Think about this for a second: whenever you want to hear your favorite song, watch your favorite show, or see the latest current events, where do you go? You more than likely turn on your television, radio, or computer. The source that the majority of the general public uses to get their news and information from is considered mass media.
Mass media means technology that is intended to reach a mass audience. It is the primary means of communication used to reach the vast majority of the general public. The most common platforms for mass media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. The general public typically relies on the mass media to provide information regarding political issues, social issues, entertainment, and news in pop culture.
The mass media has evolved significantly over time. Have you ever wondered how the latest news and information was communicated in the past? Well, before there was the Internet, television, or the radio, there was the newspaper. The newspaper was the original platform for mass media. For a long period of time, the public relied on writers and journalists for the local newspapers to provide them with the latest news in current events.
Centuries later, in the 1890s, came the invention of the radio. The radio would soon supersede the newspaper as the most pertinent source for mass media. Families would gather around the radio and listen to their favorite radio station programs to hear the latest news regarding politics, social issues, and entertainment.
Mass media is communication—whether written, broadcast, or spoken—that reaches a large audience. This includes television, radio, advertising, movies, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and so forth.
Mass media is a significant force in modern culture, particularly in America. Sociologists refer to this as a mediated culture where media reflects and creates the culture. Communities and individuals are bombarded constantly with messages from a multitude of sources including TV, billboards, and magazines, to name a few. These messages promote not only products, but moods, attitudes, and a sense of what is and is not important. Mass media makes possible the concept of celebrity: without the ability of movies, magazines, and news media to reach across thousands of miles, people could not become famous. In fact, only political and business leaders, as well as the few notorious outlaws, were famous in the past. Only in recent times have actors, singers, and other social elites become celebrities or “stars.”
The current level of media saturation has not always existed. As recently as the 1960s and 1970s, television, for example, consisted of primarily three networks, public broadcasting, and a few local independent stations. These channels aimed their programming primarily at two‐parent, middle‐class families. Even so, some middle‐class households did not even own a television. Today, one can find a television in the poorest of homes, and multiple TVs in most middle‐class homes. Not only has availability increased, but programming is increasingly diverse with shows aimed to please all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and attitudes. This widespread availability and exposure makes television the primary focus of most mass‐media discussions. More recently, the Internet has increased its role exponentially as more businesses and households “sign on.” Although TV and the Internet have dominated the mass media, movies and magazines—particularly those lining the aisles at grocery checkout stands—also play a powerful role in culture, as do other forms of media.