Books, magazines, and newspapers (Features, Functions, Trends & Convergence).
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Books, Newspapers, and Magazines – Features and Functions
Today, digital media is a prominent part of our busy lives, but the traditional print media
has not lost its significance either. Over thousands of paperbacks are still released every year
around the globe, bookshops and libraries are still popular almost everywhere, and stacks of
newspapers and magazines can still be found in airport lounges, hospital waiting rooms, salons
Books are one of the oldest mass media with valuable features. They have cultural
impacts that reform an existing societal phenomenon or promote a new one. For example, while
Uncle Tom’s Cabin contributed towards changing the society’s attitude towards slavery, Harry
Potter series helped to instigate the interest of reading among children in the society. Books are
also very durable. They have been around since the 15th century and people usually prefer to
keep their books even after finishing them contrary to deleting downloaded books to free
Books also serve useful functions such as transmission of culture from generation to
generation. Although they are not the only media that serve this function, they still play a role in
teaching societal norms to new generations and immigrants. Moreover, religious texts such
Bible, Koran etc. also impart cultural morals and values to people. Books also help in diffusion
of ideas and knowledge, and provide education. For example, textbooks focus on subjects such
as arts, literature, science etc., while fiction and non-fiction books convey moral values,
imaginative concepts, and factual knowledge. Books also provide entertainment. People read to
escape into a fantasy world – to ‘forget’ reality – and also just for the pleasure it provides. For
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example, reading the Da Vinci Code will enable one to experience the thrill of suspense that real
world doesn’t offer.
Newspapers are another traditional mass media that have been around for a long time
and diverse content is their key feature. One newspaper covers national, international,
entertainment, sports etc. news. Newspapers are also conveniently packaged being organized
content-wise into sections like entertainment, sports, advertisements etc. Each story comes with a
headline. Then, most newspapers are a good local source of news. They cover the happenings
locally – be it a sports event, merchandise sale, or school council meetings. Furthermore,
newspapers serve as a historical record of events. Newspaper journalism has even been referred
to as “the first draft of history” (Dominick 2011, p.92). They can give anyone an idea into what a
time period was like by simply reading newspapers from that period. Besides, newspapers are the
watchdogs of society. They monitor what is going on in the government and private industries,
and inform the public of any threats or trends. Finally, newspapers are timely i.e. they provide
fresh news as soon as possible. They are also portable and inexpensive to produce.
Newspapers serve important functions in society such as surveillance. They inform the
readers about events and issues taking place around them such as new films released in theatres,
new products released on the market, and any crimes like murders that occurred. Newspapers
also perform correlation by interpreting aspects of society, and the individual to society,
including how various media shape public opinion through comments and criticism, and
propaganda (Pavlik & McIntosh 2004, p.78). For example, the newspapers’ portrayal of LGBT
as unacceptable and against social norms is correlation. Lastly, newspapers are also a source of
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entertainment. For example, horoscopes, comic strips, crosswords, celebrity gossip etc. in the
Magazines are another traditional media with unique features. They attract specialized
audiences and reach precise demographic, occupational, interest, political, geographic, or other
specific groups. For example, Vogue caters to people interested in fashion. Magazines are well-
versed with social, demographic, and economic trends of society and publish content related
to the corresponding trends. For example, magazines previously never featured pornographic
content, but in today’s era, there are a lot of magazines featuring it. Furthermore, magazines
influence social trends. For instance, the Playboy magazine fueled the ‘sexual revolution’ in the
1950s, and the fashion magazines today set a lot of fashion trends. Also, magazines involve more
long-form writing, are published at intervals of time, and are made of higher quality paper stock
The functions of magazines include surveillance but instead of specializing by reporting
on local geographic communities like newspapers, they specialize by subject matter covering
narrow topics such as science, health etc. Another function of magazines is correlation which
they do by interpreting aspects of the content for their readers. Magazines also perform the
entertainment function as they usually contain a lot of entertaining content. For example,
Reader’s Digest has small sections of jokes and riddles. Magazines also serve the function of
marketing goods and services. In fact, often readers spend more time looking at ads than
reading editorial content as they browse a magazine (Pavlik & McIntosh 2004, p.93).
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Books, Newspapers, & Magazines – How trends and convergence affect forms & functions?
The media, being a human construction, is greatly affected by societal trends. It is
dynamic and changes as its ‘environment’ changes. Political, economic, and technological trends
in society affect the media the most.
For instance, books are being affected by a current economic trend of increasing
mergers and consolidation in the industry. Mergers and consolidations reduce the operating
costs of publishing the books, and increase the profit margins. Moreover, size enables the book
publishing giants to negotiate on terms with retail giants – facilitating good display locations on
bookstores and online. So, more books are released and made available easily, causing more
people to read. As readership increases, the imparting of knowledge also increases. Therefore,
mergers and consolidations help in facilitating the function of diffusion of ideas and
knowledge to the public. Furthermore, the technological trend of digitalized media has
influenced the evolving form of the books. More and more electronic books and online
booksellers have become popular, so that people carry e-books on their kindles and iPads, rather
than paperbacks and hardcovers in their bags. Lastly, a latest political trend of growing spiritual
activism among political leaders, also affects the book industry. As more democrats openly
discuss their faith and spiritual life (and win extra votes) during elections, new books such as
God’s Politics and Spiritual Politics are released into the market looking at politics through
spiritual lenses. This trend affects the function of diffusion of knowledge and ideas of books as
authors begin writing about the spirituality angle in politics, new ideas are distributed to the
public in light of the changing form of politics and people are educated about this kind of
politics. The type of political government a nation has also affects the operation of the books as
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in an authoritarian type of government, all political books published will never criticize the
government, while in a libertarian type, there will be political books supporting the government,
and those criticizing it.
Newspapers are affected by an economic trend of concentration of ownerships. As one
corporation has several newspaper companies under it, the news that all those newspapers
provide will be a one-sided view – it will be biased towards the main corporation’s perspective.
This affects the correlation function of the newspapers, as instead of getting different points of
view readers only get one point of view and one kind of interpretation from various newspapers.
The technological trend of increased internet usage has affected the form of newspapers today
as more online news portals, and twitter news accounts etc. have gained popularity. Instead of
subscribing to print dailies, people now read news with simply a click – anytime, anywhere.
Moreover, this has affected the timeliness of newspapers as readers don’t have to wait a day to
know events, but they are informed in five minutes after it occurs. The surveillance function of
newspapers is affected by a political trend of web campaigning for elections. Nowadays,
politicians are moving towards online campaigning – updating their stand, speeches, offers etc.
instantly – as opposed to publishing such information in newspapers and waiting a day for it to
reach the audience. Thus, the newspapers lose the opportunity for performing the surveillance
function fully in regards to the ongoing political campaign.
An economic trend affecting magazines currently are increased mergers and
acquisitions. As bigger corporations take over magazine companies, the marketing of goods
and services function of those magazines are affected since the ‘big name’ of the magazine
ownership attracts more and better advertisers, causing the magazine to have increased number
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of ads, and also ads of better products than before it was merged with or acquired by the
corporation. The technological trend affecting magazines is the increased use of the internet.
As internet becomes more prevalent, online magazines and “zines” gain popularity. This affects
the form of the magazines as people are more inclined towards online content rather than print
magazines. A political trend that affects magazines today is the open discussion on issues of
LGBT such as same-sex marriage among political leaders. As politicians discuss these issues
with the public, magazines publish content in tune with their views. For example, USA supports
same-sex marriage so a lot of magazine articles and advertisements show it in a positive light,
while Malaysia is against it, so articles are also published against the issue, thus facilitating the
Dominick, JR 2011, The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in transition, 11th edn, Mc-
Graw Hill, New York.
McLaughlin, C 2006, Hot New Political Trends, The Center for Visionary Leadership, viewed 14
October 2012, < http://www.visionarylead.org/articles/new_pol_trends.htm>
Pavlik, J & McIntosh, S 2004, Converging Media: An introduction to Mass Communication,
Pearson Education, Inc., USA.