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Communication and media choice

Media choice is crucial to create the reach and response desired by a communication. Communicators have a wide variety of means for spreading their messages to the public and with the introduction of new media forms (the internet, social media, mobile devices, etc.), the media landscape is increasingly changing from traditional ‘top-down’ approaches. These new media forms are widely discussed for the potential opportunity they present in spreading ideas, but little is understood in how to categorise or understand them in relation to audiences and traditional media.

Established communications literature splits media into either interpersonal or mass using distinct characteristics to define each type. New, social or networked media, made possible by digital technologies such as the internet, allow users to become creators of a much wider variety of communication than previously possible. This may include forms of mass media (eg. a website), personal forms of mass communication (eg. a twitter post), and interpersonal communication (eg. an email). This creates difficulty when attempting to create a definitive categorisation of new media external to the traditional mass or interpersonal definitions.

Research produced by Patrick O’Sullivan (2009) has made contributions to understanding the often blurry distinction between traditional media (interpersonal and mass) and new, emerging forms by separating the exclusitivity (a measure of reach) and personalisation (a measure of recipient-tailored content) of a communication. By identifying both the message and medium as either interpersonal or mass, one can better classify the interaction and relationship between a communication and the intended audience.

O’Sullivan (2009) suggests a matrix can be used to better understand characteristics of communication types: