Mass Media Meaning – We explain what mass media are and which are the most important. Functions, advantages, and disadvantages.
What is Mass Media?
The mass media or mass media (mass media, in English) are those channels or instruments that allow a message to be transmitted to a huge number of people simultaneously. It includes, among other technologies, printing, radio, cinema, television and the Internet.
The emergence of mass media gave rise to a mode of communication, mass communication, which, unlike interpersonal communication, is public, fast and ephemeral.
- Public because it is clearly addressed to many recipients (the audience).
- Fast because it tries to reach the greatest number of recipients in the shortest time possible.
- Ephemeral because, in many cases, it is oriented toward immediate consumption.
Characteristics of mass media
Some of the characteristics of mass media are the following:
Condition- Mass media are both technical and institutional methods aimed at the production, transmission and dissemination of messages. For example, television is not only a technology for transmitting moving images, but also the set of people and resources involved in the making of television products (entertainment programs, news programs, soap operas).
Distribution- Mass media generate content that is distributed to a large number of people. These make up a heterogeneous collective audience, with diverse tastes and interests, and belonging to different social classes, ages, and sexes.
Variety- Due to the heterogeneous nature of the public they target, mass media offer a wide variety of options, both in content and support or platform, so that each person can choose those that are of their preference. The formation of multimedia conglomerates, made up of different types of media, constitutes the maximum expression of this characteristic.
Unidirectionality – Traditionally, mass media have been characterized by not allowing interaction or feedback (as happens, for example, in interpersonal communication). With the advent of the Internet, however, this situation has changed significantly: on the web, users not only receive content, but also generate it (YouTube is an example of this). However, the impact and reach of this content is limited by economic, social and cultural factors.
Ubiquity- Mass media content can reach different parts of the world regardless of distances. Spatial barriers do not constitute a limit: the same content can be received at different times and places. So, for example, a film can be seen by different audiences at different times.
Influence- The mass media shape tastes and interests, influence the way we see reality and, in this way, contribute to the formation of public opinion. At the same time, the media are permeable to social changes, which impacts the content they offer.
What are the most important mass media?
According to the technology or format used, mass media can be classified into:
Printed media- They constitute the oldest group of mass media. This group includes books (particularly those aimed at a general audience, such as popular works or best-selling literature), newspapers, magazines, comics, brochures, flyers and pamphlets.
Broadcasting- Radio and television belong to this group, which transmit content to a mass audience through electronic media. Traditionally, the medium used for transmission was electromagnetic radio waves. Currently, digital technologies are also used.
Cinema – Originally emerging as a form derived from photography, cinema was the most important mass medium of communication until the arrival of television in the late 1940s. Today, analog film technology, based on film, coexists with new digital technologies.
Internet- It constitutes the most recent massive technological development. The great speed of dissemination of information and the versatility to incorporate different types of content and adapt to various audiences have made the Internet the center of the media. It is a horizontal, multidirectional and decentralized medium, in which users are active producers of content.
History of mass media
Although the media has existed since ancient times, the emergence of mass media is closely linked to the creation of certain technologies. Among the first of these technologies was the printing press, whose origins date back to the 11th century in China.
However, only with the invention of the movable type printing press, created by Johannes Gutenberg in 1453, did the production of books in large quantities become possible. Among the effects of the printing press as a communication tool, the decisive role it played in the dissemination of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation is often mentioned.
In the 17th century the first newspapers appeared; Their reach was far from what they had later, since few people knew how to read. In the following centuries, as literacy increased, the influence of the press on daily life grew. The cheaper paper, thanks to the invention of techniques for obtaining cellulose paper, the use of rotary printing presses and the extension of railways allowed the circulation of newspapers and their distribution to increase.
In the mid-19th century, the invention of photography marked a new stage in the development of mass media. The same photographic image could be observed at the same time by numerous people, located in distant places, through the copies made of it. Soon, newspapers incorporated photographs as a way of “witnessing” reality.
In 1895, cinema emerged, which, in a few years, became one of the main mass media, used both to entertain and to inform and disseminate advertising and propaganda messages. Around the same time, Guglielmo Marconi invented wireless telegraphy, from which radio developed.
The first television broadcasts were made in the late 1920s, shortly after the first radio broadcasts were established. However, the widespread use of televisions came after World War II. Since then, television became the means of communication par excellence, displacing cinema and radio.
The arrival of the Internet constitutes the most recent milestone in the field of mass media. Its beginnings date back to the 1960s, but its expansion and consolidation took place in the 1990s, when Tim Berners Lee created the World Wide Web (global computer network).
Initially developed as a communication system between universities and state institutions, the Internet is currently a huge information exchange center, where you can read, watch movies, listen to music, play games and interact with other people through social networks.
Functions of the mass media
In general, three basic functions are attributed to the media:
- Interpretation function
- Bonding function
- Diversion function
- Instructive function
- Catalyst for development
- Mass media
- National consciousness
- The sequence of mass media functions
Entertain- The media is a channel where many content or messages related to entertainment are disseminated, such as movies, music and soap operas.
Inform – The mass media are a key instrument for citizens to access information of various types, which allows them to make decisions linked to the reality in which they live. Hence its importance in democracies, in which freedom of the press, understood as a derivation of the principle of freedom of expression, constitutes one of the fundamental rights.
To form- Mass media allow their audiences to access knowledge and cultural products of all kinds.
Advantages and disadvantages of mass media
Some advantages of mass media are:
- They allow easy distance communication.
- They make it possible for information to be disseminated across wide regions.
- They are economically accessible. Although some of them were expensive in the beginning, in the long term their price dropped considerably.
- They help narrow the cultural gap, as they allow people from different social classes to access knowledge previously reserved for a small group.
- They democratize access to information and, in this way, can contribute to the formation of citizens.
Some disadvantages of mass media are:
- They tend to generate dependency among consumers.
- They can become channels in which false or manipulated information is spread.
- They reduce face-to-face interaction between people.
- They can spread and contribute to installing stereotypes.
- They encourage consumerism.
- They can reduce cultural diversity by favoring the dissemination of certain content (in areas such as music, fashion or cinema) to the detriment of others.
The convergence of mass media
The development of digital and internet technologies has led to a reconfiguration of mass media. Currently, both content and technologies are connected to computer networks, in a phenomenon known as media convergence.
The convergence of mass media has transformed the mechanisms of content production and the ways in which users relate to the media, and has favored the emergence of new forms of content (from podcasts to online games, including web tutorials and FAQ’s or frequently asked questions from users).
Nowadays on the Internet it is possible to watch movies and television programs and listen to the radio. Furthermore, content is becoming increasingly decoupled from devices; Thus, it is possible to start watching a movie on a computer, continue it on a smartphone and finish it on a smart TV.