Ever since the earliest civilizations came together, communication has been a staple element of society for many different purposes. Communication has been necessary to share news, express needs, form relationships, and negotiate conflict. Mass communication has always been necessary to inform as well as educate, and has taken on many different shapes as we advance in technology.
According to Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems’ Journalism and Mass Communication Volume I, edited by Rasmi Luthra; Humans have had some form of print technology since at least 800 A.D. However, modern printing technology is associated with Johann Gutenberg’s invention of movable type in Mainz, Germany, in 1455.” The availability of such technology made it possible for individuals to curate news content and share it with their communities. The Ohio State publication cements this idea, stating, “This facilitated an increase in literacy, the development of mass media such as newspapers, greater participation in political processes, and changes in the thinking of individuals.” With the development of newspapers, not only was a new industry created, but the framework was set in place for the field to thrive and expand. It also became possible to spread ideas and current events, which fueled the coming changes for mass communications. Over time, the concept of newspapers was tried and tested until the first publications emerged.
The Adoption of Newspapers
According to an article in The Colonial Williamsburg, , the first “English-American news sheet” made it’s debut in 1690, titled “Boston’s Public Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick.” The publication highlights events that were happening at the time, such as Native Americans appointing a day of Thanksgiving, as well as news regarding “The Western Expedition against Canada.” This publication paved the way for modern newspapers, and although it was limited to text during this time period, was still able to accurately document the significant events of the time. The reception of newspapers has always been present, along the desire for individuals to stay knowledgeable and connected. Because of this desire, newspapers have grown and shifted the the point where they are currently at. The delivery of print news evolved from Boston’s Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, to publications such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. While print media was the primary method of delivering and consuming information, audio mediums such as radio soon entered the picture.
Audio Delivery: The Rise of Radio
Initially, radios were implemented as a noncommercial communication medium for endeavors such as military efforts or sea travel. Per the same The Colonial Williamsburg article, Guglielmo Marconi “Developed, demonstrated and marketed the first successful long-distance wireless telegraph and in 1901 broadcast the first transatlantic radio signal.” Following this transmission, there were many experiments with transmitting radio signals. Individuals broadcasted to test the waters, however, nothing came out of these broadcasts for some time. At the time, this was a colossal jump from the previous print method of newspapers. Individuals did not have to wait to have the news delivered, or pick up newspapers. They could simply tune in to a local station from the comfort of their own homes and digest information on current events. An added benefit of radio broadcasts was the ability to not only audibly receive news, but to receive it in real time. Newspapers and print media could only be taken in after events took place, but radio broadcasts were able to cover live events. According to an article published by Encyclopædia Britannica, with contributors Randy Skretvedt and Christopher H. Sterling, “By 1928, CBS and NBC were providing full live coverage direct from the Democratic and Republican conventions.” In addition to sport and political coverage, radio also allowed the distribution of music. Not only could music be consumed through methods such as record players, it could now be heard on broadcasts over the air. Radio stations and hosts enjoyed great success, however that was soon overshadowed by the shift to Television and digital media.
News Visualized: The Shift to Television
In the 1940’s, television made its way to America. According to an article from The University of Wisconsin, Madison; “Television sales took off in the late 1940’s following the start of individual stations in the largest cities.” Because starting and maintaining a television station is very expensive, this undertaking was initially limited to big cities. The aforementioned article states that “Of the 102,000 TV sets in the United States in early 1948, two-thirds were in the New York area.” The television served as a centralized element of the home due to the fact that it combined everything that print and radio could provide, in addition to expanding on those capabilities. Television has evolved over the years, from grainy black and white broadcasts to ultra HD screens with internet and streaming capabilities. Televisions used to be seen as a luxury, with only 0.4 percent of the U.S. owning a set in 1948. In the years after its release, that percentage increased, and continues to increase to the point where televisions are now seen as commonplace, and it is not out of the ordinary to have multiple sets in one household. With the increasing connectivity of digital devices, TV is complemented by the accessibility of the internet and digital media such as podcasting.
When podcasting first caught hold of the mainstream media in 2004, it was known as “audioblogging,” which makes sense due to the personalized feel of podcasts. With technology blossoming, the means to start a podcast are more accessible than ever; all it requires is a pair of headphones, microphone, and a laptop or smartphone. Although podcasting debuted in 2004, marketers and major brands did not adopt the medium until mid-2016. Branded podcasts are stating to catch fire, such as eBay’s partnership with Gimlet creative, a Brooklyn based audio company. eBay and Gimlet came together to produce a branded podcast series, called “Open for Business.” After launching in June 2016, eBay ranked number in the category of business podcasts on iTunes, showing major benefits of the partnership. With news delivery initially being limited to print and word of mouth, it is evident that technology and constant technological advancements have paved the way for individuals to expand and flesh out media and mass communication mediums.
Knowing how far mass communication methods have evolved reflects the impacts of society turning to technology to make significant changes and shifts in various fields. According to an article from Businessinsider.com, “Digital media consumption is growing. Everything else is shrinking.” This article highlights the increase of online capabilities, as individuals can access news and information on current events with a few taps on a smartphone. Media companies are already adapting to these trends, with a heavy online presence. Where print newspapers and radio once dominated the field, online articles and podcasts are leaders in media.