Author: Denis McQuail
Year of publication: 2005
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISBN: 10 1-4129-0372-6(PBK)
“It covers almost everything in mass communication and can be used long after the course as a reference book” Piet Bakker
This book offers an integrated treatment of the major components of mass communication, it includes new media and explains how theories of mass communication relate to the broader understanding of society and culture. I must say the book can be a bit dull at times but it is a great guide. The contents of the book are divided into twenty chapters and grouped according to eight headings. The thing that for me was very important and made this book readable for me was that McQuail does not only write about boring facts but he combines it with references to the many associations that are present today between media and social media and cultural life. In the back of the book you can also find a glossary to help you understand the text better.
Part 1: Theories
This part may also be called the first substantive part, reading this part gives you a good insight in the world of mass communications, it explains the basics and most general ideas. This part also includes a historical summary about when and how mass media came to be and more important why it became so important.
The Theories part also deals with the costs of media change, very important and interesting for me as and ICM student because in the last couple of years a lot of new instruments and tools made its way, interactive media for example. “Interactive media such as the internet that are ‘mass media’ in the sense of their availability, but are not really engaged in ‘mass communication’ as it has been defined earlier. McQuail discusses whether or not ‘new media’ requires a totally new approach compared to ‘mass communication’ and if Mass communication is in decline.
Part 2: Structures
You can say that this part consists out of three main topics. The first topic to be the overall media system and the way it is organized. The main idea here is that there is something like a media ‘institution’ which applies to media in different ways, this part I thought was very interesting and if you are not planning on reading the whole book I would like to suggest marketing fanatics to at least read this part of the chapter. The reason I think it is so interesting is that it explains how media is subject to economic laws and how on the other hand is a social foundation which has needs in society.
The second topic discusses the expectations of the media on the part of the public, government and audiences.
The final topic of this part explains how the new emerging ‘global media’ and the ‘world system’ of media fits in the world we live in today.
Part 3: Organizations
The organizations part explains the reader (quite difficulty) what firms have to take into consideration when creating an production. McQuail covers interesting topics such as pressures and demands from outside the boundaries of the organization and the requirements of routine ‘mass production’ of news and culture.
Part 4: Content
This was by far the hardest part of the book I had to read, I still remember this clearly even though it is over two years ago I read the book. The two chapters of this book discuss approaches and methods for the analysis of content and secondly the observed regularities in content. I believe I had to read this chapter three or four times before I slightly understood what McQuail was talking about.
Part 5: Audiences
By far the most interesting part of the book and I enjoyed it very much, it discusses human psychology something I am deeply interested in and explains how audience analysis works and why the audience is so important. Well to be honest the latter is easy, without an audience there would be no mass communication.
Part 6: Effects
Most interesting topic of this part is the explanation McQuail gives to the difference in intended and unintended effects. Furthermore the author gives us his opinion about the importance of short-term impact on individuals and long-term influence on culture and society.
Why read this book?
Well, if you are not into marketing I cannot find any reason besides the psychology of human action – reaction to read this book, but if you are there a number of reasons. This book perfectly outlines all components of mass communication, perhaps it is not considered the bible of mass communication writings but it is a great guide, sometimes hard to read, a bit dull, but most of the time well written. There are a lot of examples to help you understand some of the more difficult theories and models explained in the book.
The think I like about this book is that is not a guidebook for creating a good mass communication campaign but instead it shows both sides of mass communication. On the one hand the company and everything it should take into consideration and on the other hand the audience, who is the audience and what can you expect from them and what do they expect from you.
About the Author:
Denis McQuail Emeritus professor at the University of Amsterdam and visiting professor at the University of Southampton is considered to be one of the most influential scholars in the field of mass communication studies, he has written three influential books namely: Communication models, Mass Communication theory and Media Performance. McQuail also developed two theories: The freedom VS. Control theory and the use and reception of media. (Source Wikipedia).