • Motion picture executives saw television as competition and refused to deal with the major television networks.
  • Early television shows were broadcast live.  I Love Lucy  was the first show to be recorded on film and then syndicated. (388)
  • The television industry developed and changed as a result of struggles to control its channels to audiences. See the timeline for milestones in this struggle. (389)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulated which channels would be available in different parts of the country and the amount and kinds of programming received.

An Overview of the Television Industry

The contemporary industry can be divided into three increasingly converging parts (390):

  • Television broadcasting,
  • Subscription cable and satellite services,
  • Online and mobile platforms.
  • Television broadcasting consists of over-the-air signals. (391)
  • Stations are either commercial (i.e., advertising supported) or noncommercial (i.e., supported in other ways). The FCC allocates the frequencies. (see Table 13.1 for the top and bottom five TV markets) (391)
  • TV broadcasting is dominated by the Big Four commercial networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC), which are all vertically integrated and operate owned-and-operated (O&O) stations, as well as provide program feeds to their many network-affiliated stations. (391-392)
  • TV broadcasting is further divided into station groups and the so-called “independents,” which are not affiliated with a network. (392-393)
  • Cable, telco, and satellite services are collectively called multichannel subscription video programming distributors (MVPDs). (see Table 13.2 for the top ten MVPD systems owners) (393-394)
  • Cable television systems are typically owned by a multiple system owner (MSO) and provide a multitude of cable networks and premium subscription networks. (394)
  • Telcos refer to the traditional telephone companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, that offer multichannel services. (394)
  • Satellite television comes from a satellite orbiting the earth. Direct broadcast satellite technology allows subscribers to receive programming direct from the communication satellites. (394-395)
  • Online and mobile platforms provide ways of streaming online content both at home and wherever a broadband signal allows. Though pirating does occur, the industry sees advantages to making this content available online. (395)
  • It is difficult to determine the “return on investment” for streaming video distributors (e.g. Netflix), as they don’t report expenses for specific programs or audience numbers. (396)

Production in the Television Industry

  • In cable television, the major kind of production is the lineup of channels, determined by the technological limitations of the system, the amount of money a network demands from exhibitors, and whether the exhibitor owns a piece of the network. (396)
  • Each cable network engages in a form of production that creates a format, the entire flow of programming on a cable network. (396-397)
  • Cable networks charge license fees that allow cable operators to carry their programming. (397-398)
  • The cable TV industry offers different levels of programming called tiering. Various subscription tiers include basic cable, expanded (or enhanced) basic, digital cable, premium channels, pay-per-view (PPV), and video on demand (VOD). (see Table 13.3 for information about pricing) (398-399)
  • Producing broadcast channel lineups now occurs in digital form. HDTV allows a higher-quality signal, which some stations use, or they divide the signal through channel multiplexing or multichannel broadcasting to generate more ad revenue. (399-400)
  • Producing online/mobile lineups is more thematic or type-based. (400-409)
  • Subscription video on demand (SVOD) provides access to movies and TV series for a fee. Some offer “slim bundles” offering smaller numbers of linear TV channels for a lower cost. (400)
  • Over-the-top television refers to viewers’ use of Internet services to watch broadcast television while avoiding cable, satellite, or other subscription fees. Cutting the cord refers to those who cancel those subscriptions. Cord shavers reduce their level of services but still keep some. (400-401)
  • Local or network programmers typically consider four factors when deciding on their intended audience targets: the competition, the available pool of viewers, the interests of sponsors, and the costs of relevant programming. (401)
  • The Nielsen Media Research company dominates the television audience ratings business and uses people meters and viewer diaries to estimate the size of television audiences. (402)
  • Ratings measurements taken during periods called sweeps—conducted in the months of February, May, July, and November—are crucial to the success of television programs because they help determine advertising rates. (403)
  • Nonlinear viewing is becoming an important cross-platform rating measure.
  • Programmers develop schedules for different day parts, including the most important day part: prime time. (405)
  • The basic building block of a television schedule is the program series, usually a weekly program that attracts predictable audiences based on its regular availability. (405)
  • Scheduling techniques include establishing strong lead-in and lead-out programs, encouraging audiences to sample a new series scheduled in between, a position called the hammock. (406)
  • A position in the schedule is called a program time slot, and programmers use the strategy of counterprogramming when determining which shows go into which time slots. Counterprogramming is the practice of scheduling a program that does not directly compete for the same target audiences that competing programs seek. (406)
  • A program idea typically emerges as a pitch made by producers to programmers. This is followed by a treatment, the establishment of the program’s format, and concept testing. This leads to the production of a pilot episode and the test viewing of the pilot in a preview theater. (406-409)

Distribution in the Television Industry

  • Television networks distribute programming to their various affiliated stations throughout the country. (409)
  • When programming appears online, networks don’t necessarily receive the license fees but instead a percentage of ad revenues. (409)
  • Independent stations are non-network affiliates that rely on the production of their own programming or on syndication to fill their schedules. (409)
  • Stripping refers to a five-day-a-week placement of a show. (410)
  • Off-network syndication is an important part of television distribution and involves the reuse of network series by local stations. (410)
  • Cable and satellite networks also make use of off-network syndication to fill their schedules. (410-411)
  • See Table 13.4 for the top fifteen syndicated shows.
  • So-called out-of-home or captive audience locations (waiting rooms, airport waiting areas, etc.) also constitute an increasingly important outlet for programs distributed by networks and cable services. (411)
  • International distribution is a lucrative part of the television business. (411)
  • Streaming television online faces some resistance from viewers as the industry tries to figure out how to get people to watch commercials. (412)

Exhibition in the Television Industry

  • Broadcast television stations face even more competition than in the past. (413)
  • Whereas broadcasters are limited to advertising and retransmission revenues, other providers have access to ad and subscription revenues. (413)
  • Recently, more people are dropping their cable subscriptions and opting for streaming devices and services instead. As this number grows, satellite firms will lose (cable is cheaper), and the system of charging subscribers for a wide range of channels few visit will be undermined. (413-414)

Media Ethics: Converging Screens, Social Television, and the Issue of Personalization

  • “Watching television” now means more than watching the actual device. (414)
  • People might even use multiple screens to watch, using one to watch the program and others to research and discuss the show with others; this is called social television. (414-415)
  • Advertisers are intrigued by social television and are looking for ways to customize advertising messages through these means by gathering data and sending back relevant commercial messages. They call this “addressable television.” (415)
  • These messages might be customized to different audience demographics and other criteria, according to the data gathered. Whereas one person might see a luxury car ad, another might see a budget car ad. (415)
  • Should audiences have a say in whether advertisers engage in these practices or not? (415-416)
  • Netflix's View: Internet TV is replacing linear TV
  • Content Wars: How Television Networks Are Fighting The Netflix Threat
  • Netflix v Amazon: who will win the streaming wars?
  • ‘Cop Rock’: How a Legendary Failure Predicted TV’s Future
  • Asian-American Actors Are Fighting for Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored.
  • 10 Companies Changing the TV Industry
  • Historical Periods in Television Technology

Optimism in the UK for the Broadcast of Moving Images

The British humor magazine Punch publishes a picture of a couple watching a remote tennis match via a screen above their fireplace. Artists and intellectuals conceive of the possibility that moving images will be transmitted to the home.

Optimism in France for the Broadcast of Moving Images

A French artist drew a family of the future watching a war on a home screen. Artists and intellectuals conceive of the possibility that moving images will be transmitted to the home.

Scanning Disk System

Paul Nipkow invents a scanning disk system to try to capture images wirelessly. His technology would influence the work of John Logie Baird and others in their pursuit of the best ways to transmit television images.

Nipkow Spiral Disk

First Use of the Word, “Television”.

Scientific American magazine uses the word “television.” A vocabulary is developing to describe this future medium. Click on the links below for more information on the origins of “television”:

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird successfully transmits the first television picture with a grayscale image. His continuing inventions would lead to a company to develop television and work with the BBC to transmit TV signals.

John Logie Baird 1937

Broadcasting in the U.S. and U.K.

Stations in New York and Washington, D.C., begin a limited array of live broadcasts, while in London the BBC had five-day-a-week programming by 1930. Following Baird, this television technology uses a whirring mechanical disk to scan the broadcast images. The mechanical technique has many drawbacks.

Transmission of Television Signals

Vladimir Zworykin, employed by RCA and working with other inventors’ designs, develops the first successful electronic system for transmitting television signals. This electronic approach, using the cathode-ray tube, would eventually become the standard instead of the mechanical approach.

Zworykin on the Invention of Television

Nazi Germany

First regular TV service operates in Nazi Germany. This system sends propaganda messages to specially equipped theaters, rather than to sets in people’s homes. International interest in the mechanical TV technology is high.

Television broadcasting in The Third Reich

The BBC begins regular electronic TV broadcasts in London. Broadcasts are on air four hours a day from 1936-1939, with around 12,000-15,000 receivers, many in pubs. This leads to international interest in the mechanical TV technology.

75 Years of BBC TV-History of the BBC

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RCA’s Electronic TV Technology

RCA introduces a television that scans images electronically rather than mechanically. Variations on this electronic rather than mechanical TV technology are the one that the world ultimately adopts.

Television 1939 RCA Early Introduction to TV

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The Birth of Television

RCA begins regular broadcasting during the formal ceremonies at the World’s Fair in New York. It appears then that TV will soon be a reality. However, development of television broadcasting is largely halted due to U.S. involvement in World War II (1941-45). In introducing the new medium during formal ceremonies at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, President Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. president to appear on TV.

Retro TV-Birth of TV at World’s Fair

Beginning of Commercial Broadcasting

Commercial broadcasting begins in earnest in the U.S., controlled by the firms that own major radio networks, NBC, CBS, and later ABC.

Freezing of TV Licenses

FCC declares a freeze on new TV licenses. This is done in order to review its standards for television. It decides to use the desirable very high frequency (VHF) band of frequencies for channels 2 through 13, and an ultra high frequency (UHF) band of frequencies for channels 14 through 83.

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Increase in Television Sets

The U.S. sees a rapid uptake of television sets: just 9% of homes had one in 1950, 87% by 1960.

TV Set, Circa 1959

The Golden Age of TV

The major LA-area (Hollywood) movie studios refuse to sell movies or create programs for television. In the early 1960s they predict Americans will tire of the black-and-white box and return to the theaters. The TV networks decide that TV programs will originate in New York and air live. As during the heyday of radio, advertisers sponsor entire shows and their advertising agencies produce them. Critics look back on this era as the ‘golden age’ of TV, marked by original dramas written by high-quality talent such as Paddy Chayefsky (Marty), Rod Serling (Requiem for a Heavyweight) and Gore Vidal (Visit to a Small Planet).

Clip from Requiem for a Heavyweight

The Beginning of the Cable Industry

First community cable TV system is implemented in Lansford, PA. This activity marks the beginning of the cable television industry, initially called the Community Antenna Television. This first system allowed the town to pick up broadcast signals from far-away cities, and then transmit them to people’s homes via coaxial cable.

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I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy is the first scripted situation comedy to be shot on film in front of an audience. Starring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy is an enormous hit with audiences on CBS television. Movie and network executives are quick to recognize the advantages of having a hit on film, as it can be aired over and over.

“I Love Lucy” 50th Anniversary Favorite Episodes-Part1

TV Programs Go to Hollywood

Warner Bros. sells a package of Westerns to the ABC television network for prime-time broadcasting. The sale marks the start of the major Hollywood studios’ relationship with the TV networks. Over the next few years, the major studios will become deeply involved in television program production. In general, production of television shows moves from New York to Hollywood.

Cheyenne Nervous Barber

Nielsen Ratings

The A.C. Nielsen company’s rating system audits program viewing through an “audiometer” attached to the TV sets in a sample of American households. The ratings become the ultimate designators of program popularity. TV network, station, and advertising executives use the Nielsen ratings to determine whether programs should continue or be canceled.

Nielsen Ratings 101: Introduction

Changes to the Advertising Model

Especially in prime time (the evening), the major networks change their advertising model from full sponsorship (one advertiser supporting a program) to participating (inviting multiple advertisers to support a program). Rather than owning programs and fully sponsoring them, advertisers now can buy the right to advertise within shows that the network owns or leases. The new approach helps the networks because it gives them more control over their schedules so that they can plan to maximize advertisers’ ability to buy time on various programs, thereby reaching people at different times and on different networks.

Power of Broadcasting Companies

NBC, CBS, and ABC develop enormous power over broadcast television. They do it by implementing a strategy of vertical integration, controlling production, distribution, and exhibition for much of their programming. They control production by insisting that many of the production firms from which they purchase shows give them part ownership of the programs before they air. They control distribution through their ownership of powerful networks and through their insistence on controlling syndication: the licensing of programs they air to local stations (after their prime time run) and to TV systems around the world. And they control exhibition by owning stations in the largest U.S. population centers. This power of the networks over programming concerns critics who argue that the networks are creating a sameness for television with the goal of selling the largest possible number of people to advertisers for each program. Producers also complain to the FCC. They argue the government should prohibit the networks’ requirement to share ownership and syndication rights with networks if they want the show to air.

Federal Regulations

Listening to critics of network power, government agencies establish prime time access and financial syndication (fin-syn) rules, aimed at curtailing the power of the major TV networks. The FCC encourages independent producers by forcing the networks to stop supplying programming to local stations for a half hour of evening programming (typically 7:30-8) during prime time. In addition the Justice department prohibits ABC, NBC, and CBS from owning most of the entertainment programming they air, and it limits their involvement in producing shows for syndication. The hope is to encourage new producers to participate in the television system. In actuality, the 7:30-8 slot becomes a place for inexpensive quiz and reality shows that local stations purchase instead of producing their own public affair programs.

Expansion of Cable TV

The Federal government allows the expansion of cable television into metropolitan areas and for it to carry original programming. Until now, the government has protected broadcasters from competition from cable companies by not allowing them to do more than act as antenna services for the broadcasters in communities that cannot receive good broadcast signals. This expansion of cable TV’s mandate opens a new era in television.

Satellite Communication

The U.S. government allows businesses to use satellite communication. These activities mark the beginning of nationally distributed programming specifically to cable television subscribers. Time Incorporated begins to send its relatively new Home Box Office (HBO) pay-movie service to cable companies via satellite. At around the same time, Ted Turner arranges for his local Atlanta television station to be sent to cable systems around the country via satellite. He suspects he will increase his advertising revenues that way.

Increase in Broadcast Stations

New FCC rules result in an increase in the number of UHF broadcast stations. Airing mostly old TV shows, movies, and sports, these stations managed to garner high enough Nielsen ratings and find enough advertisers to sustain themselves. Eventually, many will become part of the Fox Television Network.


Warner Cable Communications launches Nickelodeon children’s cable network. This channel provides a reason for families with young children to subscribe to cable TV.

Nickelodeon Promos 1979

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Ted Turner founds CNN, a 24-hour cable news network. The first such network, CNN revolutionizes news coverage with its emphasis on showing breaking news live.

A joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express launches Music Television (MTV). Originally playing entirely music videos, the network had a profound influence on the music industry.

MTV Original Broadcast 8/1/1981

The Fox Network

Rupert Murdoch launches the Fox Network. The number of independent TV broadcasters around the United States is great enough to convince media mogul Rupert Murdoch that he could accomplish a feat no one had been able to do since the 1950s: start a fourth network that could compete seriously with the Big Three. On the strength of a popular Saturday morning children’s line-up and quirky, youth-oriented evening programs, it managed to draw advertisers and become a permanent TV fixture.

Rupert Murdoch-The Life and Times of a Media Mogul

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Satellite TV

DirecTV begins direct-to-home satellite services, followed by the Dish network in 1996. Originally a substitute for cable in rural areas where it wasn’t available, satellite TV carried up to 150 channels to a plate-sized receiver on a subscriber’s house. It further expands Americans’ choices and numbers of television signals.

Direct TV Commercial 1998

Disney buys ABC. It is part of a conglomeration taking place in the media system. Around the same time, Viacom purchases CBS, only to separate from it some years later.

The first Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), which allow viewers to record shows for later viewing, pause live TV, and skip commercials, are introduced.

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Netflix begins offering its subscription-based DVD-by-mail service.


Quarterlife, a series produced by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick about twenty-something artists, appears in eight minute segments on MySpace and its own site. Quarterlife is indicative of early attempts to create television programming for the internet. The Quarterlife website claims the program was the first Internet series to have been created with a website that facilitated social-network discussions of the show. Briefly in 2008, NBC television aired web episodes stitched together as hourly programs. Some of those episodes also showed up on NBC and Hulu websites.

“Quarterlife” Part I

NBC, ABC, and Fox launch Hulu, a platform for distributed their shows online. Supported by ads, the networks consider it a way to gain a foothold in the online distribution of their programs.

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HBO launches its GO service to allow subscribers to access its programs when connected to the internet. This spurs others in the television industry to launch services for cable or satellite subscribers that allow them to receive programs “everywhere.”

Comcast buys a controlling interest of NBC-Universal from General Electric. The purchase makes Comcast the largest media firm, and it gives a large cable firm leverage over one of the key distributors of the programs it carries.

Video On-Demand

Cable video on demand (VOD) grows in popularity, helping cable companies keep subscribers and offering hundreds of thousands of new viewers for network shows.

Cord Cutting

The success of online video streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO GO leads to a 20 percent drop in traditional TV viewership by young adults since 2011.

Rise of Non-Linear TV Viewing

76 percent of American households DVR, subscribe to Netflix, or use VOD service through a cable provider

FCC Eliminates Media Cross-Ownership Ban

FCC reverses a 1975 rule banning a single media company from owning a newspaper and a broadcast stations (radio or television) in the same local market.

Non-Broadcast Networks Sweep Emmys

Netflix (with 7), HBO (with 6) and Amazon (with 5) the major winners of Emmy awards with traditional broadcast (ABC, NBC, CBS) programming winning only 2 awards.

Chapter 14: The Video Game Industry

Video games are immensely popular among a variety of audiences, including older adults and women, and like other media discussed in this book, they are appearing across devices and platforms.

  • Sketch the development of video games.
  • Describe video game genres.
  • Review the production, distribution, and exhibition of video games.
  • Chart major social controversies surrounding video games.

The Rise of the Video Game Industry

Three themes emerge within the historical development of the video game industry. Though a chapter entirely dedicated video games might seem unusual, as an industry they fit within the patterns seen in previous chapters, especially convergence. (419, see Figure 14.1 for a timeline of video game developments)

  • The video game did not arrive in a flash as a result of one inventor’s grand change. (421)
  • The pinball machine was the first step and could be found at entertainment arcades. (421-422)
  • The video game as a medium of communication developed as a result of social and legal responses to technology during different periods. (422)
  • The Internet brought bulletin boards, multiuser dungeons (MUDs), and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). (422)
  • The video game industry developed and changed as a result of struggles to control its channels to audiences. (423)
  • The industry has seen concentration and growth in software companies and in console manufacturers. (423)
  • Controversy around game content, especially violence and stereotyping, has led to self-regulation. (423)

The Contemporary Shape of the Video Game Industry

  • According to the Entertainment Software Association, 64 percent of Americans have played video games. About 45 percent of players are female and 55 percent male, breaking the stereotype of teenage boys being the primary audience for the games. (424)
  • Purchasers of games feel they get more value for their money compared to DVDs, movies, music, and streaming services. (424)
  • Video game hardware refers to the devices on which video games are played; these include gaming consoles, desktop or laptop computers, interactive television connections, handheld systems, and mobile devices. (425)
  • Some websites will draw casual gamers, whereas others might play social games with their friends. (426)
  • MMORPG publishers host virtual worlds and store information about the players (who use avatars). (426)
  • Handheld game devices, once a rising market, have fallen in sales as mobile devices are being used for game play. (426)
  • Interactive television is a growing area of game delivery and play. Telcos charge customers beyond basic fees to access playing areas. (426)
  • Video game publishers coordinate the production of video games. Like publishers in other industries, they take care to produce titles they think will draw audiences and sales. (428)
  • Console manufacturers have publishing divisions that create games exclusive for their consoles. (428-429)
  • Third-party publishers, like Electronic Arts, create games that work on multiple platforms. (429)
  • The video game industry also categorizes games very specifically. Video games are quite expensive to make, and it has become more and more “hit driven” since the 2000s. (429-431)
  • Software genres for video games include action games, adventure games, casual games, simulation games, strategy games, sports games, and edutainment. (431-433)
  • Because of games’ popularity among women and older adults, advertisers have taken an interest in video games. They primarily use two techniques: creating custom games and embedding ads in games. (433-435)
  • Rewarded ads have players watch a short video ad in return for enhanced game play.
  • Dynamic in-game advertising changes ads on the fly based on player age and geographic location. (435)

Distribution and Exhibition of Video Games

  • Games reach audiences through cable streaming, Internet downloading, and discs or cartridges. The physical media can be purchased through brick-and-mortar retail stores or online from outlets such as (435)

Video Games and Convergence

  • Convergence enables game play across devices, enables promotion of games across media, and enables synergy through licensing fees as games become franchises, such as  Tomb Raider . (436-437)

Media Ethics: Confronting Key Issues

  • Similar to other industries explored in this book, ethics questions come into play with video games. These issues include (1) concerns over content, such as violence and the hypersexualization of women; (2) privacy, such as how much data video games gather, how they use them, and how they secure them; and (3) self-regulation, which intersects with both content rating and privacy principles. (437-444, see Table 14.1 for ESRB’s ratings of top video games)
  • Video games need more women – and asking for that won't end the world
  • Video games can never be art
  • The Dark Future of Freemium Games, and How We Can Avoid It
  • These People Are Making the Creator of 'Candy Crush' Rich
  • Angry Birds Movie’ Is Part of App Developer’s Big Picture
  • How Much Do You Know About Video Games?

develop a case study material on any mass media

Coin-Operated Pinball Machines

David Gottlieb introduces the first coin operated pinball machines. Using a spring ball launcher, the player hopes to rack up the most points by hitting various elements on the board. Pinball machines become part of the attractions of entertainment arcades—commercial locations featuring coin-operated machines such as fortune tellers and shooter games.

Couple Enjoying a Pinball Game

Humpty Dumpty Pinbal Game

Gottlieb introduces Humpty Dumpty pinball game. It is the first pinball game to add player-controlled flippers to keep the ball in play longer and added a skill factor to the game.

1947 Gottlieb Humpty Dumpty Pinball Machine in Action

Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device

Goldsmith and Mann develop a ‘cathode ray tube amusement device’ on which knobs and buttons are used to simulate firing a missile onscreen. They receive the first patent for a device that pointed to the possibility of video gaming.

Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device (1947)

The First Video Game

Scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory set up a video tennis game, an early percursor to Pongand the first video game designed to be played on a display screen. This game used an oscilloscope and two simple controllers to simulate hitting a ball over a net, and was displayed for play during the institution’s annual visitors’ day.

The Original Video Game

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MIT students create Spacewar! The first influential video game, in which two players controlled spacecraft which fired missiles at each other. The game was distributed widely amongst early computer enthusiasts.

Spacewar! (MIT 1962)

Galaxy Game

Coin-operated Galaxy Game, the first commercial video game, is installed in Stanford University's student union.

Galaxy Game (1971 Computer Recreation Inc.) on MAME

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Atari and Pong

Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney found Atari and create Pong. It is the first successful U.S. company to create video arcade games.

Pong (1972 Atari)

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The Magnavox company releases Odyssey. Using interchangeable cartridges, it is the first home video game console. It sells 100,000 consoles the first year.

Magnavox Odyssey TV Ad February 1973

Mattel’s Auto Race

Mattel introduces Auto Race, the first handheld electronic game device. Other companies follow with single-game handheld devices. It is not until 1979 that Milton Bradley takes the next technological step, with interchangeable games.

Mattel Electronics Auto Race

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Atari releases its 2600 console. Atari sells over 30 million units of the console. By the early 1980s it is releasing popular titles such as Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-Man.

Atari 2600 Commercial 1977

The Golden Age of Video Games

Arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders peak in popularity in what is often called the “golden age of video arcade games.”

develop a case study material on any mass media

Video Games Increase in Popularity

Video arcade games overtake pinball machines in popularity. By 1983, there are over 1.5 million arcade machines in North America, with revenue of around $7 billion annually.

Teenagers Playing Atari’s Asteroids


Milton Bradley develops the Microvision handheld game device. It is considered the first console with interchangeable cartridges. Though not successful commercially, it pointed the way to Nintendo’s Game Boy.

MB Games Microvision-Ashens

Emergence of Computer Games

A major economic downturn befalls the console industry. The downturn in consoles opens the way for computer-based games. Companies sell disks that can be used on specific computers—for example the Commodore 64, the Apple II, and the IBM PC. Strategy video games and simulation video games catch on as particularly appropriate for computer play, including Dune (strategy) and SimCity (simulation).

The Video Game Crash of 1983—Continue?

Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs)

The GamBit company in Minnesota introduces Scepter of Goth, the first commercial online role-playing game in the United States. This type of game became known as as multi-user dungeons (MUDs). They are the predecessors of today’s multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft.

MMO Part 1-Crawling Through the Mud

Created in Russia during what was then the U.S.S.R. by Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is credited with launching the casual gaming industry.

BBC - Tetris - From Russia with Love

develop a case study material on any mass media

Super Mario Brothers

Super Mario Brothers, released by Nintendo is often credited with saving the gaming industry after the 1983 crash due to its immense popularity. It also popularized the use of “side scrolling” video games so that the scenery and levels of the game could shift.

Super Mario Bros History (visual tour)

Nintendo introduces the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) video game console in the United States. With popular games such as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda, it helps to revive the console industry.

Nintendo Part 1-Leave Luck to Heaven

The Legend of Zelda

Release of Legend of Zelda, from Nintendo. This game went on to become one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises. It introduced new features that are now standard in video games—such as the ability to save where you are and a targeting system for 3D fighting.

Video Game History Month-Legend of Zelda

Nintendo releases the Game Boy handheld game console. It is not the first such device, but it does popularize the form.

Nintendo Game Boy (1989) First Game Boy TV Commercial

The Playstation

Sony releases the Playstation. As the first console to used CDs rather than cartridges, it allows for greater complexity than previously, including 3D graphics.

Playstation 15th Anniversary Documentary

Meridian 59 and Quake

The 3DO company releases Meridian 59, the first massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). The same year, the first-person shooter game Quake pioneered multiplayer interaction over the internet.

Meridian 59 Gameplay

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Release of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. This game went on to inspire the most successful film adaptation of a video game in the history of the genre. Although Lara Croft is one of the most widely recognized heroines in gaming, the changes in her body’s appearance over the years has been the source of much controversy.

Tomb Raider Trailer

Mobile Gaming

Nokia installs the game Snake on its mobile phones. This marks the beginning of mobile gaming.

Nokia Snake Gameplay (iPhone)

Release of Halo. Although it was not the first (or last) first-person shooter or game linked to an online console, it is the gold standard of this genre in the industry. The Halo franchise has also been successful with their marketing campaigns, ads, and branding outside of video games which have included partnerships with big name brands like Frito Lay, Super Bowl commercials, graphic novels, toys, an anime program, and more.

Halo Retrospective-The Complete History of Halo

Handheld Gaming Consoles

Release of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. These handheld consoles, especially the DS, prove popular with younger and middle-aged consumers, outside the traditional target market for video games.

World of Warcraft

Release of World of Warcraft by Blizzard. World of Warcraft was one of the early MMOs—instead of buying the game for a console, the game was entirely online, thus, players had to pay a subscription fee to join the game. The extreme popularity of the game changed the world of MMOs forever--the game sold 2.8 million subscriptions on its first day and 4 million subscriptions by the end of the first month it was out. By 2012, there were close to 12 million subscribers.

World of Warcraft Part 1: Crafting the World of War

Microsoft releases the first XBox. It was Microsoft's initial foray into the gaming console market.

History of XBox Console

develop a case study material on any mass media

Second Life

Linden Lab launches Second Life, a MMORPG featuring a virtual world that avatars can explore—complete with a currency with a real-world exchange rate.

Review of Second Life

Guitar Hero

Release of Guitar Hero. Packaged with a Gibson-guitar-like controller, this game launched a music-themed game cultural fad in North America. Guitar Hero has gone on to be used in educational settings and medical rehabilitation facilities.. In 2011, Activision got rid of the Guitar Hero division of the company after poor sales due greatly to the presence of more and more music-themed games.

Guitar Hero Gameplay

develop a case study material on any mass media

Nintendo Wii

Nintendo releases the Wii. Featuring a motion-sensitive controller and appealing to a wider demographic, it sells over 90 million units.

Nintendo Part 6-Wiidemption

Zynga launches its best-known game, FarmVille, on Facebook, reaching 10 million users within six weeks.

Farmville-Plant and Grow with Friends

Angry Birds

Finnish computer game developer Rovio Entertainment introduces Angry Birds. Rovio first released for Apple devices, but then creates versions for the Android, Symbian, and Windows Phone mobile operating systems, as well as for video game consoles and Windows desktops and laptops. According to Rovio, by 2012 1.7 billion gamers have downloaded the game.

Microsoft introduces the Kinect motion sensing input device for the Xbox 360, allowing users to interact with games without a controller. After selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, the Kinect holds the Guinness World Record of being the fastest selling consumer electronics device.

Microsoft Kinect Motion

Draw Something

OMGPOP, a struggling mobile-app firm, launches Draw Something, a mobile interactive word game. Within 50 days of its release, Draw Something was downloaded 50 million times.

Draw Something 2 Trailer

Zynga acquires OMGPOP

Zynga purchases OMGPOP for $180 million.

Gaming Subscription Services

NVIDIA releases GeForce Now, a subscription-based cloud gaming service that allows users to stream games to their devices from the digital cloud.

GEForce Now Advertisement

Amazon Buys Twitch

Amazon purchases live streaming video game playing site Twitch for $970 million.

Annual Video Game Spending

Global revenue on video games is $101 billion which is more than video and music sales combined.

Career Resources

These large-scale career websites offer a broad variety of employment-related information and services. All of these sites feature many career resources, including job postings, job application advice, career descriptions, job fair listings, career blogs, message boards, and recruiter directories. These sites have much to offer the first-time job seeker in any arena, including all media industries.


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Article contents

The mass media and the policy process.

  • Annelise Russell , Annelise Russell Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
  • Maraam Dwidar Maraam Dwidar Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
  •  and  Bryan D. Jones Bryan D. Jones Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
  • Published online: 31 August 2016

Scholars across politics and communication have wrangled with questions aimed at better understanding issue salience and attention. For media scholars, they found that mass attention across issues was a function the news media’s power to set the nation’s agenda by focusing attention on a few key public issues. Policy scholars often ignored the media’s role in their effort to understand how and why issues make it onto a limited political agenda. What we have is two disparate definitions describing, on the one hand, media effects on individuals’ issue priorities, and on the other, how the dynamics of attention perpetuate across the political system. We are left with two notions of agenda setting developed independently of one another to describe media and political systems that are anything but independent of one another.

The collective effects of the media on our formal institutions and the mass public are ripe for further, collaborative research. Communications scholars have long understood the agenda setting potential of the news media, but have neglected to extend that understanding beyond its effects on mass public. The link between public opinion and policy is “awesome” and scholarship would benefit from exploring the implications for policy, media, and public opinion.

Both policy and communication studies would benefit from a broadened perspective of media influence. Political communication should consider the role of the mass media beyond just the formation of public opinion. The media as an institution is not effectively captured in a linear model of information signaling because the public agenda cannot be complete without an understanding of the policymaking agenda and the role of political elites. And policy scholars can no longer describe policy process without considering the media as a source of disproportionate allocation of attention and information. The positive and negative feedback cycles that spark or stabilize the political system are intimately connected to policy frames and signals produced by the media.

  • public policy
  • public opinion
  • agenda setting

By 1981 , the field of political communication had matured enough to warrant comprehensive treatment in a handbook (Nimmo & Sanders, 1981 ). The authors characterized the field as experiencing “a healthy, thriving, and burgeoning state” (p. 18). One is struck by the much broader set of topics captured by the 1981 handbook compared to this compilation, and the lack of emphasis on the mass media as communication systems in the earlier volume. But the 1981 volume was far more diffuse and suggestive of possible research directions compared to the coherent summaries of strong bodies of research that characterize the present volume. Today, the research is far more extensive; for example, the 1981 handbook included a single article, by Max McCombs, on the media and public opinion, whereas today there is a whole set of papers describing media effects on the public as well as a separate section on the effects of political campaigns. A similar contrast applies to the media-public policy nexus; the 1981 volume featured a single entry (by Cobb and Elder), while this collection includes five articles with a policy focus.

Cobb and Elder ( 1971 , pp. 408–414) centered a major part of their discussion on policy subsystems, distinguishing between communication essential to subsystem maintenance and incremental policymaking and that associated with major mobilizations and policy changes—those associated with the idea of agenda-setting (or agenda-building, as they termed it) so ably set out by Cobb and Elder elsewhere ( 1983 ). This dual role of the media in the policy process remains just as critical today.

Yet to date we have little research that addresses these systemic components of the relations between public policy and political communication, even given the emphasis that the topic receives in this volume. In this article, we explore this divergence, from each side of the divide, and point to potential unifying ideas for the future.

Although scholars of political science and communication have long studied agenda setting dynamics by exploring patterns in attention, there has been a distinct lack of connections between studies of the media and studies of public policy processes (Wolfe, Jones, & Baumgartner, 2013 ). In particular, “agenda setting” remains more or less a homonym between the two disciplines rather than a research topic with a common theoretical base.

Political scientists have studied agenda setting in the political system by exploring the formation and accessibility of the political agenda, as well as the causes of policy change and stability, often absent of a discussion of the media. Within political science, the public policy field’s examinations of the media provide a radically different perspective from that of communication scholars. Policy scholars posit that media attention—similar to policy attention—is episodic, providing high levels of attention to some issues, but ignoring most. Furthermore, studies indicate that the media is a major player in the policy cycle, inserting positive feedback (increased levels of coverage) and negative feedback (low levels of coverage, or no coverage) into the system, potentially corresponding with changes in the intensity of policymaking activity. This perspective argues in favor of pursuing studies of the relationship between the media and the policy process by focusing on exchanges of information between the two bodies, an information processing approach.

Communication scholars have generally focused on the impact of media coverage on the public agenda, that is, what the mass public believes, feels, and attends to. Scholars in this tradition have studied public opinion formation, evaluation, and engagement. They report finding that the media influences the national (public) agenda through its tendency to focus attention on a few key issues and thus determine the issues, and direction of the issues, that the public cares about (McCombs & Shaw, 1972 ). Scholars of political communication extend this inquiry to examine the extent to which the media’s agenda-setting capacity drives public attitudes, evaluations concerning the political system, and decision-making within the political process. This research focuses on the quantity and content of media coverage on public perceptions of television advertising in campaigns, candidate evaluations, vote choice, political engagement, and more, finding that the media is a key player in deciding what, and sometimes how, the public thinks about political issues and whether or not one will engage in the political process (Entman, 1989 ; Iyengar & Kinder, 1987 ; McCombs, 2004 ).

The independent tracks of these two approaches to agenda setting has led to the development of two disparate bodies of work and two separate definitions of agenda setting, distinct but relevant to one another. The communications literature on agenda setting has traditionally centered on the role of the media in setting the issue priorities of individuals and the mass public, while the policy field has focused on the dynamics of media issue attention and policymaking in the political system.

In this article, we argue in favor of integrating these two bodies of work that, for too long, have talked past one another. We argue that both policy and communication studies can benefit from a broadened, integrative approach toward studying media agenda setting. In doing so, we will begin by providing an overview of the literatures supporting both agenda setting perspectives, highlighting the dividing factors. Next, we will discuss the expanding body of work that has begun to integrate the two approaches to agenda setting in the media. Finally, we will propose four recommendations designed to aid policy and communication scholars in pursuing integrative approaches. These are our recommendations:

First and foremost, political communication scholars should consider the role of the media beyond its purported role as a linear driver of public opinion or policy. The news media’s effects arguably cannot be effectively modeled by linear relationships linking media effects, public opinion, and political activity. The public agenda cannot be comprehensively understood without a thorough understanding of the policymaking agenda and the role of political elites. Communication scholarship has previously neglected to extend the agenda setting capacity of the news media past its causal effect on the mass public—thus, we propose extending studies of the implications of media and public opinion to policymaking and the policy process.

Policy scholars studying policy change and attention allocation should address the role of the media as an institutional actor—often assumed in media studies—in the political system and assess the media as a key actor in the policy process.

The study of the relationship between the media and policy process would benefit from the use of an information processing perspective, characterized by exchanges of information uncovering policy problems, disseminating information, and potentially driving episodic policy change. A consideration of the media as a source of information supply—drawn from recent policy studies—can provide valuable insight for understanding feedback cycles and changes in attention across studies of both elite and mass politics.

Finally, a comparative or cross-national approach to studying media and the policy agenda has broad benefits. The symbiotic relationship between the media and the policy agenda is not a uniquely American experience, and the need for an integration of policy studies and political communication is not a uniquely American problem. A number of comparative policy scholars have begun to examine the relationship between the media, policy issue salience, public opinion, and governmental activity, finding significant relationships (Green-Pedersen & Stubager, 2010 ; Vliegenthart & Walgrave, 2008 , 2010 ). Future research efforts should not only continue addressing the links between media and the policy agenda, but should do so comprehensively, and comparatively.

The road to a more integrative approach to agenda setting is not clear nor void of hurdles and pitfalls, but we argue that it is worth exploring, as the potential for a greater understanding of the media within both mass publics and elite institutions is crucial. By combining communication and policy studies, we may be able to approach studies of the media from a more complex approach that explores the cyclical and dynamic nature of mass media influence.

Origins of Policy Agenda Setting

The policy tradition of agenda setting began in the mid-20th century as a rebuke of pluralist models that either ignored the accessibility of the political agenda or assumed a broad scope of influence for the agenda. E. E. Schattschneider ( 1960 ) highlighted the limited accessibility of political agendas, particularly in the context of conflict and power struggles. Schattschneider argued that the outcomes of political conflict are highly dependent on the scope of the surrounding conflict, which is determined, in part, by the number of the political players and the amount of competition involved ( 1960 ). Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz ( 1962 ) critiqued the standard conceptions of power in the social sciences, arguing that there are two faces of power, one concerning the exercise of power, and one concerning the influences used to limit the scope of conflict or prevent conflict from occurring entirely ( 1962 ). Roger Cobb and Charles Elder ( 1971 ) highlight the difference between the systemic, public agenda (comprised of issues of high salience for the general public) and the institutional agenda (comprised of issues of high salience for government institutions), and propelled scholars to focus on how the agenda is formed. They proposed three steps to agenda formation: issue creation, issue expansion, and agenda entrance. In the first step, an issue is created as a result of activism by an initiator, in tandem with focusing events that provide the issue with staying power. The issue expands as it garners resources, attention, and mobilizes supporters—all serving to expand the scope of the conflict. Once the issue has expanded to garner high levels of awareness and interest from the mass public, it enters the agenda. Cobb and Elder further support this argument by detailing dimensions of issues that are fundamental to placement on the agenda, including specificity, social significance, temporal relevance, complexity, and historical precedence ( 1972 ). As we noted above, Cobb and Elder were the first policy scholars to recognize a key role for the media in the policy process. They depicted a dual role in the policy process for the media—subsystem reinforcement and major mobilizations.

Providing a foundation for the study of policymaking in a limited agenda space, Michael D. Cohen, James G. March, and Johan P. Olsen laid out a study of organizations and organizational problem solving (Cohen, March, & Olsen, 1972 ). They developed the now well-known “garbage can model of organizational choice,” in which organizations are characterized by a collection of decision-makers, problems, solutions, and opportunities, which flow in and out of the organization’s attention span. The theory posits that decision makers are constantly searching for opportunities to utilize pre-scripted solutions, issues are searching for opportunities to cause them to rise to the forefront, while solutions are searching for issues to address (Cohen, March, & Olsen, 1972 ). In this model, the authors argued that the pairing of problems and solutions in the garbage can occurs mainly due to chance (Cohen, March, & Olsen, 1972 ).

John Kingdon ( 1984 ) extended the Cohen, March, and Olsen ( 1972 ) study of organizational decision making to policymaking and the policy agenda, defining the policy agenda as a list of problems which government officials, and those associated with government, are paying attention” (Kingdon, 1984 ). Kingdon ( 1984 ) argued that policy change occurs as a function of attention and the simultaneous coupling of problems and solutions, and suggested a number of processes by which issues arise on the policy agenda. In particular, he introduced the concept of a “policy window,” a window of opportunity for policymaking that opens when a new problem (or problem definition) arises. In this window, a new solution to a problem may be developed (or a previously concocted solution recycled), and policy change is implemented (Kingdon, 1984 ). Kingdon envisioned a relatively limited role for the mass media in the policy process, which may have been a side consequence of his reliance on intensive interviews with highly placed policymakers who are more prone to attribute policy making to the goals and motives of individual decision makers than properties of the policy context including media attention.

Micro-Foundations and Macro-Effects in Agenda-Setting in Policy Studies

Key to all modern work on agenda setting is the notion of collective attention, based on Herbert Simon’s classic concept of bounded rationality as applied to the policy making process (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993 ; Jones, 2001 ). Simon originally proposed bounded rationality as a criticism of rational choice models of decision making and argued instead that decisions makers are bound by limited cognitive architectures and unknown factors that impact the decision-making process.

With bounded rationality as a micro-foundation for understanding the causes of policy change and stability, recent studies of policy agenda setting have focused on the roles of attention, information, and feedback in the policy cycle. This work began by introducing the concept of punctuated equilibrium to the social sciences, the notion that policymaking activity is characterized by long stretches of stasis and incremental change, followed by punctuations in policy change, and expands to control for the role of attention in problem prioritization processes in government (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993 ). Applying punctuated equilibrium theory to a policy context, Baumgartner and Jones illustrate that incremental, or stable, policy change is reinforced by a lack of government attention to an issue, while large-scale policy change is associated with heightened government attention to an issue ( 1993 ). They also attribute episodic policy change to shifts in framing, venues, and levels of mobilization surrounding the issue (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993 , Baumgartner & de Boef, 2008 ). In their study of major US laws passed between 1947 and 1998 , Baumgartner and Jones investigated the informational bases of decision-making, specifically exploring how policymakers interpret, manage, and respond to information ( 2005 ). They showed that major policy change is significantly related to how policymakers—and the political system as a whole—process information ( 2005 ). In an extension of this argument, Baumgartner and Jones ( 2015 ) further explored the role of information and information search processes in government, finding that limited information search processes lead to declines in policymaking, while extensive information search processes are closely related to surges in policymaking activity (Baumgartner & Jones, 2015 ).

The media has only recently been integrated into agenda setting studies as a major source of information, and as an integral institution in the political system. Writing in 2006 , Bartholomew Sparrow noted that policy scholars typically fail to consider the potential role of the media. He went on to propose an agenda for research, suggesting that scholars should consider the media’s role as a public diplomat, its patterns of interpreting, normalizing, and disseminating political information, potential disconnects between political issues as presented by the media and as understood by the public, and how the media is able to maintain its impact (relationships with lobbying groups, key legislators, FCC, and the judiciary), both inside and outside of the United States. Sparrow’s contribution was to highlight a gap in the literature that continues to persist—scholars have been slow to consider the role of uncertainties facing the media in the policy process, and until recently, few had explored the role of the media as a wide-reaching political institution (Van Aelst & Walgrave, 2016 ).

In one of these studies incorporating the news media into the policy process, Michelle Wolfe ( 2012 ) examines the relationship between media attention and the speed of policymaking. Wolfe characterizes the media as a “gatekeeper to arguments and interests,” capable of conditioning the speed of policymaking. She argues that the time it takes a bill—once introduced—to become a law increases as media coverage associated with the debate surrounding the bill reaches higher levels. Her findings indicated that increased media coverage slows down the speed of policymaking, as it causes new information, participants, and problem definitions to enter the debate, allowing for counter-mobilization by a bill’s opponents. The dynamic nature of media effects on feedback cycles is further explored in a study of front-page articles in the New York Times from 1996 to 2006 , where Amber Boydstun ( 2013 ) examines the process by which policy issues make it onto the media agenda, uncovering long-standing patterns in coverage. She finds that, by and large, most policy issues receive little to no media coverage, while a few issues receive explosive levels of coverage. She attributes this to positive feedback effects within the media, in which coverage begets coverage, rather than being prompted directly by the scope and duration of the underlying event. This type of work, exploring the role of feedback into the policy system, is necessary to further understand and fully appreciate the media’s role in the policy process.

Origins of Media Agenda Setting

Studies of the media agenda can be traced back to Walter Lippman’s ( 1922 ) observation that the news media filter reality and provide the “pictures in our minds” concerning the course of public affairs and current events. While, for much of the 20th century, communications scholars operated under a “limited effects” media model, arguing in favor of the media’s inability to affect public perceptions, scholars soon came to realize that the priorities of the news media strongly shaped those of the mass public. This literature argues not only that the media influences public opinion, but also that the media also has the capacity to influence the direction of public opinion.

In their seminal study of media agenda setting, McCombs and Shaw ( 1972 ) compared the level of issue-related newspaper coverage in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with public responses to Gallup’s question about the most important problem facing the country. In effect, McCombs and Shaw explored the early stages of opinion formation and information acquisition, finding that the public’s perception of the most important problem facing the country closely reflected the patterns of issue coverage in newspapers. This finding launched media agenda setting research and many subsequent studies have confirmed the hypothesis that the media has the capacity to set the public agenda (Funkhouser, 1973 ; Shaw & McCombs, 1977 ; Weaver, Graber, McCombs, & Eyal, 1981 ; Winter & Eyal, 1981 ). Furthermore, comparative scholars of the media have found similar effects across the world (McCombs, 2004 ).

This work on agenda setting effects has been organized into studies of agenda setting, priming, and framing. Here, the literature posits that media emphases of issues and objects drive the topics that the public thinks about (Wu & Coleman, 2009 ). Complimentary agenda-setting studies focus on the attributes of issues or how they are framed in the media (Ghanem, 1997 ; McCombs, 2004 ). This work highlights the media’s ability to draw attention to certain characteristics of issues in the news—the focus is not on what the news media emphasize, but how they describe their issues of emphasis, thus focusing public attention on certain attributes or frames (Coleman & Banning, 2006 ; Ghanem, 1996 ; McCombs, Lopez-Escobar, & Llamas, 2000 ). Furthermore, this line of work argues that the tone of an issue is just as important as the amount of coverage that an issue receives (Coleman & Banning, 2006 ).

Stemming from this extensive documentation of the media’s agenda setting effects, scholars of political communication have explored the effects of framing and priming by studying if, how, and why media agenda setting can drive public attitudes and engagement in the policy process. Studies of campaigns, candidate evaluations, vote choice, and political engagement find that media framing and priming are key players in deciding what, and how, the public thinks about political issues, as well as key drivers of public engagement in the political process (Entman, 1989 ; Iyengar & Kinder, 1987 ; McCombs, 2004 ). In an analysis of national television news, Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder ( 1987 ) find that issues in the news are weighed more strongly when the public evaluates their political leaders. In this way, television news coverage has a strong effect on public opinion, without changing underlying attitudes (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987 ). In a later update of this study, the authors find that the issues that receive the most attention in national television news become the most important issues to viewers, while those issues that do not receive attention in national television news are not of the highest importance to viewers (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987 ). Similarly, Robert Entman ( 1989 ) examined political messages in newspapers, finding a significant relationship between the content of these messages and the political attitudes of readers. While these studies have clearly established a link between the media and the public agenda, and have suggested that issue salience—as driven by media framing and priming—may affect vote choice, they have often lacked a clear reference to how these mechanisms drive change in the policy process. Thus, we may argue that the implications of the media’s direct and indirect impacts on the political process have yet to be fully integrated into agenda setting studies.

Integrative Approaches to Agenda Setting

While the political communication literature has extensively explored public agenda formation in the context of political messages, evaluations, and behavior, much of this literature has stopped short of linking these findings to the broader policy process. Before delving into our recommendations for further integrative work, it important to overview current and past scholarship that has probed the links between media and the policy system.

Bryan Jones and Michelle Wolfe ( 2010 ) study the media’s patterns of receiving and prioritizing information, extending the scholarship from discussions of public agenda setting. Jones and Wolfe’s work provides support for an indexing hypothesis of the relationship between the news media and politicians: this hypothesis argues that debates in the formal political system set the agenda for debates in the media (Jones & Wolfe, 2010 ).

Frank Baumgartner and Suzanna De Boef ( 2008 ) and Amber Boydstun ( 2013 ) connect the media’s tendency to frame issues from a particular perspective with changes in policy over time. They demonstrate that media framing of the death penalty has a substantial impact on changes in capital punishment policy over time. Along the same lines, Rose and Baumgartner ( 2013 ) examine the impact of framing the poor on federal funding of social programs, finding significant links between shifting frames of the poor and federal social welfare spending. Eric Jenner ( 2012 ) deviates from the standard analyses of news articles to examine the influence of news photographs, focusing on media coverage of environmental news. Jenner argues that photogrpahic attention to environmental issues in the media influences issue salience for the mass public and elite actors. He examines public opinion polls, environmental news stories in The New York Times , and environmental news photographs in Time magazine. He finds that news photographs—unlike news articles—have a significant impact on congressional committee attention, but have little impact on public opinion (Jenner, 2012 ).

Integrative approaches to agenda setting also extend to comparative spheres: Soroka and Lim’s ( 2003 ) study of media coverage, public opinion, and foreign policy across the United States and the United Kingdom highlighted a strong correlation between foreign affairs issue salience in the media, and in the public mind. Following the previous literature’s suggestion that governments react to issue salience, Soroka and Lim posit that issue salience may drive defense spending in the United States and United Kingdom, since changes in spending may be a reaction to foreign affairs issue salience. Peter Van Aelst and Stefaan Walgrave ( 2011 ) survey Members of Parliament in Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark, questioning them on their perceptions of the media’s power as an agenda setter in the political system. Their findings indicate that the majority of MPs consider the media to play a very important—if not the most important—role as an agenda setter in their political systems.

These studies suggest that the media has an unquestionable impact on the policymaking process. But, importantly, policymakers try to influence the media as well. Lance Bennett ( 1990 ) developed the indexing hypothesis, positing that journalistic norms constrain news coverage by indexing coverage to what policymakers are saying about an issue being covered. While the thesis has been controversial, the thesis was groundbreaking in its attention to government’s effect on media, hence reversing the standard direction of causation of media influence on policymakers, and integrated journalistic norms into the process. Fifteen years later, Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston ( 2006 ) re-examined the thesis to try to see when the media might develop alternate narratives based on other sources.

Moving Forward: Bridging the Media and Policy Divide

Media as an institution within the policy process.

Building on recent approaches that have begun to integrate media and policy studies, we argue that researchers must consider the role of the media as a political institution in studies of the political system, public opinion and policy process. Political institutions have norms that shape daily interactions with the policy process, and media outlets are one of many policy actors whose routines and organization lead to a regular presence in the political system. The media’s organizational process is characterized by institutional incentives, such as attending to elite actor and consumer demands (Boydstun, 2013 ). Just as daily subsystem interactions may affect the policy process, so too do the daily decisions that occur within the newsroom. Media scholars have often studied the role of newsroom interactions and institutional norms on the production of news and its impact on citizens, but these institutional patterns have lasting effects for the policy process that remain largely unknown. Meanwhile, the media is increasingly recognized as an integral part of the feedback systems that characterize the policy process (Boydstun, 2013 ; Wolfe, 2012 ), but meso- and micro-level studies of the effects of journalistic norms and practices require additional attention. For instance, is the shift toward a more professionalized media and the responding growth of communications staff within Congress a critical factor in the types of issues that make it onto the policy agenda? Or do they impact the nature of those issues, as in the speed, timing, and context surrounding proposed measures? Shifts in digital media—a 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, blogs, and social media—have all changed the way politicians interact with the media and the public, but what does this shift mean for the policy process? A closer link between the routines of journalists and their role as a political institution must be integrated with studies of elite policy actors and their relationship to the policy process as a whole.

Media as a Mechanism for Disproportionate Information

Even more important than understanding the media as a formal institution within the policy process, we should begin to understand the effects of media actors’ interaction within that process. The media serves as part of a complex information-processing system that influences the public policy process throughout (Jones & Wolfe, 2010 ). Scholars have argued that the political preferences of journalists, economic pressures, and industry standards are major factors in the process of determining the quantity and content of news coverage. Since the quantity and content of news coverage have significant implications for the public policy process, these factors deserve extensive study when considering the role of the media as a potential disseminator of disproportionate information.

Despite standards of unbiased reporting, the political attitudes of journalists and editorial decision makers may be a major source of bias affecting the topics covered by the news (Hackett, 1984 ). Researchers have explored this relationship domestically and comparatively, finding a significant correlation between journalists’ personal beliefs and their respective news decisions in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Sweden. While this relationship is more significant among newspaper journalists than broadcast journalists, partisanship maintains a modest impact across all news decisions (Patterson & Donsbagh, 1996 ). Some studies have suggested that media coverage in the United States is characterized by a liberal bias; for example, Groseclose and Milyo study partisan bias in the media by comparing media citations of think tanks and other policy groups to the citations of similar think tanks and policy groups by Members of Congress, finding a strong liberal bias (Groseclose & Milyo, 2005 ).

The patterns of news generation by journalists and editors combine to produce both positive and negative feedback cycles that characterize how and when elite attention is allocated among issues (Boydstun, 2013 ). Negative feedback is the process by which changes in the political system are “corrected” or “countered” by an opposing shift back toward equilibrium. In the context of news generation, negative feedback is produced by daily or routine media coverage that maintains the current allocation of attention across issues and the type of frames used to present the issue. Positive feedback mechanisms reinforce changes that may rapidly alter the political agenda, replacing the current policy image or definition with a completely new frame. The media can often supply momentum, and this shapes the policy agenda through positive feedback forces (Boydstun, 2013 ).

The balance between feedback cycles produces media outputs that are often skewed or disproportionate, such that over time some issues receive a dominant amount of media attention while others receive almost none. For instance, a surge of media coverage may follow a highly publicized event—such as Hurricane Katrina—but this positive feedback then limits or curbs the attention of simultaneously occurring events or issues—a negative feedback effect. These skews in attention are the result of a disproportionate information processing system, meaning that agendas do not reflect events in real time or in proportion to the relative magnitude of those events. For policymakers, this disproportionate system holds many implications for policy actors’ efforts to sufficiently and substantively respond to policy problems. This means that the issues that policymakers are often compelled to address are likely a function of skewed media coverage. Elite actors are already part of a disproportionate information process in which limited attention and processing power lead to episodic shifts in policy. The media’s contribution to positive and negative feedback cycles only add to the complexity of how institutions and actors operate within an episodic and disproportionate policy process.

Comparative Approach to Policy and Media

Agenda setting in studies of public policy and the media has become much more frequent over the last 20 years, as the underlying foundations of both theories have been found common across multiple political and media systems. Media agenda setting has examined the effects of agenda setting on public opinion and attitude formation in multiple comparative assessments.

Scholars found public opinion toward the final British governor in Hong Kong to be closely tied to the content of news coverage—through weekly tracking polls, they found that the news media often primed the public’s reaction (Willnat & Zhu, 1996 ). A study of media influence in Israel examined agenda building, agenda setting, and priming in the context of four Israeli elections, finding that media coverage has significant priming effects on the voting intentions of individuals and aggregate election results (Sheafer & Weimann, 2005 ). Similarly, a study of news coverage of a national referendum campaign in Denmark (concerning the introduction of the euro) studied the impact of news coverage of the campaign on public evaluations of political leaders. Here, findings suggest as the issue of the introduction of the euro became more visible in the media, it became more important for shaping evaluations of the incumbent government, prime minister, and opposition leaders (de Vreese, 2004 ), supporting the priming hypothesis. In studying media coverage of Spanish elections, scholars found a positive relationship between the media’s effective attribute agenda about the candidates leading up to the election and the voters’ attribute agendas about the competing candidates (Canel, Llamas, & Rey-Lennon, 1996 ). What is missing from these studies, however, is a discussion of how the media’s effects feed back into the political system. This missing link is where media agenda setting ends and policy agendas begin.

The study of policy agenda setting has benefited from the establishment of the Comparative Agendas Project, which aggregates agenda setting measures across political systems and enables cross-system analyses of global policy. International scholars have been at the forefront of integrating media and policy studies by looking at how the media affects the policy agenda, especially the legislative process. Rens Vliegenthart and Stefaan Walgrave attempt to operationalize both notions of agenda setting by identifying the disparity between media and policy agendas (Vliegenthart & Walgrave, 2011 ). They examine media coverage as an indicator of attention and construct a model to assess how political parties and legislative action contour the media’s agenda setting influence. They conclude that the media has a considerable effect on the policy agenda, and that this effect is greater for opposition parties and smaller parties who are more reliant on journalists to get their message across. Another study by Walgrave and Peter Van Aelst offers a comparative perspective that finds media effects on agenda setting in general, though the authors argue for a more dynamic analysis of the relationship between media and policy (Walgrave & Van Aelst, 2011 ).

It is that call for a dynamic analysis between not only media and policy, but media, policy, and the public, that we echo. Media agenda setting often begins and ends with issue salience in the mass public, and policy scholars refrain from discussing the public implications of media influence on policy. Comparative analysis is a venue for bridging this gap as both the communication and policy fields further broaden the applicability of agenda setting beyond the United States.

Moving Beyond Linear Assumptions

The influence of the media agenda on public opinion is often represented through simple linear models and correlations that illustrate a casual or direct link between the media’s message frame and what the public believes to be salient. This assumes a very hierarchical structure in the sense that the media distributes a message that the public subsequently receives, according to the media’s ability to prime and frame the issue. Scholars have used this linear structure to test the content of news stories, the tone or attributes of those stories, and more networked approaches that combine both substance and tone of the articles or broadcasts. While the measures of content are further explored, all too often the assumption about the senders and receivers remains the same.

Media scholars struggle with a limited frame about the relationship of media and the public, while policy scholars continue to tangle with the notion of how the media fits into an “untidy” process (Kingdon, 1984 ). The media can have effects on the policy process as a mechanism for both positive and negative feedback, but it is also a recipient of the outputs of these political processes. Few scholars attempt to grapple with this endogeneity problem, preferring to posit a directional causal arrow from the media to the policy process with few implications beyond that as far as the eventual repercussions for the media, the public, or policy makers.

Both media and policy agenda setting studies stand to benefit from analyses that pull one another away from their corners and embrace the dynamic nature of agenda setting, where effects are not just within elite institutions or the public, but rather part of one larger process. We must consider the media’s agenda setting role, not only as a primer for public salience but the effects that has on the issues that politicians take up in Congress or Parliament. The actions of elite officials do not end with the passage of legislation, but have reverberations that extend beyond elite institutions to the public. The media is one connection between elite decisions and public perception, and is able to transfer issue salience from one public to another. Agenda-setting studies cannot and should not move forward without a better consideration for the entire political process rather than one-to-one linear relationships.

Studies of agenda setting have become increasingly common and more complex as scholars across disciplines attempt to better understand the role of the media. We have argued that the nature of this complexity is too often confined to either elite notions of media influence (policy) or mass public effects (communications), and that agenda-setting studies must begin to look at the relationships both elite and mass publics foster with the media within the agenda-setting process. Instead of relying on small-scale case studies, an integrated approach also enables more complex and collaborative database analysis. New technology enables research that breaks traditional discipline norms, and we must take advantage in the research moving forward.

We have proposed four avenues for better integrating policy and communication studies in ways that bridge the divide between what have historically been two completely separate research agendas. Many scholars studying political processes acknowledge a role for the media in the agenda setting process, but a better understanding of that role should include considerations of the media as a political institution, a disproportionate processor of information within a system that provides information to elite and mass publics, has a comparative studies advantage, and as a bridge between elite and public priorities. The basic principles of agenda setting, priming, framing, and issue definition are ever present across research, and we must take advantage of what is similar and useful to our overall better understanding of media’s agenda-setting influence. For too long, two richly diverse and complex bodies of work have talked past one another, and policy and communication studies can benefit from a broadened, integrative approach toward studying media agenda setting.


We appreciated the comments from Shanto Iyengar and Stefan Walgrave.

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Developing healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns: a qualitative study.

\nCarolina Capito,*&#x;

  • 1 Environmental Health Behaviour Lab, Instituto de Saúde Ambiental, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2 Laboratório Associado TERRA, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 3 Área Disciplinar Autónoma de Bioestatística, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 4 Faculdade de Ciências da Nutrição e Alimentação, Universidade do Porto, Oporto, Portugal
  • 5 Programa Nacional para a Promoção da Alimentação Saudável, Direção-Geral da Saúde, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 6 Unidade de Investigação em Epidemiologia (EPIUnit), Instituto de Saúde Pública, Universidade do Porto, Oporto, Portugal
  • 7 Laboratório para a Investigação Integrativa e Translacional em Saúde Populacional (ITR), Universidade do Porto, Oporto, Portugal
  • 8 Unbreakable Idea Research, Cadaval, Portugal

Background: Involving consumers in the development and assessment of mass media campaigns has been advocated, though research is still lacking. This study aimed to explore opinions and attitudes of citizens, health professionals, communication professionals, and digital influencers regarding the development and implementation of healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns.

Methods: We conducted five semi-structured focus groups, where participants were exposed to the first nationwide mass media campaign promoting healthy eating in Portugal. Through criteria-based purposive sampling, 19 citizens, five health professionals, two communication professionals, and four digital influencers were included. Transcripts were analyzed using Charmaz's line-to-line open coding process.

Results: Main identified themes were: considerations about informative-centered campaigns, health/nutritional issues to address, campaign formulation, target audiences, dissemination channels, and influencers' involvement. Participants favored campaigns focused on practical, transformative, and useful information with simple, innovative, activating, and exciting messages instead of strictly informative campaigns. Health and communication professionals mentioned the importance of adapting the message and dissemination channels to the target audience, addressing the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals, and highlighted the importance of short video format.

Conclusions: Active involvement of the health promotion target audience is crucial for the development and effectiveness of health campaigns. Campaigns need to convey health messages on simple though exciting communication materials, targeted to the most vulnerable subgroups, including deprived, less educated, younger, and older generations.


Dietary risk factors, including low consumption of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and high consumption of red and processed meats, sugar, and salt, are associated with the development of non-communicable diseases, increasing disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and mortality. In Portugal, unhealthy eating behaviors were responsible for 7.3% of total DALYs and 11.4% of total deaths in 2019 ( 1 ).

Due to the harmful effects of unbalanced diets, improving dietary habits is a clinical and policy priority, at both individual and community levels. Individual-level and health care system-based behavioral change interventions are partly effective ( 2 , 3 ). However, policy changes at organizational, community, and government levels (in addition to individual-based initiatives) can have a broader, more equitable, and sustainable impact ( 4 ). Population-based strategies for healthy eating promotion embrace a media and education domain, including mass media campaigns ( 4 ).

Mass media campaigns are being used to increase awareness about different health issues, such as smoking cessation ( 5 ), physical activity ( 6 ), and healthy eating ( 7 , 8 ). These interventions may even influence behavior change, as campaigns promoting the use of healthcare services and lifestyle change have been effective in influencing the use of health care interventions ( 9 ). Indeed, the World Health Organization recommends campaigns about healthy diets as a strategy to prevent and control non-communicable diseases ( 10 ).

In general, to increase the relevance and quality of health care and research, “consumers” involvement is strongly recommended ( 11 , 12 ). However, little attention has been paid to the potential contributions from diverse groups of stakeholders, such as citizens and health professionals, to the development and evaluation of health campaigns ( 13 ), especially regarding healthy eating promotion campaigns. Thus, this study aimed to explore opinions and attitudes of citizens, health professionals, communication professionals, and digital influencers regarding the development of healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns.

This study followed a qualitative design. Data were collected by semi-structured focus groups (FG). Five FG were conducted: three with citizens, one with health professionals and health communication professionals, and one with digital influencers. The FG aimed to understand the perceptions about health promotion campaigns and how to develop effective healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns while discussing the specific case of the “ Eat Better” campaign, developed by the Portuguese Directorate General of Health.

The COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research (COREQ) guidelines were followed ( 14 ).

The “ Eat Better ” campaign

The “ Eat Better” campaign ( 15 ) was the first governmental initiative promoting healthy eating at the national level, created and implemented by the National Programme for the Promotion of Healthy Eating, of the Portuguese Directorate-General of Health. Dissemination occurred between November and December 2019. The development, dissemination, and evaluation of the campaign were completely independent, financed by public funds, without the involvement of the food industry and conflicts of interest. The target audience was people living in Portugal aged between 18 and 65 years, with special attention to younger adults as they are at higher risk for low consumption of fruit, vegetables, and legumes, and high consumption of sugary drinks. It was a multi-platform initiative, disseminated on television, radio, social media (through digital influencers), advertising outdoors, public transport, and regional media.

The general aims of the campaign were to: (a) raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating, focusing on health gains from small changes in diet, (b) increase motivation for healthy eating, by demonstrating how easy is to implement small eating changes, and (c) increase competence, by describing how the nutritional recommendations can be achieved, focusing on water, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Participants' inclusion criteria and recruitment

A purposive, criteria-based sampling approach was used. The sampling frame included key factors thought to influence people's perceptions and enhance group dynamics; for the FG with citizens, inclusion criteria (aiming heterogeneity) were: gender, age (between 16 to 34 and 54+ years), educational level (higher or no higher education), living in different regions of Portugal (rural and urban settings), and having being exposed or not to the “ Eat Better” campaign; for the FG with professionals: academic background and professional activity (medical doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, nurses, and professionals working in health communication and mass media campaigns); and for the FG with digital influencers: digital platform presence, health domain (nursing, nutrition), and having or not been involved in the “ Eat Better” campaign.

For the recruitment process, invitations by e-mail were sent to members of different organized groups of citizens, individuals who had already participated in other FG (for different research projects), and acquaintances to members of the research team. Regarding digital influencers, potential participants (content creators with ≥20 thousand followers, addressing topics related to healthy eating, physical activity, health, and lifestyle) were identified by searching on different social media platforms and were contacted via e-mail. The e-mail contacts included the informed consent form with general information about the topic of the FG (not providing the FG script).

Focus groups description

The five FG were carried out between February and April 2020. Two FG were conducted at the Lisbon School of Medicine campus (with citizens), two at the Portuguese Directorate-General of Health headquarters (with professionals and digital influencers), and one online via Zoom ® platform (with citizens) due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed participants from different regions of the country to be included. All FG were audio-recorded and the mean discussion time was 92 min.

A total of 30 individuals participated in the FG, including 19 citizens, five health professionals, two communication professionals, and four digital influencers (three nutritionists and one nurse). The number of participants by FG varied between four and seven. The characteristics of citizens are described in Table 1 and of health and communication professionals and digital influencers in Table 2 .

Table 1 . Characteristics of the study participants included in the focus groups with citizens conducted to explore opinions and attitudes regarding the development of healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns.

Table 2 . Characteristics of the study participants included in the focus groups with health and communication professionals and digital influencers conducted to explore opinions and attitudes regarding the development of healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns.

The FG were conducted by a moderator, a male health psychologist (MSc) with extensive training in qualitative research, together with a co-moderator (male nutritionist or female health psychologist, varying with the FG). A note-taker (female nutritionists) was always present in the room to capture the main themes discussed, as well as the non-verbal behaviors of the participants. The FG started with a brief presentation of the FG structure and aims. The moderator and co-moderator conducted the FGs according to semi-structured scripts (which differed according to the FG participants and considered previous FG emergent items and dimensions). The final FG scripts can be found in Supplementary Figure S1 . The moderator disclosed that any of the elements of the research team involved in the data collection and posterior content analysis were neither involved in the development nor the implementation of the “ Eat Better” campaign. In each FG, only the participants, the moderator, the co-moderator, and the note taker were present in the room.

To introduce the discussion regarding the “ Eat Better ” campaign, participants were exposed to the promotional materials (video, poster, and social media posts) about 20–30 min after the beginning of the FG.

Data analysis

Audio recordings were fully transcribed by an experienced researcher and writer (with extensive experience in FG transcriptions), according to a pre-defined transcription set of guidelines. The complete set of transcriptions formed the corpus and was read by two researchers independently to get familiar with and identify the main dimensions emerging from the corpus (intuitive reading). For completing the open coding process, the same authors analyzed the transcripts, line by line, using a constant comparison approach (between units of meaning—each participant occurrence—and the complete corpus: Charmaz's open coding process) ( 16 ). After this independent coding, the two researchers reached interpretative consensus (triangulating also with the FG moderator) and built up the code system (available in the Supplementary Material ). Subsequently, the codes were grouped into themes and subthemes, according to the similarity between the identified codes (axial coding), using the constant comparison method. The relationships between themes were reviewed, by re-reading the transcripts already analyzed, to compare and develop new dimensions, from a hermeneutic perspective. Finally, the relationships between themes and subthemes were examined to define the central theme of the study and, in turn, to elaborate a conceptual framework (conceptual coding). The codes and themes that emerged were reviewed by the FG moderator and one of the co-moderators, ensuring triangulation in data interpretation. The analysis was performed in MAXQDA, version 18.0.

After content analysis, participants were contacted again and asked to provide additional feedback on the findings for validating meaning and the researchers' analysis and interpretations.

Human participant compliance statement

The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Ethical Committee of the Lisbon Academic Medical Centre and the study was conducted according to the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki ( 17 ). Before the FG, all participants were informed that the sessions would be recorded for later transcription and that the data analysis would be carried out in a grouped manner, maintaining anonymity. All participants were asked to read and sign informed consent forms. Commuting costs were covered with a 10 gift card delivered to each participant.

During the FG, health mass media campaigns and healthy eating promotion campaigns were discussed. The main themes derived from the data are described below. Table 3 shows some of the supporting verbatim related to each main theme and the full list is presented in Supplementary Table S2 .

Table 3 . Supporting verbatim exemplifying the six main themes emerging from the narratives of the focus groups conducted with citizens, health and communication professionals, and digital influencers to explore opinions and attitudes regarding the development of healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns.

Considerations about informative-centered campaigns

Some participants perceived most health mass media campaigns as impersonal and uninteresting. Campaigns were recognized, typically, as an ineffective strategy to promote behavioral changes, as they were considered a mere information vehicle, lacking narratives evoking emotions. To overcome this issue, one health professional suggested that campaigns should be complemented with proximity interventions (e.g., initiatives in which health professionals, as well as public figures, from sports or science, would work out the key messages of the campaigns together with citizens). Notwithstanding, nutritional (informative content-based) literacy was understood as an essential element for healthy eating choices, even though personalized information about food habits (suited to target audiences) was deemed essential, due to interindividual differences.

Health/nutritional issues to address

In all FG, participants identified barriers to healthy eating, such as the unpleasantness associated with some healthy foods and the emotional connection that influences food choices and often compromises the adherence to a healthy food pattern.

Participants suggested that healthy eating campaigns should aim to modify the perception of what is (un)pleasant, for example, by providing recipes that do not sacrifice the taste or pleasure associated with food. In parallel, the focus on emotions and feelings associated with healthy eating behaviors was also proposed as a key point to promote changes.

Campaign formulation

In the FG with health and communication professionals, it was highlighted that health campaigns need to communicate a central message—a message that creates the need to adopt a different behavior. This message should convey an insight that is based on at least four out of five key elements: relevance of the message (to the target audience), truthiness, simplicity, originality, and excitement.

It was referred that the message can be made relevant by identification or perceived improvement. The first can be present when public figures/influencers are involved in the campaign (which was advocated in all FG). It exists when the audience identifies themselves with the public figures (participating in the campaign) that they consciously or unconsciously want to follow (or even be like). For this to happen successfully, the message should absorb the acclaimed characteristics of the public figure, so that the relationship between both parties is more easily recognized and remembered. The second is present when the target public identifies a clear benefit associated with the transmitted message and recognizes that the promoted behavior can be implemented in their lives.

The insight's key element of truthiness entails interpreting statistics and facts to turn them into compelling and emotional insights that are effective at promoting behavior change, instead of just presenting them.

To clearly transmit the campaign's message, it should be simple to interpret and practical. Whenever possible, campaigns should challenge the public with concrete tasks/behaviors, and eating behavior changes ought to be addressed in a phased manner, to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. Campaigns should present new information to increase interest and excitement. The message also needs to be adapted to the target population, which implies a segmentation of the audience according to their values and interests.

When discussing communication formats, the use of storytelling videos conveying individuals was perceived to be the most effective approach.

The communication strategy should aim to create an identity over time, making it recognizable by the audience and perceived as trustworthy, which implies regularity and coherence in the messages transmitted.

Targeted audiences

Nutritional literacy promotion was believed to be most effective when targeted to younger audiences, when many habits are more easily formed, also considering the intergenerational influence on behavior (from youngsters to adults). Moreover, it was identified the need for healthy eating campaigns to target less urbanized areas, as participants perceived that these regions are underprovided of nutritional literacy programs.

Dissemination channels

Along with other communication channels (e.g., public transportation, clinic waiting rooms, and university campuses), television was pointed out as an advantageous channel to reach less urbanized areas. However, it was noted that this format is falling into disuse, as the preference and availability for streaming services or internet entertainment are increasing.

Influencers' involvement

Influencers' (e.g., celebrities, digital influencers) involvement was recognized as a valuable element of a health campaign, because of their wider audience reach. Digital influencers' communication channels (social media platforms) were regarded as highly personal, promoting identification and empathy with the source of the information. Nonetheless, digital influencers were also recognized as responsible for the dissemination of “eating trends”.

The digital influencers participating in the FG revealed that they welcome partnerships with public health promotion campaigns if the message conveyed is aligned with their digital influencer professional project. A preference for active partnerships, where the creator is responsible for the materials, instead of just sharing a preformatted message, was also expressed. This was reinforced as essential to the influencers' involvement success, as it is a key determinant for influencers' followers to ascertain the authenticity of the message.

Our findings contribute to the understanding of how to develop healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns, from the perspective of citizens, health and communication professionals, and digital influencers.

Across the five FG, it was discussed that mass media health campaigns should be complemented with multi-agent proximity-based initiatives, address barriers to healthy eating, and aim to modify the target audience's perceptions through a message based on relevance, excitement, simplicity, truthiness, and originality. Campaigns targeting younger audiences, investing in dissemination channels that target more difficult-to-reach segments of the population, and involving familiar faces, such as digital influencers, were also highlighted.

Information-centered health mass media campaigns were considered an ineffective strategy to change health behavior. Although mass media health campaigns are expected to have small-to-moderate effects on individuals' health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, by reaching large proportions of a target population, it could translate into major population impacts ( 18 ). This type of public health strategy has been effective in improving dietary intake ( 19 ). Nevertheless, success is mainly observed when the campaign is part of a multicomponent program or comprehensive strategy ( 20 ), where health professionals play an essential role.

Indeed, health professionals (from different areas and backgrounds) should be part of the development of healthy eating promotion campaigns, following a participatory approach ( 11 ). Besides being involved in complementary actions in different contexts, as mentioned (e.g., in schools), health professionals can help define needs and priorities based on their clinical/field experience/background and develop more practical messages and activities to increase the effectiveness of the behavior change promotion (e.g., by developing recipes as suggested in the FG).

As a general consideration, health policies should promote the development of personal values that guide individuals to the healthiest possible decision-making. For this to happen, the promoted health behaviors have to be considered relevant for the short term, which is even more important for young people [who tend to have less capacity for long-term self-regulation ( 21 )]. This can be achieved if campaigns' messages convey relevance, excitement, simplicity, truthiness, and originality, as mentioned by a communication professional in the FG. It was also stated that messages should be formulated in a simple language and should make the audience feel challenged, to improve engagement.

Participants in this study recognized that adherence to a healthy food pattern is challenging. The main barriers identified were the unpleasantness often associated with healthy foods and the emotional connection that influences food choices. Other barriers have been identified, such as the time needed to prepare healthy food, the perceived cost of healthy eating, and social influences ( 22 ). When promoting eating behavior change, it was stressed that a stepped approach is necessary and that the health campaign should create an identity over time, which entails regularity and coherence related to the messages transmitted. In fact, broad and limited-duration health campaigns targeting the adoption of multiple behaviors are not thought to be successful ( 4 ). The campaign's identity needs to communicate who the campaign promoter is, what it stands for (regarding values and goals), how it works, and the intended relationship with the subject and the audience; it should also include the perceptions people hold about the issue of the campaign ( 23 ), which reinforces the need for formative research to adequately segment the target population before campaign development, identifying the most appropriate communication strategies ( 24 ).

Amidst other dissemination channels, television was regarded as advantageous, in particular, to reach less urbanized areas. Television has been considered the most effective media channel to reach most people ( 13 ) and the most recalled delivery channel in health campaign assessments ( 7 , 25 ). One of the main reasons is that television content is consumed passively and easily, implying little effort from the audience to receive the message ( 13 ). Additionally, healthy eating has been negatively linked to watching television, meaning that it could effectively reach audiences in need of campaigns promoting healthy eating ( 26 ). Regarding difficult-to-reach population strata, and in line with participants' opinions, television is effective in reaching audiences with basic education and lower income, which could be attributed to higher consumption of television ( 7 ). These considerations are relevant when aiming to reduce health inequities. Health inequities are caused by a complex set of interrelated factors at the environmental, societal, socioeconomic, individual, and behavioral levels ( 27 ). The causes include, but are not limited to, differential exposure to environmental health agents ( 27 ) and deliberate efforts to reach underserved populations, namely when defining mass media campaigns dissemination, are necessary.

Nutritional literacy promotion was believed to be more effective when targeted to younger audiences. It has been recognized by health professionals that social media provides a pivotal opportunity to reach and engage with young adults that may not otherwise seek out health professionals in more traditional settings ( 28 ). However, despite its growing popularity, public and non-profit sectors are underusing social media in a way that maximizes their capacity to engage with their followers ( 29 ). Social media can act as a platform to deliver and increase exposure to evidence-based key messages of health promotion campaigns and to encourage young adults to participate and engage ( 30 ). Young adults are interested in using social media for learning about nutrition-related information and recognize the usefulness of social media channels to learn about recipes and healthy eating ( 30 ). In our study, digital influencers were available to be involved in health promotion campaigns if the messages are aligned and tailored to narratives fitting their professional project.

In the present study, we sought out perspectives from different backgrounds and professional occupations that could influence the way that participants would look at the subject under study. Although this study was conducted with a diversified sample of Portuguese participants, the collected perspectives are surely not limited to Portuguese reality. As discussed, many opinions expressed in the FG agree with current literature, highlighting priorities that should be considered when dealing with communities, even outside Portugal. Nevertheless, data saturation may have not been reached due to the relatively small number of FG per type of participant, mainly with health and communication professionals and digital influencers. Additional research is needed to clarify and expand the obtained results. Nonetheless, these findings contribute to the overall knowledge in this field of research and provide valuable and useful information for informing the development of health campaigns. Despite efforts to create a comfortable environment, some opinions and attitudes perceived as rare or unpopular may not have been shared and participants may have expressed the opinions that they thought the researchers wanted to hear and future studies would benefit from a data collection methods triangulation (namely, with individual in-depth interviews).

The involvement of citizens, health and communication professionals, and digital influencers allowed us to understand different and complementary perspectives on how healthy eating promotion campaigns should be developed, regarding goals, messages' content and formulation, means of dissemination, and the usage of social media platforms. Our findings provide relevant insights that should be considered when developing health mass media campaigns. Actively involving the public at the different stages of public health campaigns can be a relevant determinant of success.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by Ethical Committee of the Lisbon Academic Medical Centre. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author contributions

OS, RF-S, and AV designed the study and moderated the focus groups. CC and RM analyzed the data and wrote the first draft. All authors reviewed and made valuable contributions to the manuscript.

This work was supported by the Portuguese Directorate-General of Health. The Directorate-General of Health had no role in the design, the analysis of this work, and the decision to publish. Researchers affiliated with the Portuguese Directorate-General of Health reviewed and made valuable contributions to the manuscript. The writing of the manuscript was also supported by funds from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia to ISAMB (ref. UIDB/04295/2020 and UIDP/04295/2020).


The authors want to acknowledge each of the participants for their proactive participation in the FG. We are also grateful to Luís Caminha (pseudonymous of António Júnior) for the transcription of the FG.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher's note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Supplementary material

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at:

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Keywords: health promotion, feeding behavior, mass media campaigns, public health, qualitative research

Citation: Capitão C, Martins R, Feteira-Santos R, Virgolino A, Graça P, Gregório MJ and Santos O (2022) Developing healthy eating promotion mass media campaigns: A qualitative study. Front. Public Health 10:931116. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.931116

Received: 28 April 2022; Accepted: 08 July 2022; Published: 29 July 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Capitão, Martins, Feteira-Santos, Virgolino, Graça, Gregório and Santos. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Carolina Capitão,

† These authors have contributed equally to this work and share first authorship

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN : 978-1-78560-785-1 , eISBN : 978-1-78560-784-4

Publication date: 23 February 2016

The study seeks to introduce a new media model that (1) clearly illustrates the role of mass media in the transmission of cultural messages, and (2) helps to explain variations in the reception and employment of cultural messages by members of the same culture.


Drawing on decades of theorizing in cultural sociology and communication studies, as well as data from two qualitative content analyses, a new model was developed, explained, and then applied to a specific cultural phenomenon.

Mass media are significant transmitters of cultural messages and play an influential role in shaping culture, yet the process is complex. There is great variety in what messages are accepted by different consumers, how they are interpreted, and how they ultimately are employed (or not). Further, cultures that include contradictory messages are more likely to inadvertently promote deviant paths to culturally valued goals.

Research limitations/implications

First, the model only addresses one dimension of the relationship between mass media and culture; it does not explain cultural influences on mass media. Second, the model does not specifically address recent changes in the media landscape, though an accommodation is suggested. Finally, the model needs additional testing before its utility can be reasonably determined.


First, a new model is introduced that clearly illustrates the complex process by which cultural messages are transmitted to receivers via mass media. Second, the model introduces the concept of “cultural capacity” to complement existing concepts and advance understanding of the operation of culture.

  • Cultural model
  • Serial murder

Wiest, J.B. (2016), "The Role of Mass Media in the Transmission of Culture", Communication and Information Technologies Annual ( Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 11 ), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 203-219.

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Copyright © 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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  • Published: 05 September 2023

Mass media impact on opinion evolution in biased digital environments: a bounded confidence model

  • Valentina Pansanella 1 , 4 ,
  • Alina Sîrbu 2 ,
  • Janos Kertesz 3 &
  • Giulio Rossetti 4  

Scientific Reports volume  13 , Article number:  14600 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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  • Complex networks
  • Computational science
  • Computer science
  • Human behaviour

People increasingly shape their opinions by accessing and discussing content shared on social networking websites. These platforms contain a mixture of other users’ shared opinions and content from mainstream media sources. While online social networks have fostered information access and diffusion, they also represent optimal environments for the proliferation of polluted information and contents, which are argued to be among the co-causes of polarization/radicalization phenomena. Moreover, recommendation algorithms - intended to enhance platform usage - likely augment such phenomena, generating the so-called Algorithmic Bias . In this work, we study the effects of the combination of social influence and mass media influence on the dynamics of opinion evolution in a biased online environment, using a recent bounded confidence opinion dynamics model with algorithmic bias as a baseline and adding the possibility to interact with one or more media outlets, modeled as stubborn agents. We analyzed four different media landscapes and found that an open-minded population is more easily manipulated by external propaganda - moderate or extremist - while remaining undecided in a more balanced information environment. By reinforcing users’ biases, recommender systems appear to help avoid the complete manipulation of the population by external propaganda.

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Opinions and beliefs shape individual behavior, which drives human actions, and a society’s collective behavior, influencing politics, public health, and the environment. Changes in public opinion - even the formation of committed minorities - may profoundly affect decision-making and politics: a recent example is the temporary suspension of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine during March 2021 1 , which has cost a slowdown in the vaccination strategy and had direct consequences on public health. Social interactions 2 are the main ingredient driving the opinion evolution process. According to social influence theory 3 , an interaction between social agents typically reduces the difference between their opinions or, at worst, leaves it unchanged. Besides social influence, opinion formation also depends on the information people collect from external sources (mainly in the form of mass media broadcasts), enhancing awareness of socio-political issues and events 4 , 5 . For instance, traditional mass media have been argued to influence individual and public health 6 , 7 on issues ranging from eating disorders 8 , tobacco consumption 9 , and vaccinations 10 . Moreover, news articles, TV news, and political talk shows all play a central role in shaping opinions, especially when it comes to the communication of political information, which is a key process in the political system, arguably holding the power to manipulate how people think about internal and international politics.

However, media coverage often exhibits an internal bias, reflected in the news and commonly referred to as media bias 11 . Factors influencing this bias include ownership or a specific political or ideological stance of the outlet and its target audience 12 . Media choices can also be influenced by their profit-oriented nature, leading to content selection aligned with the audience’s interests that fuels this profit, disregarding issues and problems (and portions of the population, such as minorities) that would guarantee fewer earnings 13 .

As theoretical studies show, reading news or being the target of mass political propaganda 14 , 15 may affect our belief system. External agents (i.e. a government, a company, or a group of terrorists) may be interested in actively shifting the public’s opinion concerning a specific topic. Propaganda can be exploited to try and promote one opinion over the others 16 , to achieve a certain value for the consensus opinion 17 , or even to prevent people from reaching more extreme opinions 18 . However, when agents have different opinions, a single aggressive media may, in reality, produces an undesired result 19 : an antagonist cluster at the opposite extreme of the opinion spectrum.

Besides the information social agents can access, and how this information is presented to them, a series of internal mechanisms play an important role in shaping opinions and beliefs. The way people process information is, in fact, far from being perfectly rational and is highly influenced by psychological factors and cognitive biases 20 . Psychological studies 21 , 22 have observed that people, both online and offline, feel discomfort when encountering opinions and ideas that contradict their existing beliefs, i.e. experience cognitive dissonance 23 . Such cognitive biases have often been studied through models of bounded confidence 24 , i.e. the tendency to ignore beliefs that are too far from our current ones, or mimicking the backfire effects 25 , i.e. the tendency to reject countering evidence and to strengthen the support to the current belief. When considering cognitive biases, extremist propaganda may become efficient when the message is promoted with a certain frequency 26 . When the propaganda is made on more moderate stances or when the population is more open-minded, the population conforms to the propaganda if the message is delivered frequently enough. When the media landscape is heterogeneous 27 , media outlets can employ different strategies to maximize their audience. For instance, on some issues of general interest, each media outlet tries to imitate successful behaviors (e.g. promoting closer opinions to the most followed media). On other more ideologically charged issues, media outlets may compete (i.e. disagreeing with the other media), promoting thus opinion fragmentation in the population. The presence of repulsive behaviors 28 suggests that propaganda can drive the population to form a consensus around an external message, regardless of whether the message is extreme or moderate: as a result of wanting to be apart, agents end up together sharing the same opinion.

While such a dynamic has always existed, how people retrieve information has profoundly changed in the last twenty years. Television remains the most common media source among Europeans 29 , but the use of the Internet and online social networks (OSNs) is steadily rising alongside the decline of the readership of newspapers. However, OSNs are also environments where individuals express their opinions, discuss, and share content from other sources. These environments are ruled by algorithms that filter and personalize each user’s experience accordingly to their and their friends’ past behavior. This is intended to maximize users’ engagement and enhance platform usage, however it is theorized that filtering algorithms and recommender systems are likely to create an algorithmic bias 30 . By showing people only narratives aligned with their own existing beliefs, a positive feedback loop is obtained, reducing the amount of diversity in the user experience, contributing to the creation and maintenance of echo chambers 31 and filter bubbles 32 , 33 , 34 . Although personalization is essential in information-rich environments (to allow people to find what they are looking for and increase user engagement), there is great concern about the negative consequences of algorithmic filtering. Therefore, understanding how mass media information impacts public opinion and how cognitive and algorithmic biases play a role in social influence mechanisms is essential to enrich our understanding of human behavior and also to define mitigation strategies to avoid unintended consequences.

In this paper, we approach such a goal through the lens of opinion dynamics models 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , a field of study born within the statistical physics area which is now mainly studied through the lens of computational social sciences. Indeed, the possible effects of mass media have been widely investigated through such models 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 18 , 26 , 27 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 46 , 47 . However, to the best of ourknowledge, none of these works combine the role of online platforms and algorithmic biases with different possible media landscapes. The present work aims to analyze the effects of different mass media landscapes - ranging from extremist propaganda to a more balanced opinion diet - in a synthetic environment, simulating a general OSN where agents can interact with each other, but interactions are always mediated by a recommender system, selecting content aligned with agent beliefs. To investigate the role of mass media in shaping public opinion, we extended the Algorithmic Bias model 30 (which, in turn, extends the Deffuant-Weisbuch one 24 ), adding the possibility to specify a number of external mass media agents, defining the opinions they promote, and the frequency of agent-media interactions. We conducted numerical simulations to examine this extended model and analyzed the outcomes within the context of mean-field scenarios. Furthermore, we present a case study on a real-world network, illustrating how this model effectively captures a behavior that the baseline model fails to capture.

The present work aims to extend the Algorithmic Bias model 30 to understand how interacting with mass media in a biased environment (i.e. ruled by recommender systems and filtering algorithms) influence the outcome of the opinion evolution. In our simulations, we consider 100 agents with continuous opinions in the interval [0, 1], which can model opinions on any issue, with values 0 and 1 representing the most extreme opinions. The agents are allowed to interact with each other at discrete time intervals and with a fixed number of M stubborn agents, representing traditional media outlets that promote a fixed opinion over the whole time period. To represent this environment realistically, interactions (agent-to-agent and media-to-agent) are subject to cognitive and algorithmic biases. The stronger the algorithmic bias, \(\gamma\) , the higher the probability of interacting with similar agents and the lower the probability of interacting with different ones. Cognitive bias - specifically bounded confidence - limits interaction to an agent’s opinion neighborhood: two agents influence each other (according to social influence theory, adopting their mean opinion) if and only if their initial opinion distance is below a certain threshold \(\epsilon\) . This parameter is constant across the whole population and over time. In the reminder of the present work we often refer to it as the level of “open-mindedness” of the population because bounded confidence and open-mindedness both involve a willingness to consider different perspectives within certain limits. On the other hand, influenciability refers to being easily swayed by others, regardless of the strength of their arguments. Thus, we felt that open-mindedness was a more appropriate term for describing the bounded confidence threshold in our paper (for example as in 48 ). However, it’s important to note that in opinion dynamics models, behavioral and psychological factors are often simplified and represented by model parameters. As a result, nuances can be lost and the bounded confidence threshold could also be interpreted as influenciability. To control the frequency of interactions with the media, we set a fixed probability \(p_m\) - constant over time and across the whole population - which defines how likely it is to interact with a news piece (stubborn agent) after a user-to-user interaction. In our experiments, we assumed a mean-field context (e.g. all individuals can interact with all other agents without any social restrictions), which is a good starting point for analyzing the behavior of an opinion dynamics model. The model is detailed in Sect. " Model and methods ".

The scenarios we analyzed in the present work are (i) a single moderate media ( \(x_m = 0.5\) ), to discover whether a “moderate message” would prevent the population from polarising in cases where it would happen without propaganda; (ii) extremist propaganda, where there is only one news source promoting a fixed extreme opinion (in this case, it was set to \(x_m = 0.0\) , but the same conclusions hold for 1.0); (iii) two polarised media sources, promoting two opinions at the opposite sides of the opinion spectrum ( \(x_{m1} = 0.05 \text { and } x_{m2} = 0.95\) ); (iv) finally, we also investigated a more balanced scenario where there are two polarised media sources (same as above) and a moderate one (promoting the central opinion of the spectrum, i.e. \(x_{m3}=0.5\) ).

Without external effects, the population tends to: (i) polarise around moderately extreme positions (i.e. 0.2 and 0.8) when agents are “close-minded” ( \(\epsilon \le 0.32\) ); (ii) reach consensus around the mean opinion (i.e. 0.5) when agents are “open-minded” ( \(\epsilon > 0.32\) ), while the recommender system increases polarization/fragmentation, as shown in 30 .

In the remainder of this section, we analyzed these four different media landscapes and their effects on the opinion dynamics compared to the baseline model 30 .

A moderate media in a biased environment favors the emergence of extremist minorities

figure 1

Average number of clusters in the moderate setting. In the figure, the average number of clusters of the final opinion distribution is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different bounded confidence values \(\epsilon\) . Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

figure 2

Average percentage of agents in the media cluster (0.5) in the moderate setting. In the figure, the average percentage of agents in the moderate cluster (0.5 +– 0.01) of the final opinion distribution is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different bounded confidence values \(\epsilon\) . Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

In the first setting, we analyzed the effects of a “moderate message” on the opinion formation process, i.e. a single mass media promoting a central opinion ( \(x_m = 0.5\) ). We start from the hypothesis that such a media landscape may counteract the polarizing effects of a low bounded confidence \(\epsilon\) or the fragmenting effects of a high algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) . Bounded confidence, as in the baseline model, can be so high that all agents are eventually drawn towards the same opinion (regardless of the strength of algorithmic bias), as in the case of \(\epsilon =0.5\) (Fig. 1 d). In general, in this setting, both cognitive and algorithmic biases maintain the effects they have in the baseline model: a higher confidence bound is more likely to push the population towards consensus, while a higher algorithmic bias increases the level of fragmentation in the final opinion distribution.

What emerged from our simulations is that, when interactions are not mediated by the recommender system ( \(\gamma =0\) ), fragmentation increases with the frequency of agent-to-media interactions: in fact, the average number of opinion clusters at equilibrium (see Fig. 1 ) increases with ( \(p_m\) ). Such tendency is due to the fact that, by increasing \(p_m\) , the portion of the population which initially has the media within their confidence bound moves towards such opinion faster than in the baseline model , thus reducing the probability of attracting agents at a distance greater than \(\epsilon\) from the media that, in turn, will eventually stabilize around more extreme positions. When the social dynamic is, instead, mediated by a filtering algorithm, biasing the choice of the interacting partner towards like-minded individuals, the level of opinion fragmentation in the population is initially lower (for small \(p_m\) ) with respect to the baseline model ( \(p_m=0.0\) ), but - likewise - it grows as agent-to-media interactions become more frequent. These results disprove our initial hypothesis that a “moderate” propaganda may straightforwardly counter polarization/fragmentation. Instead, promoting a single “moderate” opinion may not push the population to conform towards the desired point of view. Fragmentation is reduced only when the frequency of interaction with media is low. Otherwise, it also becomes a fragmenting factor.

Besides the number of clusters that coexist in the stable state, if we look at the whole opinion evolution process, we can see that there is always a portion of the population clustering around the media opinion (i.e. with opinion \(x_i \in [0.5 +/- 0.01]\) , while a small fraction assumes extremist positions. Figure 2 shows this cluster’s population percentage. The more open-minded the population and the higher the frequency of agent-to-media interactions, the larger the portion of agents that the media can rapidly attract towards the average opinion: thus, pushing the population towards consensus and countering the slowing down effect created by the algorithmic bias. Moreover, as we can see from Fig. 2 , while in the baseline model, only a narrow portion of the population assumes the mean opinion, when a moderate media is promoting that opinion, we can see that the portion of the population ending in the moderate cluster in the steady state grows even with just a low probability to interact with the media and narrow open-mindedness threshold. Therefore, while consensus is not fully reached, a major cluster around the media is observed. Conversely, in the case of media absence ( \(p_m=0.0\) ), there is a higher variability in the final size of the moderate cluster. Even when a consensus forms, it is not necessarily around the mean opinion. Otherwise, the population polarizes around mildly extreme ones (around 0.2 and 0.8), avoiding the creation and maintenance of strongly extremist minorities, as it happens in the present model (see Supplementary Materials Figs. S8 – S11 ).

However, when interactions are mediated by a filtering algorithm - \(\gamma > 0\) , the media can attract a smaller fraction of the population since agents holding more extreme opinions are much less likely to interact with those in the sphere of influence of the moderate media. Overall, our experiments showed that the algorithmic bias maintains its fragmenting power: specifically, as the bias grows, the extremist clusters that coexist with the moderate one increase in size, but also in dispersion, eventually splitting into multiple smaller clusters. At the same time, the fragmenting effect of the recommender system decreases the size of the moderates/neutrals cluster, especially in the case of moderately close-minded populations (Fig. 2 ), but not in a significant way (at least with the population size considered in the present work). We include in the Supplementary Materials a comprehensive analysis of results of simulations with different parameter settings.

Extremist media shifts consensus in open-minded populations

figure 3

Average number of clusters in the extremist setting. In the figure, the average number of clusters of the final opinion distribution is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different values of \(\epsilon\) . Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

figure 4

Average percentage of agents in the media cluster (0.0) in the extremist setting. In the figure, the average percentage of users in the extremist cluster ([0.0, 0.01]) is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different values of \(\epsilon\) . Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

To investigate the effects of extremist propaganda and its effectiveness in shifting the consensus towards the desired opinion, we set the number of mass media outlets to \(M=1\) and the promoted opinion to \(x_m=0.0\) .

Like in the moderate setting, the baseline model’s cognitive and algorithmic biases effects also remain in this setting. In the same way, an increase in the frequency of interaction with extremist propaganda (when \(\gamma =0\) ) translates into an increase in the fragmentation of the final population. The number of clusters of the final opinion distributions, in fact, grows with \(p_m\) (Fig. 3 ). For example, when the population is close-minded ( \(\epsilon =0.2\) ), in the absence of propaganda ( \(p_m=0\) ), in the final state, there are two main clusters (on average), while as \(p_m\) increases, the number of clusters approaches 3. In the same way, as the population is more “open-minded” - so the number of clusters in the baseline model is lower - interacting with the propaganda still generates an increase in the number of clusters (moving the population from consensus around one opinion to clustering around two opinion values for \(\epsilon =0.3\) and also \(\epsilon =0.4\) , even if in this case on average there is a consistent majority cluster). Despite the fact that an extreme opinion is promoted (while, without external effects, agents tend to conform to moderate positions), in this case, bounded confidence or, in other words, the level of “open-mindedness” of the population, can be so high that all agents are eventually drawn towards the same opinion, as in the case of \(\epsilon =0.5\) (Fig. 3 d). This fact still holds when the interactions are mediated by a recommender system ( \(\gamma > 0\) ), biasing the choice of the interacting partner towards like-minded individuals, but it is less evident due to the fragmenting power of the algorithmic bias. For example, when the population is close-minded, we tend to have an average of three or four clusters in a biased environment.

It is important to note that, compared to the moderate situation, the fragmenting effect of the external media is stronger for an extremist message. The number of clusters reported in Fig. 1 is generally smaller than that reported in Fig. 3 .

In the present model, differently from the baseline 30 , i.e. \(p_m=0.0\) , the population splits into more than one cluster when \(\gamma > 0\) and \(\epsilon\) is sufficiently low. One of these clusters always forms around the extreme media opinion ( \(x_m=0.0\) ) while - as the bias grows - the rest of the population either clusters around a single value on the opposite side of the opinion spectrum or fragments into multiple small clusters (and their distance from the extremist propaganda increases with the open-mindedness of the population). This effect is stronger as the algorithmic bias increases and as the frequency of interaction with the media grows. In the case of extremist propaganda, as we can expect, a higher portion of the population in the stable state is an extremist, holding the same opinion promoted by the media (see Fig. 4 ). Additionally, the higher the open-mindedness of the population, i.e. the higher the confidence bound \(\epsilon\) , the higher the dimension of the extremist cluster - until ( \(\epsilon \ge 0.5\) ) the population is entirely attracted towards this extreme position (Fig. 4 d). However, as the bias increases, the final number of opinion clusters increases, and the average number of agents in the extremist cluster decreases: the fact that algorithmic bias increases fragmentation in the population causes - in this case - the formation and maintenance of an “opposition” cluster (see also Figs. S18 – S21 in the Supplementary Materials), countering the process of complete radicalization of the population. As the bias increases, of course, this cluster becomes more dispersed with respect to its average opinion, and for extreme biases, it fragments into a series of small opinion clusters. Therefore we can conclude that algorithmic bias acts as a partial protector against the message of one extremist media.

It is also worth noticing that, with \(p_m > 0\) , all other parameters being equal, the size of the extremist cluster does not increase with the probability of interaction with the media; on the contrary, the maximum size is reached for low or intermediate values of \(p_m\) (see Fig. 4 ). Also, in this case, such behavior is tied to the fact that, even if the frequency of interaction with the media increases, those agents that initially are within the sphere of influence of the media will converge towards an extremist position more rapidly, thus losing the ability to attract those who are outside of it. When dealing with close-minded agents, less frequent propaganda can attract a higher fraction of the population with respect to more intense propaganda. If the population is open-minded, the frequency of interactions with the media loses most of its discriminant power: if at least half of the agents are already initially influenceable by the media, the whole population will converge towards the media opinion.

Polarised media increase the divide

figure 5

Average number of clusters in the polarised setting. In the figure, the average number of clusters of the final opinion distribution is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different values of the cognitive bias \(\epsilon\) . Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

Public debates are often characterized by bi-polarity, a situation where two opposing views are proposed and debated. For example, media polarization in the U.S. has increased in the past half-decade, and both liberal and conservative partisan media are likely contributing to polarization in the Cable news networks 49 . While acknowledging that our synthetic setting represents a simplification of the complex dynamics at play, it nevertheless presents a scenario that merits further investigation. To recreate such a scenario - even if simplistically -, we simulated the presence of two extremist media outlets in the population, promoting opinions at the opposite sides of the opinion spectrum, - i.e. we set \(x_{m1} = 0.05\) and \(x_{m2}=0.95\) . As expected, the presence of two polarised media increases the system’s polarization, which would already naturally arise due to the effects of the cognitive and algorithmic biases ( \(\epsilon \le 0.3\) ), but the presence of the media pushes the population towards the media opinions - which are more extreme than the ones that naturally form in the baseline model (see Fig. 5 a,b and Fig. S24 in the Supplementary Materials). The presence of these two media, moreover, can bring the population towards polarization/fragmentation even in cases where the baseline model would predict full consensus ( \(\epsilon =0.4\) ), a fragmentation exacerbated by the recommender system effects (see Fig. 5 c,d). On the other hand, in “close-minded” populations, the byproduct of agent-to-media interactions increasing the number of opinion clusters is that the rapid polarization of the extremes of the population results in the formation of a cluster of “moderate” agents, coexisting with polarized groups. On the one hand, this reduces the level of polarization in the population with respect to the baseline model. On the other hand, the polarized subpopulations are more extremist than in the baseline. As the filtering power of the recommender system increases, such a moderate cluster splits into multiple small ones, still concentrated around the center of the opinion spectrum (see Figs. S29 – S32 in the Supplementary Materials for an example of the opinion evolution). Moreover, as the algorithmic bias grows, the two extremist clusters reduce their sizes, and more agents become neutral, even if they hold a wider range of opinions. This is because a reduced fraction of agents interacts with extremist media and/or peers that end up in the extremist cluster early in the process. Therefore, they cannot attract a more significant portion of the population with respect to the case where the filtering power of the recommender system is more robust. As the open-mindedness of the population grows, an increasingly stronger algorithmic bias is needed to maintain the moderate cluster, and, in most cases, the population tends to polarise, with the two sub-populations approaching the media opinions. The population is, in this scenario, ultimately radicalized around very extreme positions (0.05 or 0.95), similar to the case of a single extreme media. Finally, the recommender system makes the polarization process faster than what was observed in the baseline model, allowing fewer opinion clusters to coexist during the opinion dynamics.

Open-minded populations are unstable in a balanced media landscape

figure 6

Average number of clusters in the balanced setting. In the figure, the average number of clusters of the final opinion distribution is represented as a function of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) and the probability of user-media interaction \(p_m\) for different \(\epsilon\) values. Values are averaged on 100 independent runs of each setting.

In the last setting, we considered a more balanced information environment, with the presence of two extremist media in the population, promoting opinions at the opposite sides of the opinion spectrum, - i.e. we set \(x_{m1} = 0.05\) and \(x_{m2}=0.95\) , alongside with a moderate media, with \(x_{m3}=0.5\) . In this setting, agents can retrieve from mass media both moderate and extremist points of view.

This more balanced news diet appears to still foster fragmentation. In fact, the higher the frequency of agent-to-media interactions, the more fragmented is the final population, as we can see from the average number of opinion clusters in the final population, which grows with \(p_m\) (Fig. 6 ) and from the average pairwise distance, indicating how far are the peaks in the final opinion distribution (see Fig. S35 in the Supplementary Materials).

In this case, the algorithmic bias maintains its fragmenting power for a close-minded population (i.e. \(\epsilon \le 0.3\) ). As the bias grows, the number of clusters increases, but it never exceeds three (Fig. 6 a,b) since the population tends to rapidly converge towards the media opinions (see Figs. S42 – S45 in the Supplementary Materials). The combination of a higher frequency of agent-to-media interactions, and the fact that interactions are biased towards similar opinions, allows each media to rapidly attract a portion of the population towards the promoted opinion.

On the other hand, in open-minded populations, \(\epsilon \ge 0.4\) , the relationship with the bias changes: from our experiments, it emerged that fragmentation is higher for low (Fig. 6 c) or intermediate (Fig. 6 d) values of the algorithmic bias \(\gamma\) , as the number of clusters in the final opinion distribution shows.

However, due to a stronger bias, the fragmentation that arises in the final state is not like the one reached in 30 . In that case, it was a stable state. In this case, the dynamic never reaches equilibrium, and agents keep changing their opinions influenced by the fixed opinions of the media. Nevertheless, in the cases where consensus can be reached, if open-mindedness is high, the dynamic is still unstable, and it takes a long time for the population to reach a consensus. Let us recall that the distance between two adjacent media is 0.45, so when \(\epsilon =0.4\) agents holding an opinion between 0.10 and 0.45 or between 0.55 and 0.9 can be attracted by the moderate media and one extremist media that falls within their confidence bound and this generates an unstable stationary state preventing the system from reaching equilibrium. Obviously, the higher the open-mindedness, the higher the number of clusters (and the average entropy of the final distribution) since agents are distributed on a wider opinion spectrum, and real clusters do not form. This effect is counteracted by a high algorithmic bias, which practically impedes the interaction with the furthest media, even if in the range of the confidence bound.

Algorithmic bias depolarizes discussion on EURO2020 “taking the knee” controversy

figure 7

Joint distribution of the opinion of users and average leaning of their neighborhood. We display the first snapshot \(G_0\) (initial matches)( a ); the second snapshot \(G_1\) (quarter-finals to final) ( b ); the final state of the simulation of the Algorithmic Bias Model with Mass Media and Heterogeneous Confidence Bounds with \(p_m=0.5\) , \(\gamma =1.5\) and \(x_m=0.87\) ( c ); and the final state of the simulation of the Algorithmic Bias Model with Mass Media and Heterogeneous Confidence Bounds with \(p_m=0.5\) , \(\gamma =1.5\) and \(x_m=0.28\) ( d ).

Despite trying to capture possible real dynamics with mathematical models of opinion formation, such synthetic settings may fail to capture peculiar characteristics of real networks, e.g. scale-free degree distributions and modular structures, but also polarized initial conditions, which may characterize discussions around controversial topics. Such diverse conditions may lead to different conclusions than the ones obtained in the mean-field case. For this reason, we exploited an empirical network collected from Twitter during EURO2020, where Italian users expressed their stances on the controversy around taking the knee in favor of the Black Lives Matter protests 50 . We simulated our model using this network as starting condition (both topology and initial opinion distribution) for different values of the model’s parameters. We include the results of simulations of the various settings in the Supplementary Materials, while here we discuss the most important ones. Our findings suggest that consensus may be reached in the final state when considering a homogeneous confidence threshold in scenarios with no media present or only a single media source. Even if such results are not averaged over multiple runs, these results may imply that scale-free degree distributions and modular topologies enhance consensus when the population has a homogeneous level of bounded confidence that is not lower than 0.2. However, an exception arises when there are no media sources, and a parameter value of \(\gamma\) =1.5 is applied. In this case, the final opinion distribution becomes fragmented, characterized by two main clusters centered around the average leaning of the “pro” faction and the average leaning of the “against” faction (see Supplementary Figs. 51 – 54 ). In this case, the bias may be too strong for users to converge toward a common opinion. When two polarized media sources are introduced (see Supplementary Fig. 55 ), opinions are concentrated around a moderate opinion in the final distributions. It exhibits a Gaussian shape, suggesting that the population tends to converge towards a common opinion in this case too. However, the presence of polarized media may keep users leaning toward more extreme positions. Adding a “moderate” media to this scenario, our observations reveal that the final opinion distribution remains symmetric and peaked around the center of the opinion spectrum. However, the distribution variance decreases compared to the previous scenario, i.e. people tend to homologate even more around a single opinion value, and variability is reduced. Furthermore, as the bias ( \(\gamma\) ) increases, the variance continues to decrease, and for \(\gamma =1.0\) , a single main opinion cluster emerges in the final state. Nevertheless, if the bias increases, e.g. \(\gamma =1.5\) , the final distribution splits into distinct opinion clusters centered around the media opinion. Moreover, since assumptions of homogeneous parameters are considered unrealistic, we exploited a methodology developed in 51 to estimate user-level open-mindedness ( \(\epsilon _i\) ) and simulated a heterogeneous extension of our model. We include the results of simulations of this second set of experiments in the Supplementary Materials (see Supplementary Figs. 58 – 63 ), while here we discuss the most important ones. As displayed in Fig. 7 a, users were embedded into echo chambers around pro and against stances on the discussion during the first two matches. However, when considering the period from the quarter-finals to the final (Fig. 7 b), the same users are mainly clustered around positions in favor of kneeling, and polarization appears to be reduced. Simulations of our model, which exploits the first network as initial conditions of the simulations and accounts for heterogeneous levels of the confidence threshold estimated from the data according to the procedure in 51 , appear to confirm some of the insights offered by the mean-field analysis on the complete network with homogeneous parameters. The main conclusion that also holds in a real setting is that the algorithmic bias favors opinion fragmentation but, in doing so, helps to reduce the level of polarization of the network (see Fig. 7 c and d) when there is an external source (or even a highly influential user) promoting one stance over the other. However, the setting that better captures the real opinion evolution can be seen in Fig. 7 d, where a stubborn agent is promoting a fixed opinion aligned with the stance in favor of players “taking the knee”. However, in Fig. 7 c, where the media is aligned with the opposite stance, the community that becomes less polarized is the other one, differently from the real situation.

A bounded confidence model of opinion dynamics with algorithmic bias and mass media agents was presented and studied in a mean-field setting. The model is an extension of the Algorithmic Bias model 30 to include one or more mass media outlets. In the present work, media are modeled as stubborn agents, each promoting a fixed opinion and connected to every agent of the population. We analyzed four different settings, each representing a specific media landscape: in the first, a single moderate media is present; in the second, the single media supports extremist propaganda; in the third, two polarised media promote extreme and opposite opinions; and in the latter, a third media, promoting a moderate opinion, is added to the polarised setting. Our experiments reveal that mass media have an essential role in pushing people towards conformity and promoting the desired point(s) of view, but not in a straightforward manner, as adherence to the media message depends highly on cognitive and algorithmic bias and on the strength of the media itself. As we saw in the “moderate setting” (Sect. " Results "), an open-minded population tends to conform to moderate opinions, and only a few individuals will not. The main result of the “moderate message” is concentrating the central consensus cluster around the desired value. As expected, the size of the non-conforming clusters increases with algorithmic bias and decreases with open-mindedness. However, the size of the extremist nonconforming clusters also appears to increase in the strength of the moderate message. This is counterintuitive and indicates that, in general, not only the message has to be moderate, but also the frequency with which the message is presented has to be reduced. Moderation is necessary for all aspects to maximize adherence to the message.

Analyzing the results of the “extremist propaganda”, we saw that the power to push individuals towards the media opinion is not dependent on such opinion. In this case, the open-minded population tends to become extremist because agents are pushed toward the media opinion and conform to that value. Again, we observe that the maximum adherence to the media message is always obtained for moderate frequencies of interaction with media.

In a polarised media landscape, with two poles promoting extreme and opposite opinions, the more “open-minded” is the population - or, in other words, the easier it is to change peoples’ minds - the more likely the population will end up in one or two (oppositely) polarised extremist clusters. Also, in such a scenario, even when there would be a consensus around a moderate opinion, a higher frequency of interaction with the two extremist media is enough to push the population towards polarised stances, with two clusters forming around the media opinions.

In a balanced media landscape, when populations are close-minded, the more agents interact with mass media, the more they attract a portion of the population towards the promoted opinion. The effects of cognitive biases, i.e. bounded confidence, generally maintain the same role they have in the baseline model: the more “open-minded” is the population, the easier agents conform around the promoted opinion(s). However, when agents have access to multiple information sources (besides their peers’ opinions), “open-mindedness” leads to a population of indecisive individuals and unstable dynamics that prevent the system from reaching equilibrium.

Real network structures, characterized by scale-free degree distributions, modular structures, and polarized initial conditions, clearly impact the results of the dynamics of the present model. When open-mindedness is homogeneous across the population, users tend to converge towards a single opinion value, which depends on the initial average opinion and the opinion promoted by a single media. When the media landscape is more heterogeneous, i.e. media supporting two opposite stances, the population still tends to conform to a moderate stance. However, the final distribution has a higher variability, with some users maintaining more extreme leanings. Such variability is reduced when the media landscape actively promotes more moderate stances. In the case study, cognitive biases do not play a role in the result of the dynamics, while the role of the algorithmic bias remains the same as in the baseline model. However, when inferring open-mindedness levels from empirical data and using the real distribution of the parameter to simulate the model, results show final polarization distribution closer to the real ones, and the depolarizing role of the algorithmic bias emerges. Specifically, the real final state is well approximated by the setting where there is a recommender system biasing interactions and a mass media promoting an opinion aligned with the “pro-taking-the-knee” faction.

We typically give a positive value to a highly open-minded population, i.e. a population where agents have a high confidence bound. However, a higher open-mindedness in the presence of mass media may mean that the whole population is attracted to an extremist position, as we saw in the case of extremist propaganda or two polarised media. Even if the media is not extremist - it still means that the population conforms towards a single point of view, converging faster and perfectly towards a single opinion value, making agents subject to external control by those who can manipulate the information delivered by the media. Similarly, we usually give a positive value to the final consensus setting. However, as we already said, consensus also means conformity, homologation to a standard, which may be imposed from the outside and manipulated through media control to achieve the goals of those in power and hardly the optimal situation for our societies and democracies.

The large amount of research that has focused on detecting the strength and the effects of recommender systems and algorithmic biases moves from the idea that the presence of such biases traps users into echo chambers and/or filter bubbles, preventing them from getting confronted with a balanced information diet and thus polarising/fragmenting the population into a series of opinion clusters that do not communicate. Even though this is still far from being proven, even if we assume that this effect is true, it is worth asking ourselves whether this always has a negative effect. For example, from our work, it emerged that the presence of a recommender system alongside a moderate message facilitates the emergence and maintenance of extremist minorities, which coexist with a group of moderates. However, both a lower confidence bound, \(\epsilon\) , and a higher algorithmic bias, \(\gamma\) , when acting in a context where there is extremist propaganda or two polarised extremist media, avoid the complete radicalization/extremization of the whole population and counter the complete polarization by favoring the presence of a moderate cluster in both cases. We also observed that the recommender system facilitates convergence in a balanced setting where the population is open-minded. Indeed, it prevents the dynamic from being completely unstable - i.e. avoiding agents continuously changing their opinion and never reaching a stable state due to the presence of conflicting sources.

It is important to acknowledge that the identified effect of a recommender system is one of the potential outcomes, as also demonstrated through experiments conducted on a real network where two echo chambers were present. However, comprehending the full range of effects resulting from the actions of a recommender system involves considering multiple factors. Notably, this paper did not delve into the discussion of how incorporating the backfire effect 52 (that can be seen as a kind of confirmation bias), in addition to bounded confidence, could potentially lead to increased polarization and contradict the original intentions of the approach, which aim to depolarize. Theoretical studies that assess the impact of recommender systems and design them with various objective functions to reduce polarization 53 , 54 often overlook the consequences arising from the interplay of different cognitive biases. Consequently, while we have numerous theoretical findings, their validity hinges on understanding how users interact with information and modify their opinions. Hence, insights into user behavior and opinion changes are vital. This, for example, motivated our investigation in 51 to uncover the levels of cognitive biases exhibited by users within this discourse.

The present work is a preliminary step toward analyzing the interplay of social and media influence in digital environments and presents several limitations. We focused on mean-field scenarios, which prevents us from considering possible network effects on the results of the opinion evolution process. While this is a sound starting point, the obtained insights must be tested against different network structures or real networks to employ the proposed model to analyze and understand reality fruitfully. Moreover, social connections change in real settings, influencing subsequent interactions and opinion exchanges. As we did in 55 , 56 for the Algorithmic Bias model, network effects should be taken into account: greater sparsity in the underlying network structures appears to promote polarization and fragmentation in the Algorithmic Bias model, and it is possible that a similar effect may be observed in the model presented in this study.

We also saw in 55 that mesoscale structure may promote different outcomes on the dynamic based on the different initial conditions. Here, we studied this model on a real network that exhibits two polarized communities. Experiments suggest that this may favor consensus even for lower confidence threshold levels. In order to verify this hypothesis, more convergence analysis needs to be performed on different modular networks and with different initial conditions. The present model could then be studied on adaptive network topologies to understand the interplay of the dynamics on/of the network. Moreover, in our work, bias has a role in the choice of the media only when in the presence of two or more sources. Even in the presence of a single externally promoted opinion, some agents who are too far away from that position may still have a small probability of interacting with it. To account for such a pattern, the probability of interacting with the media - which is now homogeneous across the whole population - could be made heterogeneous and dependent on the distance between the agent’s opinion and the promoted opinion and heterogeneous levels of agents engagement with mass media can be integrated within the model. Although all the different models demonstrate that an open-minded population can reach a consensus on all issues, it is an unrealistic assumption. Regardless of how open-minded they may be, each user will still have an inherent preference towards one side of the opinion spectrum. To address this, we propose extending the current model to incorporate a baseline opinion that consistently influences the user in that direction. Finally, as we saw in 51 , real populations may have heterogeneous (opinion-dependent) levels of “open-mindedness”, which could be taken into account to specify agents’ peculiarities better (as we did within the case study on the Twitter EURO2020 network), as well as heterogeneous activity levels as in 57 . Similarly to “open-mindedness” and activity levels, we plan to augment the current model with data-driven insights on media bias and user interactions with mass media and authoritative voices via online social networks. This will enable us to understand better the long-term impact of such interactions and how their influence differs from that of peers. One missing aspect in this context is undoubtedly a “dynamic” behavior from users, including the creation/destruction of links and the evolution of \(\epsilon\) and \(p_m\) with increasing/decreasing polarization. Additionally, there needs to be more evolution in the media’s behavior or a more realistic user-media relationship. The media should be aware of the cognitive biases of their users, and not all media outlets have the entire population as their audience. The more polarized the media are, the more likely they are followed by only a portion of the already aligned population, thereby promoting ideas aligned with that population segment. Another aspect not considered is that in a real setting, the “media” or stubborn agents may not be mainstream media with which everyone can interact but specific influential users within the network. This model would need to be adapted in such a scenario, considering that these stubborn agents are no longer connected to the entire population but only to certain nodes. Furthermore, the nodes they are connected to might depend on the opinions of those nodes and the opinions they promote. While our model has some drawbacks, as discussed above, it also has some advantages: it is simple, it can be tested on various topologies, it considers psychological, technological, and external factors, and it allows for flexibility in the number and opinions of the media.

Model and methods

To introduce in the study of opinion dynamics the idea of a recommender system generating an algorithmic bias, the classical Deffuant-Weisbuch model 24 was extended previously, implementing the Algorithmic Bias model (or AB model, hereafter) 58 . Our work is an extension of the AB model to include external information. In this section, we will first describe the AB model briefly before detailing our extension.

The algorithmic bias model

In the AB model, we have a population of N agents, where each agent i has a continuous opinion \(x_{i} \in [0,1]\) . At every discrete time step, the model randomly selects a user pair ( i ,  j ), and if their opinion distance is lower than a predefined threshold \(\epsilon\) , \(|x_{i} - x_{j}| \le \epsilon\) , then the two agents change their opinion according to the following rule:

The parameter \(\epsilon \in [0,1]\) represents the confidence bound of the population, which is assumed to be constant and equal for all agents. Individuals can only be influenced by those with similar opinions; a population with a low \(\epsilon\) is said to be closed-minded; a high \(\epsilon\) , on the other hand, describes an open-minded population since it allows agents to influence each other even if their initial opinions are far away. The parameter \(\mu \in (0, 0.5]\) is a convergence parameter, modeling the strength of the influence the two individuals have on each other or, in other words, how much they change their opinion after the interaction. Even if there is no reason to assume that \(\epsilon\) and \(\mu\) should be constant across the population or at least symmetrical in the binary encounters, these parameters are always considered equal for every agent.

The dynamics described above are those of the Deffuant-Weisbuch model, well known and studied by the opinion dynamics community. The numerical simulations of this model show that the qualitative dynamic is dependent on \(\epsilon\) : as \(\epsilon\) grows, the number of final opinion clusters decreases. As for \(\mu\) and N , these parameters influence only the time to convergence and the final opinion distribution width.

The AB model is different in how the interacting pair is randomly selected. It introduces another parameter to model the algorithmic bias: \(\gamma \ge 0\) . This parameter represents the filtering power of a generic recommendation algorithm: if it is close to 0, the agent has the same probability of interacting with all its peers. As \(\gamma\) grows, so does the probability of interacting with agents holding similar opinions, while the likelihood of interacting with those who have distant opinions decreases. Therefore, this extended model modifies the rule to choose the interacting pair ( i ,  j ) to simulate a filtering algorithm’s presence. An agent i is randomly picked from the population, while j is chosen from i ’s peers according to the following rule:

where \(d_{ij} = |x_{i}-x_{j}|\) is the opinion distance between agents i and j . For \(\gamma = 0\) the model is equivalent to the DW-model.

figure 8

Example of agent-to agent and agent-to-media interaction with \(\gamma =0.5\) and \(\epsilon =0.3\) . In the example, an agent with opinion 0.7 has a different probability to choose one of the four neighbors, represented by the thickness of the arrows in the figure. After changing opinions, due to the peer-to-peer interaction, the target agent chooses to interact with one of the three media, with a probability \(p_m\) . The choice of which media to interact with is determined according to \(\gamma\) , in the same way as in the social interaction: the higher the bias \(\gamma\) , the higher the probability to interact with a media promoting a closer opinion to the current one of the agent. If the media falls within the agent’s confidence bound \(\epsilon\) , the agent averages his opinion with the one of the media; otherwise, nothing happens. The media opinion, instead, remains unchanged.

The algorithmic bias model with mass media agents

We now present our extension of the AB model, tailored to analyze the effects of mass media propaganda. We chose to model mass media as stubborn agents connected to everyone in the population, i.e. agents whose opinions remain fixed during the dynamic process and can interact with the whole population. This choice simplifies real-world media outlets that may instead change the promoted point of view, being influenced by public opinion or politics. However, we assume that our analysis is temporally constrained and that such changes are unlikely. A completely mixed population model that every individual can use any media - offline and online - as an information source. The fact that individuals often have a limited set of sources among which they choose is due mainly to cognitive and technological biases, which effects we are trying to capture with this model. Finally, we allow an arbitrary number of media sources M instantiated with custom opinion distribution \(X_M\) to explore different scenarios in the present model.

To regulate the interactions with media outlets, we added another parameter, namely \(p_m \in [0, 1]\) , which indicates the probability that during each iteration of the model simulation - in addition to interacting with a peer - each agent interacts with a media \(j \in M\) - always selected according to Eq. ( 2 ). So at each step, t , a peer-to-peer interaction takes place - as in the AB model - and with probability \(p_m\) , the selected agent interacts with a news source.

When two agents interact, their opinions change if and only if the distance between their opinions is less than the parameter \(\epsilon\) , i.e. \(|x_{i}-x_{j}| \le \epsilon\) , according to Eq. ( 1 ). However, when agent j is a mass media, only the opinion \(x_i\) changes. Figure 8 illustrates an example of an interaction (both agent-to-agent and agent-to-media) and its effects on the node’s opinion in the presented model.

To conduct our experiments, we implemented the AB model with mass media within the NDlib 59 Python library. This library has many opinion dynamics and epidemic models and a large user base. By adding our model to the library we increase the availability of our model to the scientific community.

Analyses and measures

We simulate our model on a fully connected population of 100 agents, where the initial opinions are uniformly distributed, and we averaged the results over 100 runs. Like in 58 , to avoid undefined operations in Eq. ( 2 ), when \(d_{ik} = 0\) we use a lower bound \(d_{\epsilon } = 10^{-4}\) . We imposed the simulations to stop when the population reaches an equilibrium, i.e. the cluster configuration will not change anymore, even if the agents keep exchanging opinions. We also set an overall maximum number of iterations at \(10^6\) to account for situations where an equilibrium may never be reached. To better understand the differences in the final state, we studied the model for various combinations of the model parameters. We are interested in whether the different numbers and positioning of mass media and the growing interaction probability influence the final configuration, enhancing or reducing fragmentation and radicalizing individuals towards more extreme opinions, all other parameters being equal.

We replicated the work of 58 by setting a null probability to interact with the media to define a reliable baseline for comparison.

In the simulations, we evaluated the model on every combination of the parameters over the following values:

\(p_{m}\) takes values in [0.0, 0.5], with steps of 0.1 - where for \(p_{m}=0\) the model becomes the AB model.

\(\epsilon\) takes value in [0.1, 0.5], with steps of 0.1.

\(\gamma\) takes value in [0.5, 1.5], with steps of 0.25, and 0.0 - where for \(\gamma = 0\) and \(p_m=0\) the model becomes the DW-model.

\(\mu = 0.5\) , so whenever two agents interact, if their opinions are close enough, they update to the average opinion of the pair.

We analyzed different scenarios to understand the effects of (i) one media, either extreme with a fixed opinion of \(x_{m1}=0.0\) or moderate with an opinion of \(x_{m1}=0.5\) , (ii) two extremist media with \(x_{m1} = 0.05, x_{m2}=0.95\) and (iii) two extremist media and a moderate one with opinions \(x_{m1}=0.05, x_{m2}=0.5, x_{m3}=0.95\) .

We used different measures to interpret the results, each equally necessary to understand the final state of the population. The first and most intuitive measure to understand fragmentation is the number of clusters present on average at the end of the dynamic. We used a naive clustering technique to partition the final opinion distribution into clusters: we sorted the final opinions in each run and set a threshold. Starting from one extreme, the corresponding nodes belong to two clusters every time two consecutive opinions exceed the threshold. Optimal results were obtained using a threshold of 0.01. Once we divided the population into opinion clusters we compute the cluster participation ratio, as in 58 :

where \(c_i\) is the dimension of the i th cluster, i.e. the fraction of the population we can find in that cluster. In general, for n clusters, the maximum value of the participation ratio is n and is achieved when all clusters have the same size. At the same time, the minimum can be close to one if one cluster includes most of the population and a tiny fraction is distributed among the other \(n \min 1\) .

To grasp the attractive power of the media in each setting, we also computed the number of nodes present in the clusters centered on the media opinion. Specifically, we consider the percentage of agents that hold opinions in the range \([x_{m} - \lambda , x_m +\lambda ]\) with \(x_m\) being the media opinion and \(\lambda = 0.01\) .

The dataset used in this study spans approximately one month, from June 10th to July 13th, during which the EURO2020 matches were played. To focus our analysis on relevant conversations, we applied hashtag-based filtering, targeting discussions related to Italy’s matches, the tournament itself, and the topic of taking the knee. This filtering process yielded a collection of 38,908 tweets authored by 16,235 unique users.

We adopted a hashtag-based approach to infer Twitter users’ opinions regarding taking the knee during EURO 2020. A manual annotation process was employed to classify 2304 hashtags from the dataset. Each hashtag was assigned a numerical value based on its alignment with the pro or against stance, with \(\pm 3\) indicating a clear position, \(\pm 1\) indicating a close association, and 0 assigned to neutral or irrelevant hashtags. We calculated the non-neutral hashtag values within each tweet by averaging its classification value ( \(C_t\) ). Similarly, for each user ( u ), we computed their overall classification value ( \(C_u\) ) by averaging the classification values of their tweets. To facilitate integration with our opinion dynamics model, the initial pro/against scores, ranging from \(-3\) to 3, were normalized to a range of [0, 1]. Additionally, we discretized the leanings into three categories: “Pro” (if \(C_u \le 0.4\) ), “Against” (if \(C_u \ge 0.6\) ), and “Neutral” otherwise, encompassing users with highly polarized viewpoints.

From the collected data, we constructed an undirected attributed temporal network, where nodes represent users and edges capture their interactions, including retweets, mentions, quotes, and replies. The resulting network comprises 15,378 nodes and 36,496 edges. To serve as initial and final states for validating our model, we divided the network into two snapshots: the first corresponding to the group stage and round-of-16, and the second representing the period from the quarterfinals to the final. This division was chosen based on specific reasons that will be further specified. As our model does not consider the temporal evolution of links, we retained only the nodes present in both snapshots. The temporal element was disregarded, resulting in two undirected snapshot networks: \(G_0\) , with nodes labeled according to their leaning in the first period, and \(G_1\) , with nodes labeled according to their leaning in the second period. This simplification aligns with our model’s assumption of a static network. The two snapshot graphs consist of 2925 users (approximately 20% of the total) and 9081 edges. Notably, the giant connected component comprises 2894 nodes and 9054 edges. For further details on the description and characteristics of the network, please refer to the Supplementary Materials.

Experiments on real data

The experiments were carried out with the following parameters:

The underlying network structure is G : each node u in the interaction network is an agent i and each leaning \(C_u\) in \(G_0\) is an opinion \(x_i\) with \(x_i \in [0, 1]\) .

We tested both homogeneous and heterogeneous bounded confidence levels. For homogeneous values we considered \(\epsilon \in \{0.2, 0.3, 0.4\}\) ; for heterogeneous values, each agent i is assigned with a level of bounded confidence \(\epsilon _i\) obtained applying the procedure in 51 (see Algorithm 1 in Supplementary Materials) to \(G_0, G_1\) .

The parameter \(p_m\) takes values of either 0.0 (absence of mass media, the model becomes the Algorithmic Bias Model with heterogeneous \(\epsilon\) ) or 0.5.

The parameter \(\gamma\) varies in the range of [0.0, 1.5] with increments of 0.5; for \(\gamma =0.0\) , we obtain the Deffuant-Weisbuch model with heterogeneous \(\epsilon\) .

The parameter \(\mu\) is set to 0.5, i.e. when two agents interact, they adopt their average opinion.

The maximum number of iterations is set at \(10^5\) .

Simulations terminate when the maximum opinion change remains below a threshold of 0.01 for at least 500 consecutive iterations.

We performed a comprehensive analysis to examine the influence of different scenarios the opinion evolution. Our investigation encompassed five distinct media landscapes:

One mass media with opinion \(x_m = avg(pro) = 0.28\)

One mass media with opinion \(x_m = avg(neutral) = 0.49\)

One mass media with opinion \(x_m = avg(against) = 0.87\)

Two mass media with opinions \(x_{m1} = avg(pro) = 0.28\) and \(x_{m2} = avg(against) = 0.87\)

Three mass media with opinions \(x_{m1} = avg(pro) = 0.28\) , \(x_{m2} = avg(against) = 0.87\) and \(x_{m3} = avg(neutral) = 0.49\)

Since in these experiments every agent i has a different level of bounded confidence \(\epsilon _i\) , to account for parameter heterogeneity, we applied the opinion change rule of the Algorithmic Bias Model with Mass Media in the following way:

if \(d_{ij} < \epsilon _i\) \(x_i(t+1) = (x_i(t) + x_j(t))/2\)

if \(d_{ij} < \epsilon _j\) \(x_j(t+1) = (x_i(t) + x_j(t))/2\)

if if \(d_{ij}> \epsilon _i \,\, \& \,\,d_{ij} > \epsilon _j\) nothing happens

i.e. a heterogeneous version of the baseline model.

Since we performed only one run per scenario, it is not feasible to compute the same metrics used in the mean-field analysis. Therefore, we choose to compare the simulation outcomes under various conditions on the real network with the actual opinion values in \(G_1\) . This allows for a direct assessment of the simulation results against the empirical opinion data at the specified time point. Specifically, we conducted one simulation for each scenario and compared the results with \(G_1\) by examining the final states. To assess polarization and the presence of echo chambers in both real data and simulation outcomes, we adopted the approach presented in 60 . Supplementary Figs. 58 – 63 display plots showing the joint distribution of users’ opinions relative to the average leaning of their neighborhood, as obtained in our experiments. These plots provide insights into the formation of echo chambers within an interaction network by analyzing the behavior of individual nodes in relation to their neighbors’ behavior. As in 60 , we measure polarization in our simulation results based on the correlation between a user’s leaning and the average leaning of their nearest neighbors (ego network).

Data availibility

The datasets generated during this study for simulations of the Algorithmic Bias Model with Mass Media in the mean-field case are within this article. The EURO2020 datasets analysed during the current study are available in the AlgBiasMediaModel repository, .

Code availability

The AB model with mass media implementation used to conduct our experiments is the one provided by the NDlib 59 Python library: . Simulations can be reproduced using the code in: .

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Faculty of Science, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy

Valentina Pansanella

Department of Computer Science, University of Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, Pisa, Italy

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Department of Network and Data Science, Central European University, Vienna, Austria

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Institute of Information Science and Technologies “A. Faedo” (ISTI), National Research Council (CNR), G. Moruzzi 1, Pisa, Italy

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All authors conceived the experiments. V.P. implemented the extension of the AB model in NDlib and performed the simulations. All authors interpreted the results. V.P. and G.R. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the manuscript.

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Pansanella, V., Sîrbu, A., Kertesz, J. et al. Mass media impact on opinion evolution in biased digital environments: a bounded confidence model. Sci Rep 13 , 14600 (2023).

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