- For other uses of the word Media see media (disambiguation).
Mass media is the term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda.
Etymology and usage
Media (originally the plural of medium) is a contraction of the term media of communication, referring to those organized means of dissemination of fact, opinion, and entertainment such as newspapers, magazines, cinema films, radio, television, and the World Wide Web. Writers currently vary in their preference for using media in the singular ("the media is...") or the plural ("the media are..."). Academic programs for the study of the mass media are usually referred to as mass communication programs.
During the 20th century, the advent of mass media was driven by technology that allowed the massive duplication of material at a low cost. Physical duplication technologies such as printing, record pressing and film duplication allowed the duplication of books, newspapers and movies at low prices to huge audiences. Television and radio allowed the electronic duplication of content for the first time.
Mass media had the economics of linear replication: a single work could make money proportional to the number of copies sold, and as volumes went up, units costs went down, increasing profit margins further. Vast fortunes were to be made in mass media.
In a democratic society, an independent media serves to educate the public/electorate about issues regarding government and corporate entities (see Mass media and public opinion). Some consider concentration of media ownership to be the single greatest threat to democracy.
The Internet and mass media
During the last decade of the 20th century, the advent of the World Wide Web marked the first era in which any individual could have a means of exposure on the scale of mass media. For the first time, anyone with a web site can address a global audience, although serving high levels of web traffic is still expensive. It is possible that the rise of peer-to-peer technologies may have begun the process of making the cost of bandwidth manageable. The invention of the internet has also allowed breaking news stories to reach around the globe within minutes. This high speed exposure is typically good, although it has caused several mistakes.