What are the media

As means of communication are called all those instruments, channels or forms of transmission of information that human beings use to carry out the communicative process.

The media are so broad that they range from writing to today’s information and communication technologies.

According to the concept of a certain means of communication, the roles of sender and receiver can be interchanged or not. That is why the media respond to at least two major paradigms of communication:

1) One-way communication, in which only one of the subjects acts as a sender in front of a receiver.

2) Bidirectional or multidirectional communication, in which the receiver or receivers become senders and vice versa.

What are the media for?

The media’s main function is convey a messagewhich is directed from a sender to a receiver.

In addition, they fulfill more specific functions such as informing, persuading, presenting ideas, motivating participation and entertaining. Everything will depend on the purpose for which they are used.

Media Types

The media are usually classified depending on the type of information they transmit: information from public interest or of private interest.

In this sense, a basic differentiation can be made between the means of interpersonal communication and the means of social communication. Let’s see.

Personal Interest Media

The means of interpersonal communication or personal interest are used to establish communications between people. They are those that allow communication, within the sphere of the privateto two or more people. Therefore, they necessarily respond to the two-way communication paradigm. For example:

  • Post mail;
  • Telegraph (morse key);
  • Telephone (pulse telephones, tone telephones, cellular telephones and smartphones);
  • Email;
  • Instant messaging networks, among others.

Public interest media

Public interest media, also known as social or mass media (mass media in English), are intended to convey information of a public to the masses. They are normally governed by the one-way communication paradigm, although there are exceptions.

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The media have enormous power to influence, guide and shape public opinion. Hence, it is also called the fourth power. For this reason, one of the main objectives of undemocratic governments is to censor the independent media and use it for their own benefit.

Types of Social Media

Depending on the platform and format they use to communicate, there are different types of social media.

Printed media

As printed media are all those printed publications, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures, etc., which are used as a material medium for the transmission of information. It is the oldest means of communication.

Its golden age spans from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century. Currently, it continues to be a medium that enjoys prestige, but the interest of the general public in it has been gradually declining to migrate to other media such as radio, television and digital platforms.

See also: Press.

radio media

The means of radio communication are those that are based on the use of radio waves to send sound signals. In this sense, the reach of the radio is greater than that of the written press.

To listen to their transmissions, it is enough to have a radio wave receiving device. Some of the advantages of radio are its immediacy, efficiency, and low production costs. It is an invention of the 19th century that is still valid and uses both analog and digital supports.


It appears at the end of the 19th century and is considered an audiovisual medium. Although today this medium is fundamentally oriented towards aesthetic creation and entertainment, in the past, especially in the first decades of the 20th century, it played an important role as a means of mass communication. Movie theaters became spaces for immediate information and propaganda before the advent of TV.

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Once TV appeared in homes, cinema was able to focus on its specific vocation: the creation of audiovisual discourses for aesthetic and cultural purposes.


Television is the most popular social media in the world. It is part of the audiovisual media as well as the radio, since it uses audio and image technology for the transmission of information. Its scope is enormous in terms of coverage and population with access to it. In addition, its content offer is diverse and is aimed at all kinds of audiences: education, health, opinion, entertainment, fiction, information, documentaries, etc. His invention dates from the 20th century.

Complementary or auxiliary means

It refers to all the media that serve to transmit messages to the community that fulfill complementary or auxiliary functions of the traditional media. For example: outdoor billboards, posters, purchase catalogues, free calendars distributed by companies, samples, circulars, flyers, etc.

Digital media or hypermedia

Digital media are those that use the Internet to disseminate content and information. They appeared at the end of the 20th century, thanks to the development of computing and new information and communication technologies. Since then, they have caused a revolution in the way people consume, produce and interact with information.

The Internet represents a shift in the paradigm of unidirectional communication towards a multidirectional model, because it allows and requires the active participation of the user. The user not only determines their searches, but is also a content generator.

At the same time, the Internet contains all the possibilities of communication media in a single system: audio, image, text, databases, work tools, interpersonal communication channels, etc. With the Internet we have access to television, cinema, press, radio, telephone and social networks. For this reason, many specialists do not consider it a means of communication, but rather a hypermedia.

As an example we can mention:

  • Search engines like Google or Yahoo;
  • Youtube;
  • Spotify;
  • itunes;
  • Netflix;
  • SoundCloud, among others.
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However, these media are still expanding and their process of democratization and access to the masses is still in progress.

See also ICT (Information and Communication Technologies).

Social networks

Social networks are part of digital media. However, they deserve a separate mention due to their complexity, since they are present in all supports, both interpersonal and social: smartphones, computers, modes of interaction on radio and TV, etc.

Social networks are channels that allow the transmission of instant and personalized messages. At the same time, the production and transmission of images, video, audio and texts in a broad or massive social context.

They have totally revolutionized the way of conceiving communication by crossing all the functions of their predecessors and adding a fundamental element: the production of content by the user.

Thus, social networks or RRSS have become spaces for the promotion of projects, values, ideas, concepts, symbols, beliefs, merchandise and services of the most varied types.

Through the connection of real people through a network system based on common interests (shared history, location, activities, educational level, beliefs, etc.).

Among them we can mention:

  • instagram;
  • Snapchat;
  • Twitter;
  • Facebook;
  • Facebook Messenger;
  • Tik Tok;
  • WhatsApp;
  • Telegram.

Alternative social media

It is called alternative media or, simply, alternative media, to all channels of communication and social information of an independent nature. These media do not belong to large corporate groups or the state or are not controlled by them.

This type of media is usually identified with its own agenda or cause (social complaint, environment, spirituality, citizen participation, cultural life of the sector, etc.). They seek to create spaces for the representation of needs, problems, approaches and perspectives that are normally made invisible or openly censored by business groups or the State based on market or political interests.

Within this category you can find community radios and televisions, podcasts, billboards, and all kinds of electronic resources such as social networks, web pages, blogs, forums, etc.

See also: social movements, communication and elements of communication.