How is current media different from older media?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Media" is the plural of "medium," and a medium is a method of transmission.  Media could be anything.  It could be television, radio, magazine, or even smoke signals.  In each case, some kind of message is being encoded by a sender and translated by one or many receivers.  

Perhaps the simplest difference between media today and old media deals with the definition of "mass media."  There are arguments about when mass media actually became mass media.  Media experts tend to fall into two main camps: the classicists and the modernists.  Classicists believe that mass media has been around since the ancient Greek amphitheaters were built and audiences could see the same thing at the same time.  

A modernist doesn't believe that particular audience was large enough though.  A modernist believes that three things needed to be in place before mass media could really take hold.  Those three things were money, mechanics, and masses.  Masses refers to large numbers of people.  Mechanics refers to the ability to get a message out to a large mass quickly.  A modernist would say that the invention of the printing press was the first item to allow mass communication to happen.  Money is referring to disposable income that is accessible to that large mass of people.  You can print and broadcast all the messages that you want, but if your population can't pay for newspapers, magazines, movies, and cable TV, then the message is never received.  All three of those items strongly emerged during the industrial revolution.  

Since then, media has been evolving ways to reach more people at a faster rate.  News can be broadcast to millions of people within minutes of it happening.  A single tweet can reach hundreds of thousands of people within seconds.  That is the key difference between today's media and old media—speed and range.

Read the study guide:
Understanding Media

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