Global media systems have evolved from physical to virtual mediums as well as in terms of their scale and scope. The main media formats include:
- The invention of the printing press in 1450 led to the first efficient duplication of literary work, particularly religious work such as the Bible. As the printing technology evolved, the cost of producing printed work fell sharply, and the first newspapers were introduced. It became possible to relay to the public complex information about current events. Due to the large audiences, newspapers became the first medium used for commercialization as advertisements informing and soliciting consumers about specific goods or services.
- Magazines represent a specialization of newspaper over various topics (religion, politics, fashion) and to cater to a specific audience. This enabled the emergence of a diversity of opinions and identities to specific norms and ideologies.
- As newspapers and magazines proliferated, a market emerged to provide news, particularly over international events. News agencies developed an international network of journalists able to provide timely information to their subscribers. These agencies were also important innovators for the quick diffusion of news (scoops) over long distances, particularly the telegraph.
- The ability to capture images a present them as an animated sequence (motion picture) enabled new forms of media diffusion. Theatrical presentations have been a core element of many cultures, but their access was limited and expensive. From the 1910s, movies enabled to replicate and diffuse a story (it enabled a multiplication of genres) to a large audience and became the “theater of the masses”. It enabled a massification of both the supply (large media companies) and the demand (movie theater networks). Since large audiences were frequenting movie theaters, pre-shows became an opportunity to display current news (newsreels).
- By the 1920s, the transmission of sound over electromagnetic waves (radio) enabled for the first time mass media to reach the private home with a diversity of content, including music, news, and stories. This presented opportunities for new forms of commercialization with advertisements such as ‘soap operas’ that were tailored to a female audience and sponsored by soap manufacturers.
- The television permitted a similar diffusion to the radio with visual elements and richer contents. However, the number of channels was initially limited until cable television became available in the 1980s, which enabled the emergence of many specialized channels. Television commercials anchored the television as a major means of advertisement for the masses. By the 1990s, media systems were characterized by a high concentration level with single-source supply distribution channels. However, the information available to audiences was controlled through editorials (how the information was interpreted), filtering (how much attention an issue would receive), and censorship (what could be presented or not).
- The Internet is likely to be the most significant media system shift in history since it enables multiple media sources and distribution channels. Since a large share of the information is free of access, there is a value assessment market competing for the attention of users. The Internet was able to adapt to all existing media forms, including newspapers, references, and movies (streaming).
- The latest stage in the evolution of media systems involves the diffusion of portable communication devices, initially cell phones in the early 1980s and ‘smartphones’ in the 2000s. The latter have become multifunctional devices that can access media, record images and videos, have global positioning systems have sensors. They enable new forms of mobilities as users are able to interact with information systems, such as navigation assistance.