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Begin your research on communication, mass media, and related fields using the best indexes, databases, and reference works selected by the subject librarian.

A definition for mass media/mass communication

Mass media

1. (the media) The various technological means of producing and disseminating messages and cultural forms (notably news, information, entertainment, and advertising) to large, widely dispersed, heterogeneous audiences (see also mass communication). In the world today these include television, radio, the cinema, newspapers, magazines, bestselling books, audio CDs, DVDs, and the internet (see also advertising media; alternative media; broadcast media; cult media; demassified media; digital media; global media; hot and cool media; hypermedia; independent media; interactive media; mobile media; multimedia; new media; print media; social media). The origins of the mass media are typically traced back to the commercial exploitation of printing by Gutenberg around 1450, or to early newspapers in the 17th century. Networked media have disrupted the traditional mass media paradigm: see demassified media; disaggregation; disintermediation; networked communication; post-media.

2. Key economic, political, and social institutions based on producing and disseminating materials using such channels. Typically large-scale organizations concentrated either in the hands of the state, or a public body, or a relatively small number of ‘media moguls’ (see also regulation; media ownership), all being subject to state regulation and various forms of censorship.

3. Ideological forces in these institutions. These are seen in Marxist theory as involved in engineering consent in the interests of the dominant class in capitalist society (see also dominant ideology; ideological state apparatus; legitimation; manufacture of consent). Others have focused on an agenda-setting function. Critics of such stances argue that they fail to account for conflict and contradictions within media institutions, and underestimate the audience. See also active audience theory; dominant reading; negotiated reading; oppositional reading.   ...

Chandler, D., & Munday, R. (2020). Mass media. In A Dictionary of Media and Communication. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 Mar. 2022

Mass communication

‘One-to-many’ messages technologically mediated through the mass media, making this a distinctively modern form of communication. As a form of long-distance communication it has particular affordances (see distance communication). In terms of communicative functions, its defenders tend to stress information and education functions, while its detractors dwell on entertainment and persuasion functions. The dramatic difference of scale from interpersonal communication highlights the issue of potential influence, leading initially to fears about mass manipulation which later proved to involve an overestimation of media power (see also Frankfurt school; hypodermic model; manipulative model). From a sociological perspective a key difference is its framing within institutions. To be characterized as mass communication, widespread distribution and access are necessary conditions. Issues of power relations are more significant than in other forms of communication. There is no necessary association with the pejorative concept of a mass audience: although the audience is anonymous and widely dispersed, it is also vastly heterogeneous. While it may be live or recorded, it is primarily asynchronous communication—live two-way communication through a mass medium occurs only in such special cases as radio or television phone-ins (which involve broadcast interpersonal communication). Feedback is thus very limited and indirect: it is basically a one-way process. For Mills in 1956, this was one of the two key sociological characteristics of mass communication: the other was that relatively few people could be mass communicators. However, none of these ‘limitations’ renders audiences passive (see active audience theory; uses and gratifications). Technologically, mass communication is conducted through verbal text, graphics, and/or audiovisual media (e.g. film, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.). The diversity of these means (and the need for very different communicative techniques) limits the usefulness of the term mass communication to a broad umbrella concept. See also mass media.


Chandler, D., & Munday, R. (2020). Mass communication. In A Dictionary of Media and Communication. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 Mar. 2022

Finding library resources

Mass media as a subject heading covers many topics. If you do a subject search for mass media, you will find over 1,900 different items. You can narrow your search by country or place. You can also narrow a search by a specific aspect such as social aspects. Take a look at the list of headings and the narrower search terms.

Works are scattered throughout the call number range P 87 to P 96. The following are some of the subject headings used in the online catalog:

A definition of mass media from the Oxford English Dictionary.

For more mass media journal titles, click here.

Keeping up with the journal literature

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