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In 1865, the actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated US President Abraham Lincoln in a Washington theatre. It took 12 days before the news reached London (Stolley, 1999). In 2012, 32 million tweets referencing the U.S. presidential election were sent all around the world within one evening (Twitter, 2012).
The distribution of news is changing enormously. Communication technologies enable information to be shared instantaneously with millions of people. The interplay of media and society is being shaped significantly by the emergence of new technologies. The Media industry grew in the 20th century to incorporate and adapt to new forms of media. Technologies were development like Computer, CDs, DVDs, Laptop-Computer, Tablets, Smartphones, and much more. Simultaneously the press industry had to develop new ways of distribution. Newspapers started to build own websites, managed social networking and produced videos to keep up with the change.
Development of the mass media
Mass communications require technology. Johannes Gutenberg, a German printer, is often credited with inventing movable type in the mid-fifteenth century. Many scholars believe that it originated in China about 600 years earlier. However, Gutenberg popularized it in Europe. This was the beginning of the printing press thus the newspaper industry (Paxson, 2010). “The early presses were, for the most part, commercial enterprises organised along capitalist lines,” which primarily printed books (Thompson, p.53, 1995).
The first newspapers appeared at the beginning of the 16th century (Bernhard, 2007). When a printer from the 1500s would be working 200 years later in a print shop, then he would have found hand-operated, wooden presses that are little altered from his own time (Moran, 1973). Nevertheless, the change in communication in social practices, politics and institutions was enormous. From then on, the developing in communication continued through the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Along with the first newspapers, scientific journals and other periodicals emerged, while the market for print expanded. A “new sphere of public information, public debate, and public opinion emerged” (Starr, p.23, 2004).
In the partisan press of the early 19th century the news was not shaped by business concerns. Primarily newspapers were run by political parties and as a result were linked to political goals. Media culture and communications continued to be concentrated in capital cities, especially in France and Britain. There remained a strong distaste for commercialism (Starr, 2004).
This changed in the second half of the 19th century when the press moved toward a commercial model to make a profit (Baldasty, 1992). According to Gerald Baldasty this led to the need to entertain readers. The organisations were profit-driven and the delivering of serious content was less important. Media organisations “sought to sell papers to a broad public and turn that large circulation into revenue by selling space in the newspaper to advertisers wanting to reach a mass audience” (Croteau Hoynes, p.49, 2006). Newspapers started to include regular coverage such as sports, entertainment and fashion.
In the past it took centuries and then decades for the media to alter and develop, whereas nowadays change occurs in a matter of years due to the technological progress. Also the influences of social, cultural and economic factors played a crucial part in the development of the mass media in the 20th century (Sutton, 2009). For a long time, newspapers were the only way to convey information quickly and comprehensively to a mass public. With mobile phones, digital television and the Internet the mass media has been revolutionized.
The development of each medium within a short period of time was immense: the radio left the living room and became part of cars and is now included in each smartphone. Cassette tapes were replaced by CDs, and digital files replaced CDs. Televisions first became smaller to enter bedrooms or kitchens and now the screens are getting bigger, flatter and ‘bendier’. Beyond that, office PCs are being replaced by laptop computers, tablets and smartphones.
As television grew more popular, the print media lost a significant part of its readership. Readers were more likely to watch television instead of reading a paper, and as a result the advertiser moved their campaigns to network television. The impact of this growth is also evidenced in newspaper circulations. In 1940 daily newspaper circulation in the United Stated grew from 41 million to more than 62 million in 1990. In the face of new forms of electronic development and competition this figure declined to 55 million by 2003 (Croteau Hoynes, 2006).
Media expansion and the availability of media outputs have grown simultaneously as both the markets and technology have developed. Portability transformed the media landscape forever: “The opportunities for media consumption have expanded dramatically and become fluid, entering all social spaces and becoming an intimate part of our daily lives” (Croteau Hoynes, p.45, 2006).
According to Croteau and Hoynes, the basics were set in the 1980s, for new “conglomerates that owned and operated production, manufacturing, and distribution” within different media industries (2006). Digital media and fee-based services reinforced these developments.
However, most media companies operated within specific domestic markets in accordance with regulations from national governments until the 1970s (Giddens, 2009). This changed, according to Giddens, by the start of the twenty-first century: a group of about 20 multinational corporations dominated the global media market, whose “role in the production, distribution and marketing of news and entertainment could be felt in almost every country in the world” (p. 763, 2009).
In the new media the public has the opportunity of personalization. Internet users can filter the content to get specific information. Initially this seems as a big advantage, especially for the user, but the consequences for the public sphere might not be so positive due to possibly fragmenting society (Neal, 2012). This is why it is not enough for the press to go online. They also have to build up social accounts and operate in social management.
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