Mass communication is the process of imparting and exchanging information through mass media to large population segments. It utilizes various forms of media as technology has made the dissemination of information more efficient. Primary examples of platforms utilized and examined include journalism and advertising. Mass communication, unlike interpersonal communication and organizational communication, focuses on particular resources transmitting information to numerous receivers. The study of mass communication is chiefly concerned with how the content and information that is being mass communicated persuades or affects the behavior, attitude, opinion, or emotion of people receiving the information.

Narrowly, mass communication is the transmission of messages to many recipients at a time. However, mass communication can be broadly understood as the process of extensive circulation of information within regions and across the globe.

Through mass communication, information can be transmitted quickly to many people who do not necessarily live near the source. Mass communication is practiced through various channels known as mediums, which include radio, television, social networking, billboards, newspapers, magazines, books, film, and the Internet. In this modern era, mass communication is used to disperse information at an accelerated rate, often regarding politics and other polarizing topics. There are major connections between the media that is consumed through mass communication and our culture, which contributes to polarization and dividing people based on consequential issues.[1]

Field of study

See also: Models of studying mass communication agenda setting

In social science, mass communication is related to communication studies, but has its roots in sociology. Mass communication is "the process by which a person, group of people or organization creates a message and transmits it through some type of medium to a large, anonymous, heterogeneous audience."[2] This implies that the audience of mass communication is mostly made up of different cultures and behavior and belief systems. Mass communication is commonly associated with media studies.

In the United States, the study of mass communication is often associated with the practical applications of journalism, television and radio broadcasting, film, public relations, corporate, or advertising. With the diversification of media forms, the study of mass communication has extended to include social media and new media, which both have stronger feedback models than traditional media sources.[citation needed]

The history of communication stretches from prehistoric forms of art and writing to modern communication methods such as the Internet. Mass communication began when humans could transmit messages from a single source to multiple receivers. Mass communication has moved from theories including the hypodermic needle model (or magic bullet theory) to more modern theories such as computer-mediated communication.[citation needed]

Types of mass communication


Main article: Advertising

Advertising, in relation to mass communication, is marketing a product or service in a persuasive manner that encourages the audience to buy the product or use the service. Because advertising generally takes place through some form of mass media, such as television, studying the effects and methods of advertising is relevant to the study of mass communication. Advertising is the paid, impersonal, one-way marketing of persuasive information from a sponsor. Through mass communication channels, the sponsor promotes the adoption of products or ideas. Advertisers have full control of the message being sent to their audience.[3][self-published source?]

Advertising includes the use of paid, earned, or owned media. Paid media is directly through advertising and various business sponsorship campaigns. Earned media occurs through word of mouth and online social media posts or trends. Owned media includes brand websites and other owned content by the business producing the product.[4]


Main article: Journalism

Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on events for presentation through the media. The study of journalism involves analyzing the dissemination of information to the public through media outlets such as newspapers, news channels, radio stations, and television stations.

Alternative journalism deviates from established or dominant types of media in terms of their content, production, or distribution. Alternative journalism utilizes the same media outlets as mainstream journalism to advocate the interests of those excluded from the mainstream.

Civic journalism (also known as "public journalism") is the idea of integrating journalism into the democratic process. The media not only informs the public but it also works toward engaging citizens and creating public debate.

Citizen journalism is based upon public citizens actively producing news and information. Citizen journalism deals with the distribution of news by the public, often through the Internet or social media. A 2014 study revealed that 40% of participants rely on social media for news and for collecting information.[5]

Public relations

Main article: Public relations

Public relations is the strategic communication process of providing information to the public in order to present a specific view of a product or organization. According to Public Relations Society of America, public relations is about influencing and building a relationship between an organization and its viewers across various media platforms.[6] Public relations differs from advertising in that it is less obtrusive and is aimed at providing a more comprehensive opinion to a large audience in order to shape public opinion. Unlike advertising, public relations professionals only have control until the message is relayed to media gatekeepers, who decide where to pass the information on to the audience.[3]

Social media

Main article: Social media

Social media, in its modern use, refers to platforms used on both mobile devices and home computers that allow users to interact through the use of words, images, sounds, and video. Social media includes popular sites such as Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook as well as sites that can aid in business networking, such as LinkedIn. The use and importance of social media in communications and public relations has grown drastically over the years and is now a staple in advertisements to mass audiences. For many newer companies and businesses geared towards young people, social media is a tool for advertising purposes and for growing brands. Social media provides additional ways to connect and reach out to a specific, targeted audience.

Social media platforms have completely changed the way people communicate.[7] Over the past twenty years, social media has drastically changed with TikTok and Instagram joining Facebook and Twitter as some of the leading global social media platforms. With more platforms targeting younger generations, audiences are growing. TikTok alone announced that it has over 1 billion active global users and receives over 18 million views; this number has been growing exponentially every year.[8] With content reaching more audiences than ever, brands, companies, and individuals are able to communicate with millions of people all at once.

Social media have introduced new difficulties into relationships. One way this has occurred is through catfishing. The term catfish refers to a person who uses a false online profile on a social media platform. Most commonly, a catfish communicates with another online profile to get them to fall in love with the false persona they created. The MTV reality show Catfish: The TV Show has brought mainstream attention to this issue. The goal of these episodes is to keep track of people who have fallen in love with someone they interacted with online but who have never met in person. As catfishing has become a mainstream term, people have began to wonder how and why it continues to happen. Nev Schulman, host of the show, has said, "I think people will always be looking to fall in love. People will always hope for things to get better. For better or worse, there will always be people who may or may not look to take advantage of that."

Audio media

Recorded music

Recordings, developed in the 1870s, became the first non-print form of mass communication. The invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison in the late 19th century, the graphophone by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Tainter, and the gramophone by The Victor Talking Machine Company were the first competing mass media forms that brought recorded music to the masses. Recording changed once again in the 1950s with the invention of the LP (long play) vinyl record, followed eight track-tapes, then vinyl, and finally cassettes in 1965. Compact discs (CDs) followed and were seen as the biggest invention in recorded arts since Thomas Edison. Nowadays, recorded music is usually listened to using streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Youtube Music, Soundcloud, and Spotify, which are becoming the primary sources of music recordings. Even with the progression into digital music, vinyl and cassettes remain popular physical forms of music.


Radio is considered the most widely accessible form of mass communication in the world and the medium used to the greatest degree in the United States. Internet radio has now become increasingly more popular as radio stations are streaming content through their websites and other applications. Music streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify have also integrated radio features into their platforms. Spotify Radio is a feature that allows Spotify to continuously create a playlist for its users with tracks and podcast segments based on any artist or playlist they wish.


A podcast is an audio file that is recorded and digitally uploaded to an online platform in order to be downloaded and listened to by the general public. Podcasting, as a form of mass communication, has steadily rose in popularity over the past few years. From 2014 to 2019, podcasts have doubled in listeners and podcasting itself has grown by 122%.[9] Following trends in radio and recorded music, podcasts are available to stream on numerous online platforms such as Spotify, Youtube, and Apple Music. Some podcasts are recorded in front of a live audience and then uploaded, enabling the public to listen to their favorite podcast hosts live. With the introduction of podcasts in the 2000s, people can now share niche interests, news, and conversations to a larger audience than was possible using traditional radio.


Convergence refers to the coming together of telecommunications as forms of mass communication in a digital media environment. There is no clear definition of convergence and its effects; however, it can be viewed through three lenses: technological convergence, cultural convergence, and economic convergence.[10] Technological convergence is the action of two or more media companies merging in a digital platform and can lead to companies developing new commodities or becoming part of new sectors and/or economies.[11] Cultural convergence deals with the blending of different beliefs, values, and traditions between groups of people and may occur through the globalization of content. Sex and the City, an American television show set in New York City, was viewed internationally and became popular among female workers in Thailand.[10] A study conducted on the consumption of YouTube by the Information Technology Department and Sociology Department at Cornell University concluded that cultural convergence occurs more frequently in advanced cosmopolitan areas.[12]

Integrated communication

Integrated communication refers to the process of bringing together several types of mass communication to function across the mediascape. Integrated communication unifies all mass communication elements, such as social media, public relations, and advertising. This ensures that the ways in which a company communicates follow the company's business goals and remain consistent across all media channels. This brings value to brand loyalty and to maintaining brand identity.[13]

Film and television


Main article: Film

The film industry began with the invention of the kinetoscope by Thomas Edison. His failure to patent it resulted in two brothers, Louis and Auguste Lumiere, creating a portable camera that could process film and project images.[14] The first public kinetoscope demonstration took place in 1893. By 1894, the Kinetoscope had become a commercial success, with public parlours established around the world. The invention quickly gained notoriety when the Lumiere brothers debuted a series of 60-second clips screened outdoors to a Parisian audience. Despite the ever-growing popularity of moving images, the Lumiere brothers did not seek to revolutionize the style of the film but instead stuck to documenting daily life in France. This set the grounds for future film revolutionaries, including Georges Méliès, who sought to create narrative sequences in his films through the use of special effects.[14] The first 30 years of cinema were characterized by the growth and consolidation of an industrial base, the establishment of the narrative form, and refinement of the technology.


Main article: Television

In the 1970s, television began to change to include more complicated and three-dimensional characters and plots. PBS launched in 1970, becoming the home for programming that would not be suitable for network television. It operates primarily on donations, with little government funding, rather than having commercials. On January 12, 1971, the sitcom All in the Family premiered on CBS, covering the issues of the time and portraying a bigot named Archie Bunker.[14] By 1972, the sales of color television sets surpassed that of black-and-white sets. In the 1980s, television became geared towards what has become known as the MTV Generation, with a surge in the number of cable channels.[15] Of all the mass media today, television attracts the largest number of viewers. Its audience is greater in size than that of any other media audience. Since television is able to attract the audiences of all age groups, literate and illiterate and of all strata of society, it has attracted an enormous audience.


Main article: Photography

Photography plays a role in the field of technology and mass communication by demonstrating facts or reinforcing ideas. Although photos can be altered digitally, it is still considered[by whom?] as proof to expose and communicate.[14] Photography establishes the basic roles: recording great historic events, documenting sociological and journalistic researches, and dynamically influencing the mobilization of public opinion toward social and legislative reforms.

History of photography

Camera obscura was one of the first techniques that led to creating photos. It could create an image on a wall or piece of paper. Joseph Niepce was the French inventor who took the first photo in 1827; the photo required 8 hours of exposure. In 1839, Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype, which reduced exposure time to about thirty minutes. Over time, photography techniques progressed, including the advancement of image quality, the ability to add color to an image, and reductions in exposure time.

Contemporary photography industry

The modern industry has dramatically changed with the development of digital photography as phones and digital cameras have made film-based cameras a niche product. Kodak discontinued making a color film in 1999 and declared bankruptcy in 2012. Other companies, such as Fujifilm, have adapted, despite a downturn in sales.[10]

Interactive media

Video games

Main article: List of video game genres

Video game genres are classifications assigned to video games based on their game play rather than visual or storytelling differences. A video game genre is defined by a set of game play challenges; genres are classified independently of when and where the game takes place. Video games have massed a huge audience, with the industry grossing over 90 billion dollars in 2021.[16] Not only are videos games a channel for mass communication but also the online platforms used in part with the game. Streamers can now go online and broadcast their games on Twitch and Youtube, allowing players to reach over 140 million users.[17]

Ethics in interactive media

Interactive media is a form of communication technique that refers to services on digital computer-based systems. This requires two or more parties who respond to each other through text, moving images, animation, video, audio, and video games.[18] The ethics in interactive media mainly focus on violence in video games in addition to advertising being influenced in different ways and behavioral targeting.

The violence of video games relates to ethics in interactive media because it has the ability to bring on aggressive attitude and behavior that impacts the social lives of people playing these video games.[19] Furthermore, behavioral targeting ties into the ethics of interactive media as these websites and apps on our phones contain personal information which allow the owners or those running the companies to receive and use the information.[20] Interactive media influences advertising because social media and websites show that there is advertising in everything we view.


Main article: Ebook

eBooks have changed how people read. People are able to download books onto their devices, allowing consumers to track what they read, to annotate, and to search for definitions of words on the internet.[21] Through the use of eBooks in education, the increased demand for mobile access to course materials and eBooks for students corresponds with the increased number of smartphones.[22] E-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, have advanced over the years — since its launch in 2007, the Kindle has expanded its memory from 4 GB to 8 GB. In addition, the Kindle has added accessories including games, movies, and music.

Majority theories

Communication researchers have identified several major theories associated with the study of mass communication. Communication theory addresses the processes and mechanisms that enable communication.

Issues and complications

Mass communication had evolved into something that has gone down an unforeseen path where it has become something extremely complicated with major unintentional repercussions on society. Theorists such as Neil Postman and George Gerbner as well as authors such as Nicholas Carr have all written extensive pieces on how the overindulged and over-reliant have become consumed by mass communication and the mediums it utilizes. Upon this reliance there are many complications and issues that have seeped into an increasingly technical and connected society.

Attention span

As the multitude of mass communication outlets increases daily, the availability of very niche and broad outlets has also increased. This availability and the countless opinions being accessed can lead to a skimming activity [31] where authors such as Nicholas Carr have noticed that they have a shorter attention span and are more prone to only skimming an outlet rather than being attentive. This habit is very common as the multitude of sources permit us to only take things at face value. Mass communication began as a term covering radio, print, and television, but it was coined before the creation of the Internet, or the “Universal Medium.”[31] The Internet has taken all the risks and complications of the three aforementioned mediums and has incorporated and built further upon them. The ability to have infinite sources of information has created a Peek-A-Boo World[32] effect in which the constant flow and availability of information causes certain events become very popular but quickly fizzle out.

Mean world syndrome

This method of perception was coined by communications scholar George Gerbner and is associated with the impact of mass communication on one's thoughts of the world they live in.[33] It was characterized to explain how people who are constantly subjected to the evils of the world, now made readily available through mass communication, have the belief that the world is only evil. Gerbner specifies that the context of violence within a story is also important; it is not the quantity that is the issue but rather how it adds up to tell said story.[33] This conditioning can provoke a reaction of displeasure with the world as it can alter world views and it represents the power and darker side of mass communication. The ability to have any form of information to reach anybody around the world in minutes through the Internet has only amplified this lens.

Mass communications and health of public

Mass communication is necessary for improving awareness and education surrounding public health issues. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, mass communication has been crucial for educating the general public regarding precautionary measures needed to combat the spread of illness. Mass communication methods surrounding the establishment of effective public health programs include news stories, paid media, and social and digital media.

Components for an effective communications campaign, as per the CDC's requirements, include specific individualized training, guidance, and technical assistance. Included in those is the development of a plan for communication, analysis and awareness of key audiences, the development and preliminary testing of messages and materials, the selection of communication channels: print, broadcast, or digital, and communication categories: earned, paid, or social or digital media. This further includes providing training for the spokesperson and conducting audience research.[34]

Methods of study

Communication researchers study communication through various methods that have been verified through repetitive, cumulative processes. Both quantitative and qualitative methods have been used in the study of mass communication. The main focus of mass communication research is to learn how the content of mass communication affects the attitudes, opinions, emotions, and ultimately behaviors of the people who receive the message. Several prominent methods of study are as follows:[35]

Professional organizations

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is the major membership organization for academics in the field,[36] offering regional and national conferences and refereed publications. It is a non-profit, educational association for educators, students, and media professionals with annual conferences that specialize in education, research, and public services of various facets of journalism and mass communication.[36] The American Society of Journalists and Authors is the largest organization of independent nonfiction authors, and offers professional development services: which include benefits, conferences, workshops, and advocacy for the entirety of the freelance and publishing communities to develop adequate ethical standards within this field.[37] The National Communication Association is another major professional organization, which aids scholars and researchers within the field by promoting free and ethical communication, and recognizing the study of all forms of communication through inquiry rooted in humanist, social science-based, and aesthetic means.[38] Each of these organizations[39] publishes a different refereed academic journal that reflects the research that is being performed in the field of mass communication and offers resources for researchers and academics within the field.

See also


  1. ^ Campbell, Richard (2015). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age. Macmillan Higher Education. ISBN 978-1319010430.
  2. ^ Pearce, Kevin J. (2009). "Media and Mass Communication Theories". Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. doi:10.4135/9781412959384.n231. ISBN 978-1-4129-5937-7.
  3. ^ a b Curtis, Anthony. "What is Advertising?". Archived from the original on 25 October 2012.
  4. ^ Lovett, Mitchell J.; Staelin, Richard (2016-01-01). "The Role of Paid, Earned, and Owned Media in Building Entertainment Brands: Reminding, Informing, and Enhancing Enjoyment". Marketing Science. 35 (1): 142–157. doi:10.1287/mksc.2015.0961. ISSN 0732-2399.
  5. ^ Willnat, Lars (2014). "The American Journalist in the Digital Age: Key Findings"
  6. ^ "About Public Relations". Public Relations Society of America Inc. Retrieved 9 October 2022.
  7. ^ Perloff, Richard M. (2014-10-24). "Mass Communication Research at the Crossroads: Definitional Issues and Theoretical Directions for Mass and Political Communication Scholarship in an Age of Online Media". Mass Communication and Society. 18 (5). Informa UK Limited: 531–556. doi:10.1080/15205436.2014.946997. ISSN 1532-7825. S2CID 144798408.
  8. ^ Bursztynsky, Jessica (27 September 2021). "TikTok says 1 billion people use the app each month". CNBC. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  9. ^ "Podcasting's route to mass media | WARC". Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  10. ^ a b c Pavlik, John; McIntosh, Shawn (2017). Converging Media; A New Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 11, 99, 107, 108, 110, 127, 130, 192, 219, 243–246.
  11. ^ Suh, Jungwoo (2015). "Analyzing technological convergence trends in a business ecosystem". Industrial Management & Data Systems. 115 (4): 718–739. doi:10.1108/IMDS-10-2014-0310.
  12. ^ Park, Minus; Park, Jaram; Baek, Young Min; Macy, Michael (2017). "Cultural Values and cross cultural youtube consumption on Youtube". PLOS ONE. 12 (5): 1. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0177865. PMC 5439684. PMID 28531228.
  13. ^ Thorson, Esther, and Jeri Moore. “Part 1: Integrated Marketing Communication.” Integrated Communication: Synergy of Persuasive Voices, Routledge, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d Pavlik, John; McIntosh, Shawn (2017). Converging Media; A New Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 11, 99, 107, 108, 110, 127, 130, 192, 219, 243–246.
  15. ^ Fitzpatrick, Laura (22 June 2009). "A Brief History Of: Television". Time.
  16. ^ cycles, This text provides general information Statista assumes no liability for the information given being complete or correct Due to varying update; Text, Statistics Can Display More up-to-Date Data Than Referenced in the. "Topic: Video game industry". Statista. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  17. ^ Ruby, Daniel (2022-11-08). "Twitch Users — How Many People Use Twitch (2022)". demandsage. Retrieved 2022-11-14.
  18. ^ Pavlik, John (2017). Converging Media; A New Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 185.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  19. ^ Coyne, Sarah M.; Warburton, Wayne A.; Essig, Lee W.; Stockdale, Laura A. (October 2018). "Violent video games, externalizing behavior, and prosocial behavior: A five-year longitudinal study during adolescence". Developmental Psychology. 54 (10): 1868–1880. doi:10.1037/dev0000574. PMID 30234338. S2CID 52304261.
  20. ^ Myers, Patrick (1 January 2016). "Protecting Personal Information: Achieving a Balance between User Privacy and Behavioral Targeting". University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. 49 (3): 717–747. doi:10.36646/mjlr.49.3.protecting. S2CID 156638434.
  21. ^ Pavlik, John; McIntosh, Shawn (2017). Converging Media; A New Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 70, 107, 108, 219.
  22. ^ Scott, David (2014). "Ebooks in further education". In Hazel Woodward (ed.). Ebooks in Education: Realising the Vision. Ubiquity Press. p. 13. ISBN 9781909188372. JSTOR j.ctv3t5qn1.5.
  23. ^ Gerbner, G.; Gross, L.; Morgan, M.; Signorielli, N. (1986). "Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process". In Bryant, Jennings; Zillmann, Dolf (eds.). Perspectives on Media Effects. L. Erlbaum Associates. pp. 17–40. ISBN 978-0-89859-641-0.
  24. ^ "George Gerbner | American journalist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-09-18.
  25. ^ Pang, Augustine; Jin, Yan; Cameron, Glen T (March 2010). Contingency theory of strategic conflict management: Unearthing factors that influence ethical elocution in crisis communication. 13th International Public Relations Research Conference. Coral Gables, Florida. pp. 554–573.
  26. ^ McCombs, Maxwell E.; Shaw, Donald L. (18 August 2017). "The agenda-setting function of mass media". The Agenda Setting Journal: Theory, Practice, Critique. 1 (2): 105–116. doi:10.1075/asj.1.2.02mcc.
  27. ^ Noelle‐Neumann, Elisabeth (1974). "The Spiral of Silence A Theory of Public Opinion". Journal of Communication. 24 (2): 43–51. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1974.tb00367.x. S2CID 59515037.
  28. ^ Postman, Neil (June 2000). The Humanism of Media Ecology (PDF). Media Ecology Association Convention.
  29. ^ McLuhan, Marshall; Fiore, Quentin; Agel, Jerome (1996). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. HardWired. ISBN 978-1-888869-02-6.[page needed]
  30. ^ Laughey, Dan (2007). "KeyThemes in MediaTheory" (PDF). Open University Press.
  31. ^ a b Carr, Nicholas (2008-07-01). "Is Google Making Us Stupid?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  32. ^ Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 64–80. ISBN 9780143036531.
  33. ^ a b Gerbner, Morgan, M., Earp, J., Jhally, S., & Morris, S. (2010). The Mean World Syndrome Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear. Media Education Foundation.
  34. ^ Kreslake, Jennifer M. (2019). "Use of Mass Communication by Public Health Programs in Nonmetropolitan Regions". Preventing Chronic Disease. 16: E96. doi:10.5888/pcd16.190014. ISSN 1545-1151. PMC 6716397. PMID 31344335.
  35. ^ Babbie, Earl R. (2007). The practice of social research. Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 9780495093251. OL 7651162M.
  36. ^ a b "AEJMC". Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  37. ^ "Home". American Society of Journalists and Authors. Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  38. ^ "What is NCA?". National Communication Association. 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  39. ^ Susie Skarl, Urban Affairs Librarian. "LibGuides: Journalism and Media Studies: Professional Organizations and Associations". Retrieved 2022-04-11.