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What is Mass Media?

The word mass refers to the large groups that the media intend to reach. The media involves a diverse range of technologies used to communicate the message to the target audience. Therefore, the term indicates how a message or information spreads to a group of people. In ancient times, before writing, the only way to communicate was oral. Not an efficient way of reaching many individuals.

The invention of the printing press in 1400 by Johannes Gutenberg accelerated the reach of words through printed pamphlets and books to the multitudes. By the year 1500, two million books rolled off printing presses across Europe and England. However, the dissemination of information to the public began in Rome in 59 BCE when officials created a daily paper with public interest matters. This news sheet, written by hand, was the Acta diurna.

Under the umbrella of Mass Media:

Newspapers

The above historical details confirm that the first occupant under our umbrella is printed media. Until the proliferation of computers and cell phones, most people relied on newspapers for the daily source of current events, editorials, advertisements, and such. In 1604, Johann Carolus published the first weekly newspaper, The Relation, in Germany.

One hundred years later, in America, postmaster John Campbell published the Boston News-Letter in 1704. By 1783, there were 43 newspapers in the nation; 346 by 1814; and over 11,000 by 1880. As the numbers increased, so did the circulation, which topped one million for some papers.

Newspapers were the first successful form of mass media.

radio with text mass communication

Radio

Today’s college students may find it challenging to realize the significance of communication over the airwaves known as radio. Numerous inventors paved the way for the Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, to discover the wireless telegraph system. In 1896, Marconi patented his invention of sending a message via wireless transmission or radio waves. The breakthrough of radio crippled the newspaper business. The new technology of mass media could send news, advertisements, and more to anyone who owned a device capable of receiving the wireless signal. In 1920, a station in Detroit broadcasted the first radio news program.

The radio far exceeded newspapers as the medium to disperse information faster, cheaper, and more conveniently to the masses.

Television

Television remains a stalwart in mass media. Currently, 120.6 million homes have a TV in the United States (Statista). Radio has sound, but TV has sound and pictures to convey news, commercials, opinions, and entertainment. It incorporates not just your auditory sense, but also your visual.

The medium of TV reaches 81% of people ages 18-34, according to Statista. Therefore, as a means of mass media, TV is successful for advertisers to reach those they want to target to sell merchandise and services. The Pew Research Center stated that 49% of those surveyed (2018) obtain the latest news from television. The percentage had declined since 2016 when it was 57%. However, for adults 50-64, 65% rely on TV for their information.

Social Media

News agencies and advertisers must adjust the mass media according to the age group they intend to reach. Social media is the best place to communicate with those ages of 18 to 29. According to the Pew Research Center data on Engadget, 36% of the former age group use social media as the news source. Whereas only 8% of adults over 65 use social media for the news. Facebook and Snapchat are the winners for college students.

Social media, like radio at its inception, blossomed because it was easy to access. Seventy years ago, all you needed was a radio to listen to news, music, weather, and opinions. Similarly, all one needs is a cell phone and a plan to have to world’s entertainment and up to the second events in your hand. Mass media loves convenience and accessibility to prosper.

The internet boosted the proliferation of wireless technology. By 2004, the internet reached about half the homes in the US As of June 2020, approximately five billion have internet capability in the world (InternetWorldStats). Compared to the internet, cell phone users amount to 3.5 billion worldwide (BankMyCell).

The internet and cell phones are a bonanza for mass media.

Billboards

This form of mass media does not reach as broad an audience as wireless technology, as it relies on pedestrians and motorists to see and read the message. The message is most often an advertisement for a product or service. The majority of billboards are massive printed and pasted posters in places frequented by high vehicular traffic. Advertisers want to place the billboard where it will reach the most drivers or pedestrians.

Some billboards are eye-catching with digital imagery and text. Those that are more elaborate have sound; for example, a Beck’s Beer billboard in May 2014 played music.

Billboards come under the heading of outdoor media, including those towed by small airplanes, those mounted on taxis and public transportation. Another type is digital messages at outdoor stadiums and arenas and street-lined neon graphics of companies advertising their business and products.

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