The Media: An Examination of the Sharing of Useful and Edifying Information

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The media is not a singular entity. The media, at this point in time, is a gigantic web of information that could fill millions of dictionaries. Quite simply, the media is a mere means to an end. The end that media serves is information. That is to say, media is the conduit through which information is shared and communicated to the reader, user, etc. The vast diversity of media forms in this day and age means that it is very easy for most consumers of media to be in touch with a constant flow of information (Rainie).

For this reason, the media has become an endless tome of information, and its most important function should be the sharing of useful and edifying information, and, for that reason, it is one of the most important creations of mankind. This information, within the context of the media, is the "stuff" that media presents to the consumer. It is a commodity that is precious to just about anyone, and is why most forms of media are currently booming. Information is the lifeblood of media institutions, and without it, all forms of media would surely fail (Rainie).

While information does indeed play a vital part in media, it has the potential to be so much more. That is to say, much of what is transmitted through the media, while technically information, is not useful information. It would be like having a bag of potato chips instead of a salad. The information may be there, but it is mentally unsatisfying, in many cases. Thus, information should be geared more towards the learning and overall betterment of the consumer.

In order to understand this better, it is necessary to examine what exactly constitutes the purview of "media." There are two main types of media: commercial media, and niche media. The first type, commercial media, is media that is disseminated by private corporations and supported primarily by advertising -either through visuall communication or National Public Radio. It is the most well-known type of media, and by far the most lucrative. For this reason, the information within these forms of commercial media have continuously evolved as the medium itself evolves. Commercial media must continue to evolve in order to keep pace with the rapid advancement of technology, because if it does not, it will lose its consumers and, eventually, advertising support, which it relies on. However, it is not likely that this will happen, as the user, commercial media, and advertising form an interesting trifecta that all rely on one another for survival. Advertising must manufacture a sense of desire within the consumer, which prompts the consumer to purchase products from the advertiser, which, in turn, prompts the advertiser to continue to purchase ad space on whichever medium the advertiser is supporting (Rainie).

Moreover, this cycle has continued for more than one hundred years and, even though the forms of media continue to evolve, this sacred relationship likely will remain constant, as information will always be relevant, and the power of money will continue to dominate. Niche media is, of course, media that targets a specific market, and is oftentimes state-funded. A good example of this is the programming found on PBS, which has an educational focus and tends to be geared toward more cognitive consumers. Niche media also frequently engages in audience segmentation, which is where many different products from one form of media are targeted to different segment types. For example, the PBS program Sesame Street is geared more toward small children, yet still maintains the focus of PBS, which is to provide educational content. Audience segmentation is more often seen in niche media because they are not reliant on ad revenue to survive, and can thus target more specific segments of their audience with less risk. Thus, PBS and other niche media will often have a wide range of shows, each targeting a specific segment of their overall audience. One popular type of niche media is known as narrowcasting, which focuses on target audiences entirely. While usually seen on cable TV, which means supported by both ad revenue and subscriptions, narrowcasting nonetheless fosters divisions within the audience of a particular channel or company so that advertisers can more accurately sell their products. Popular audience segments include demographics, such as age or race, or gender, lifestyle (which appeals to the consumer's interests), and psychographics, which appeal to certain personality characteristics. While many will argue that diving a particular channel or station into many small segments is a bad idea, it is actually probably more beneficial for everybody. This audience segmentation allows for more personalization when it comes to which programs a consumer wants to watch, and allows for advertisers to take advantage of that personalization as well (Rainie).

The dissemination of edifying information relates to these two forms of media in a larger media context by being so universal. That is to say, disseminating information, even the "potato chip" variety of information discussed earlier, is useful to many people, even those who have no interest in actually digesting the information and simply want background noise after a particularly long day at work. The point is that all information types have their specific uses, and disseminating this edifying information to as many people as possible can only beneficial to all parties involved, including the broadcasting company and its subsequent advertisers as well. For commercial media, the ability to be universal is key, since it commercial media rely very much on the brute force approach. That is, appealing to the greatest number of people. Spreading edifying information among all of these people will help to solidify that particular station's reputation as being of higher quality, since edifying information can be difficult to come by, but also encourage consumers to listen in more frequently and spread the word about it, leading to more and more consumers. As for niche markets, the spread of edifying information is perhaps even more important, as each specific audience segment must have a specific type of information, and most of the time, each segment requires its own set of edifying information. For example, a fishing program must have useful and deep information regarding the various types of fish and fishing techniques to utilize in order to be a successful fisherman (Rainie).

Perhaps the most important medium for spreading edifying information to a large number of people is the internet. The internet is a large web of knowledge that anyone with a connection to it has access to. It is the largest source of information in the world, and represents the height of human communication technology. The primary channels for dissemination of information through the internet is via web sites, which contain texts, pictures, and video that all pertain to a certain subject or subjects. Another popular outlet for the internet are a sort of subset of web sites, and are known as social networks. These are web sites dedicated to allowing users, primarily younger users, to interact and share information in a variety of ways. It is a great way to allow users to "get the word out" concerning new products or services, so even advertisers have a place on social networks. This medium was chosen because it represents the future, and the ultimate in adaptability. Investment into internet media is almost always a sure bet because the medium itself shows no signs of dying. Commercial forms of the internet are fairly widespread, and include most types of web sites and social networks. These are also most popular for advertisers, who utilize methods such as pop-ups (ads that appear in the user's face while they are browsing) and banner ads, which appear on the edges of web pages. Niche web sites do exist, but are generally less popular and privately funded by individuals. Wikipedia is an example of a niche form of internet, since it does not rely on ads or other forms of commercial funding to succeed, instead relying on donations of its users. As with television, niche types of web sites tend to be less geared toward advertising and more committed to disseminating edifying information, making them ideal for spreading this useful information. The use of niche web sites to disseminate this useful information is one of the primary ways the function listed in the thesis can be applied to the medium. In fact, studies show that, as of 2009, 74 percent of Americans aged 18 and older use the internet on a regular basis (Rainie, 3). These numbers are even higher for youths. Of users between the ages of 18 and 29, a whopping 94% of them use the internet regularly (Rainie, 4). Lastly, the more a user is educated, the higher the likelihood that they use the internet. Of those who have graduated college, for instance, 94% use the internet. These numbers help to show the power of the internet, especially social networks, as communication and information-disseminating tools that are not to be underestimated. The general intelligence of internet users also lends itself more to edifying information, which these educated users will appreciate more than others. The internet is also great because it does not divide its users much unless they want to be divided. That is, there is little "Us vs. them" mentality within the internet, because all a user has to do is type the information or website they desire and will have it, and be a part of that community, instantly (Rainie).

The internet is a quickly growing medium and represents exciting opportunities for users, advertisers, and businesses alike. It is probably the most useful for disseminating edifying and useful information simply because of how widespread and segmented it is, leading to extremely specific advertising (sometimes advertising can be tailored directly to just one user). Media is all about getting information, of whatever type, to as many people as possible, and the internet is the best tool to use for this purpose by far. The adaptability of the internet makes it one of the best forms of media in the history of humanity (Rainie).

Work Cited

Rainie, Lee. "Internet, Broadband, and Cell Phone Statistics." Pew Internet & American Life Project vol. 5. 2010.