Books, magazines, and newspapers (Features, Functions, Trends & Convergence).
Aditi Verma – 0302985Books, Newspapers, and Magazines – Features and Functions Today, digital media is a prominent part of our busy lives, but the traditional print mediahas not lost its significance either. Over thousands of paperbacks are still released every yeararound the globe, bookshops and libraries are still popular almost everywhere, and stacks ofnewspapers and magazines can still be found in airport lounges, hospital waiting rooms, salonsetc. Books are one of the oldest mass media with valuable features. They have culturalimpacts that reform an existing societal phenomenon or promote a new one. For example, whileUncle Tom’s Cabin contributed towards changing the society’s attitude towards slavery, HarryPotter series helped to instigate the interest of reading among children in the society. Books arealso very durable. They have been around since the 15th century and people usually prefer tokeep their books even after finishing them contrary to deleting downloaded books to freememory space. Books also serve useful functions such as transmission of culture from generation togeneration. Although they are not the only media that serve this function, they still play a role inteaching societal norms to new generations and immigrants. Moreover, religious texts suchBible, Koran etc. also impart cultural morals and values to people. Books also help in diffusionof ideas and knowledge, and provide education. For example, textbooks focus on subjects suchas arts, literature, science etc., while fiction and non-fiction books convey moral values,imaginative concepts, and factual knowledge. Books also provide entertainment. People read toescape into a fantasy world – to ‘forget’ reality – and also just for the pleasure it provides. For 1
Aditi Verma – 0302985example, reading the Da Vinci Code will enable one to experience the thrill of suspense that realworld doesn’t offer. Newspapers are another traditional mass media that have been around for a long timeand diverse content is their key feature. One newspaper covers national, international,entertainment, sports etc. news. Newspapers are also conveniently packaged being organizedcontent-wise into sections like entertainment, sports, advertisements etc. Each story comes with aheadline. Then, most newspapers are a good local source of news. They cover the happeningslocally – 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 referredto as “the first draft of history” (Dominick 2011, p.92). They can give anyone an idea into what atime period was like by simply reading newspapers from that period. Besides, newspapers are thewatchdogs 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 providefresh news as soon as possible. They are also portable and inexpensive to produce. Newspapers serve important functions in society such as surveillance. They inform thereaders 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. Newspapersalso perform correlation by interpreting aspects of society, and the individual to society,including how various media shape public opinion through comments and criticism, andpropaganda (Pavlik & McIntosh 2004, p.78). For example, the newspapers’ portrayal of LGBTas unacceptable and against social norms is correlation. Lastly, newspapers are also a source of 2
Aditi Verma – 0302985entertainment. For example, horoscopes, comic strips, crosswords, celebrity gossip etc. in the‘entertainment’ section. Magazines are another traditional media with unique features. They attract specializedaudiences and reach precise demographic, occupational, interest, political, geographic, or otherspecific 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 relatedto the corresponding trends. For example, magazines previously never featured pornographiccontent, but in today’s era, there are a lot of magazines featuring it. Furthermore, magazinesinfluence social trends. For instance, the Playboy magazine fueled the ‘sexual revolution’ in the1950s, and the fashion magazines today set a lot of fashion trends. Also, magazines involve morelong-form writing, are published at intervals of time, and are made of higher quality paper stockthan newspapers. The functions of magazines include surveillance but instead of specializing by reportingon local geographic communities like newspapers, they specialize by subject matter coveringnarrow topics such as science, health etc. Another function of magazines is correlation whichthey do by interpreting aspects of the content for their readers. Magazines also perform theentertainment 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 ofmarketing goods and services. In fact, often readers spend more time looking at ads thanreading editorial content as they browse a magazine (Pavlik & McIntosh 2004, p.93). 3
Aditi Verma – 0302985Books, Newspapers, & Magazines – How trends and convergence affect forms & functions? The media, being a human construction, is greatly affected by societal trends. It isdynamic and changes as its ‘environment’ changes. Political, economic, and technological trendsin society affect the media the most. For instance, books are being affected by a current economic trend of increasingmergers and consolidation in the industry. Mergers and consolidations reduce the operatingcosts of publishing the books, and increase the profit margins. Moreover, size enables the bookpublishing giants to negotiate on terms with retail giants – facilitating good display locations onbookstores and online. So, more books are released and made available easily, causing morepeople to read. As readership increases, the imparting of knowledge also increases. Therefore,mergers and consolidations help in facilitating the function of diffusion of ideas andknowledge to the public. Furthermore, the technological trend of digitalized media hasinfluenced the evolving form of the books. More and more electronic books and onlinebooksellers have become popular, so that people carry e-books on their kindles and iPads, ratherthan paperbacks and hardcovers in their bags. Lastly, a latest political trend of growing spiritualactivism among political leaders, also affects the book industry. As more democrats openlydiscuss their faith and spiritual life (and win extra votes) during elections, new books such asGod’s Politics and Spiritual Politics are released into the market looking at politics throughspiritual lenses. This trend affects the function of diffusion of knowledge and ideas of books asauthors begin writing about the spirituality angle in politics, new ideas are distributed to thepublic in light of the changing form of politics and people are educated about this kind ofpolitics. The type of political government a nation has also affects the operation of the books as 4
Aditi Verma – 0302985in an authoritarian type of government, all political books published will never criticize thegovernment, 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 onecorporation has several newspaper companies under it, the news that all those newspapersprovide 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 ofview 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 todayas more online news portals, and twitter news accounts etc. have gained popularity. Instead ofsubscribing 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 toknow events, but they are informed in five minutes after it occurs. The surveillance function ofnewspapers 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 toreach the audience. Thus, the newspapers lose the opportunity for performing the surveillancefunction fully in regards to the ongoing political campaign. An economic trend affecting magazines currently are increased mergers andacquisitions. As bigger corporations take over magazine companies, the marketing of goodsand services function of those magazines are affected since the ‘big name’ of the magazineownership attracts more and better advertisers, causing the magazine to have increased number 5
Aditi Verma – 0302985of ads, and also ads of better products than before it was merged with or acquired by thecorporation. The technological trend affecting magazines is the increased use of the internet.As internet becomes more prevalent, online magazines and “zines” gain popularity. This affectsthe form of the magazines as people are more inclined towards online content rather than printmagazines. A political trend that affects magazines today is the open discussion on issues ofLGBT such as same-sex marriage among political leaders. As politicians discuss these issueswith the public, magazines publish content in tune with their views. For example, USA supportssame-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 thesurveillance function. (1535 words) **Reference ListDominick, 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 14October 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. 6