Study Notes

What are the New Media?

Level:
A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 25 Aug 2018

The term media refers to the predominant means of communication (such as television and newspapers), particularly of mass communication, hence the term mass media. The new media are those types of media that use digital technology (e.g. social media and the use of the internet). This is as opposed to “old media”, which refers to traditional forms of media, such as print media (e.g. newspapers and magazines), television and radio.

While all are examples of mass media, the potential audience for new media is much larger than traditional media forms like newspapers. The term new media particularly relates to digital media: media encoded into a machine-readable format, such as an MP3 files, for example. However, while a CD, DVD or CD-ROM contains digital data, these are now old-fashioned, arguably redundant technology. What might reasonably be considered “new” is always changing. For our purposes, new media is best understood as media that uses digital technology and the internet.

This includes (but is not restricted to):

  • Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • The streaming of video and audio files, including both commercial film and music and user-generated media content (such as the videos on Youtube).
  • Digital/satellite and “smart” television (especially those that facilitate some interactivity).
  • Computer games and particularly online gaming.
  • Apps for mobile telephones and tablets.

New media includes social networks: forms of software that allow people, groups and companies to connect and share information such as photographs and text. Companies such as Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram are all forms of social networks. There are also virtual communities. These networks of individuals who share information across an online community. The individuals in the community may share similar interests or goals, such as an online gaming community or followers of a particular blog. Such communities may well be hosted on a social networking platform (for example, it might be in the form of a Facebook group).

Some old media today exists in new media formats (for example newspaper’s websites often involve multimedia approaches to the news, not just an online version of the printed articles); televisions have become “smart”; digital radio provides further opportunities to interact and to see as well as hear; e-books might have web-links or other features that make them more than just a screen version of the printed page.

The key features of this new media are:

Convergence

It is increasingly the case that one device can be used to access a wide variety of media. For example, a mobile phone can be used for watching films and videos, listening to music, accessing social media, reading books, reading newspapers, accessing websites, etc.

Interactivity

New media formats often facilitate more interaction than old media. The audience is able to engage. For example the “red button” on digital or satellite television, or being able to tweet a live TV or radio programme (and perhaps have that tweet read out or appear on the screen).

Audience/user power

Interactivity also gives more power to the audience. Indeed, in some new media formats, the audience is probably better described as the “user” as there is some erosion of the gap between media producer and media consumer. The audience can use streaming and catch-up services to watch the television programmers they want to watch when they want to watch them (for example) but they are also able to influence media content through their interaction, or even create and share the content themselves.

Accessibility

Increasingly, new media is free media. Once people have the devices and the broadband internet access, they are able to get instant access to a vast array of media content, much of which is also free. While this can be great for the audience, it does raise issues about how media producers make money, with a move towards subscription services and significant amounts of advertising.

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