What are the mass media?

We explain what are the mass media and which are the most important. Functions, advantages and disadvantages.

  1. What are the mass media?

The mass media or mass media are those channels or instruments that allow the same message to be transmitted to be received by a huge number of people simultaneously.

Because of its massiveness,  we talk about audiences or audiences when referring to the recipients of the messages transmitted through this channel. With the emergence of this type of media, it began to talk about “mass communication” since it involves a single sender who formulates a message, which reaches a massive receiver. Mass media can be used for different purposes, which will be explained later.

Due to the aforementioned characteristics,  the emergence of mass media is closely linked to technological advances . A letter, for example, does not have the necessary conditions to be read by a large number of people, as do the messages issued through radios, newspapers , cinema , television  and  Internet , which have a range higher.

  1. What are the most important mass media?

Mass Media - Cinema
Cinema is an audiovisual medium that has its origins at the end of the 19th century.

According to the platform and the format in which the message is formulated, we can talk about different types of mass media. Some of them are:

  • Printed The message is formulated in print. This is the oldest medium and had its origins with the invention of the printing press  (in 1440) by the hand of the German Johannes Gutenberg. Within this category you can find newspapers, newspapers, brochures , magazines, flyers, pamphlets.
  • Radio. In this group the radio is located, which uses waves  to emit sound signals and can be AM or FM. This medium is characterized by being very economical, efficient and immediate and therefore, despite the years and the emergence of other options, it remains an option.
  • Cinema.  It is an audiovisual medium that has its origins in the late nineteenth century and is associated with art and entertainment. In the first decades of the last century, however, it was a key instrument for the dissemination of propaganda and information, although these functions were displaced with the emergence of television.
  • TV. It is also an audiovisual medium that emerged in the 1920s, whereby genres of all kinds are broadcast such as information, entertainment, advertising , propaganda, documentaries and others.
  • Internet. This medium became massive since the 1990s and has not stopped growing since then. Here you can issue written, sound, audiovisual messages or a combination of all of them and all genres come together: entertainment, information, propaganda, advertising, and more. A characteristic of this medium is that it is a horizontal, multidirectional medium that lacks borders, anonymous and decentralized.
  1. Characteristics of the mass media

Mass Media - Newspaper
The media does not allow interaction or  eedback .

Some of the characteristics of the mass media are the following:

  • Heterogeneous public. The messages that are transmitted in the mass media are designed for the masses or for a heterogeneous collective audience: of different geographical origins, tastes and interests ,  social classes , ages and sex.
  • Artificial channels.  As these messages must reach the most diverse points, those who emit them cannot use a natural channel, such as air . Instead, they use different tools or brackets. Technological advances always represented advances in the mass media.
  • Unidirectional messages. The media does not allow interaction or  eedback . This means that the sender and the receiver do not exchange roles constantly, as can happen in a face-to-face or telephone conversation. With the advent of the Internet, however, the recipient can write a message almost automatically and send it to medium, but the impact and scope is never the same.
  • Collective issuer.  The messages can be made collectively, that is, several people are involved in their formulation.
  • No spatial or temporal boundaries.  Messages can reach different parts of the world regardless of distances. Space barriers are not a problem : the same message can be received at different times and places.
  1. Functions of the mass media

Mass Media - Internet
Internet allows access to cultural knowledge and products of all kinds.

In general, three basic functions are attributed to the media, although others can be added:

  • Entertain. The media is a channel where many content or messages linked to entertainment are broadcast, such as movies, music and soap operas.
  • Report. The mass media are a key instrument for citizens to access information and news  that serve them for  decision making . That is why in democracies , press freedom is so important.
  • To form. This type of media allows their audiences to access  cultural knowledge and products of all kinds.
  1. Advantages and disadvantages of mass media

Mass Media - Radio
The mass media democratize access to information .

Some advantages and disadvantages that are usually attributed to the mass media are the following:


  • They allow remote communication in an easy way.
  • Messages arrive immediately at destination.
  • They allow access to knowledge that was previously restricted to physical closeness.
  • They are affordable and affordable for recipients. While it is true that in the beginning they were expensive, in the long term their price dropped considerably.
  • They help to close the cultural gap since they allow the access of this type of goods to the different social classes.
  • Democratize access to information.


  • They tend to generate dependence among consumers .
  • They can become channels in which false or manipulated information is disseminated.
  • They reduce face-to-face interaction between people.
  • They can spread and install stereotypes .
  • They encourage consumerism.

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