Whether a consumer, producer, or policymaker, everyone is impacted by information distributed through mass media. In this lesson, we are going to talk about media and economic decisions, and see how these interact.
Media, Policy, and the People
Why do you shop where you do? How do companies know to advertise to your demographic? And how in the world do policymakers have any idea if the economy is actually functioning? In modern society, all of these questions can come back to a single answer: mass media.
Mass media describes information that is distributed on a large scale, and this information can have some major implications for both our daily lives and national policies.
Types of Media
Before we can get into interpreting mass media and economic decisions, we need to first understand how exactly information is being shared. Mass media is traditionally distributed in one of three ways. First is print media. Print media includes physical publications, from fliers to posters to pamphlets. Print media have been used very successfully across history to disseminate both information and propaganda.
Finally, we’ve got digital and social media. The internet (and internet-based outlets) have let people share information and access information on an unprecedented level. These technologies have also removed a degree of power from traditional sources that control the distribution of information, a process which many scholars call the democratization of knowledge and information.
At the same time, these platforms tend to have less regulation and control, allowing incorrect information to gain a wider audience.
Media and the Consumer
When looking at mass media and economic reports, which is our focus today, there are three main groups of people we need to think about. First are the consumers, or people who purchase items. Consumers drive the economy through their individual decisions, and have found various media to be very helpful in making those decisions.In American history, for example, the first newspaper ever printed was focused on the activities of the major ports of the 13 colonies. It discussed prices of goods, timetables for the arrival of products, and other factors to help colonial consumers make the most educated purchasing decisions possible. While the technology has changed some, we still use mass media to influence our place in the economy.
Social media lets consumers share reviews, opinions, and tips and makes advanced economic knowledge more accessible to the average consumer.While media can give consumers more options and information, it can be used to spread incorrect information, which is something consumers need to be aware of. Biases and partisan opinions are common features of an information landscape without regulation, and there have been times when many consumers made important purchasing decisions based on bad advice.
Media and the Producer
For as much as mass media impacts the consumer, it is also very important to the producer. People who are selling items into the market may be influenced by media in a variety of ways. For one, the type of media producers can access may influence their knowledge of government policies, trends in the global economy, stock rates, and major consumer habits. Better access to media may mean more access to information that could help producers survive in a competitive market.
Media can also be used by producers to control information about their product. From printing ads to broadcasting commercials to creating a social media account for the business, producers can attempt to bring information about their product directly to the consumer. Some producers rely so heavily on media to attract customers that they purchase space within major media outlets. The result is something called native advertising, in which the ad (paid for by the company) resembles the normal type of media being distributed.
For example, imagine going to an online news site. You’ve got several news articles that each promise to report the facts with journalistic integrity and neutrality. A producer may purchase advertising space on this site, then craft an ad that looks like a news article. It appears to be part of the media outlet, written by an unbiased journalist, but is actually an advertisement paid for by the producer to sell a product.
Media and Policymakers
Finally, we need to consider the relationship between media and our policymakers, or the government officials who create political and economic policies. Just as with the other groups, media outlets let policymakers both receive and distribute information.Let’s start with the information they receive. Policymakers want their policies to be successful.
That’s kind of an important part of the job. Mass media can give them the information needed to make educated policy decisions, as well as interpret the mood of the people. Do people support a policy, or do they oppose it? Will they use it, or try to subvert it? By accessing the media outlets people use to share their own ideas, policymakers have a good chance of predicting the behaviors, wants, and needs of the population.At the same time, mass media lets the government distribute information. Policymakers are members of the political body, generally with distinct agendas, which means that they may often use media to distribute information in a way that is beneficial to them.
Just like producers advertise a product, policymakers may advertise an economic policy by distributing economic reports that show its success. At the same time, some may avoid widely sharing reports that highlight the negative aspects of their policies. The information is there, but the media determines who reads it.
Mass media can have major impacts on the economic decisions of consumers, producers and policymakers alike. Mass media may distribute information through print media, broadcast media or social/digital media. In all cases, consumers, producers, and policymakers can use media to both receive and distribute information. Ideally, all three will share information equally to better understand each other and make the wisest collective economic decisions, but people in each category may use media to manipulate information for their own benefit. Good decisions are all about education, and responsible mass media can make this a possibility for all.