Before we talk about the significance of Mass Media Research, it is important to discuss the meaning of Mass Media and Research. Mass Media are defined as media which have their proper program and constitute their own audience. (Heiner Meulemann and Jörg Hagenah). Media can be defined as technologies designed to store and disseminate information. Among media in general, mass media can be singled out regarding the information disseminated and the audience receiving them. Mass Media Research, accordingly, deals with the production of programs and the consumption of the audience. In the 7th edition of the book, Mass Media Research: An Introduction, Joe Dominick and Roger Wimmer define research as: an attempt to discover something (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003). That’s all there is to Research—an attempt to discover something. Research is different from other investigation in the sense it is a scientific investigation. When we look at the definition, we will see why research is so important in Mass Media.
There isn’t any area in Mass media that doesn’t conduct or use research. Research is the only area in mass media that relates it to everything. Every time we raise a “who, what, when, where, why, how questions we have developed an investigative question. For example why do people choose to watch one television program over another, how internet affected readership of newspapers, what type of articles are most popular in magazines, when is the best time to broadcast a youth related programme. Research helps provide answer to these questions. Most importantly, it is a valid way of attaining accurate information. Research is scientific therefore it is verifiable, objective, empirical, systematic, cumulative and logical.
As mentioned earlier there isn’t any area in Mass Media which doesn’t use research, we shall further discuss about the use of research in different media forms:
Electronic Media: Electronic media research studies today fall into two main categories: ratings and non ratings research. The data for ratings surveys are currently gathered by two methods: diaries and electronic meters (commonly called people meters). There are many types of no ratings research used by the electronic media. This type of research provides information about what the audience likes and dislikes analyses of different types of programming, demographic and lifestyle information about the audience.
Print Media: While there are many types of research conducted by the print media, these are the types of research that have gained most attention in the past several years:
- Readership: the most widely used of all print research procedures including research in areas such as reader profiles, item-selection studies, reader-nonreader studies, editor-reader comparisons, and psychographic and lifestyle segmentation studies.
- Circulation: research about who reads the newspaper or magazine, how can circulation be increased, and what the readers want to have included in their newspaper or magazine.
- Management: research concerning goal setting by management, employee job satisfaction, and effects of competition and ownership on newspaper content and quality.
- Readability: research on all the elements and their interactions that affect the success of a piece of printed material.
- On-line media usage: research concerning the Internet and how it affects newspaper and magazine reading.
Advertising and Public Relations: Just as with the other media, research in advertising and public relations includes a variety of topic, some of which include:
- Copy Testing: research on the effectiveness of advertising.
- Reach and frequency: how many people are exposed to advertising?
- Internet-related: research on how the Internet affects advertising and public relations.
- Campaign assessment: research on the success of an advertising campaign.
- Public relations: applied, basic, and introspective research to examine specific practical issues.
- Public relations audit: a comprehensive study of the public relations position of an organization.
- Social audit: a small-scale monitoring program to measure how well a company is living up to its public responsibilities.
Internet: The Internet has quickly become a mass medium, and it is changing every day. However, one thing is certain about the Internet, and that is it will provide a countless number of research possibilities for mass media researchers. Consider some of the possibilities:
- On-line research: respondents answer questions using Internet-based questionnaires.
- Web site research: what makes a good web site? How can more people be attracted to a web site?
- Music testing: radio stations and music companies test short segments (hooks) of songs.
- Advertising testing: respondents provide reactions to audio, video, and print advertising.
Mass Media is a commercial industry. Like any other business, its primary motive is to get the highest numbers. The numbers may refer to sales, profit or audience. Therefore, one important factor of media research is it helps them attain the goal. It involves a 3 step process. Firstly, find what the people want and then give it to them. Lastly, let them know that you gave it to them. Researches help find what people want, also they find out what is the best way to give it to them and also they find the best means for advertising the program. Thus, research is included in every step of the process.
Research thus aids decision making. Regardless of the area that we are involved in mass media, we will be involved in mass media research. There is no area of mass media that hasn’t been affected by research. Research is an integral part of mass media because it results in better and accurate reporting which ultimately results in better decisions.
Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Adhikary Nirmala Mani (2006) Understanding Mass Media Research (1st ed.) Prashanti Pustak Bhandar