Looking Into Communications and the Arts
COMMUNICATIONS ANDTHE ARTS: THE SAMEOR DIFFERENT?, TELECOMMUNICATIONS, PUBLISHING, ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS, BROADCAST MEDIA
Consider the Titanic. When the great ship sank in April 1912, it represented the state-of-the art technology of its day, including communications. The Titanic was equipped with one of the most powerful wireless telegraphy sets in existence at that time, which allowed it to communicate with other ships—provided they were within 300 miles. The loss of the Titanic was the largest media event of the early 1900s. When the ship sank, news of the tragedy spread across the globe within a week. Most newspapers got the full facts of the story a mere three days after the accident, when the survivors at last made it to New York City on the rescue ship. In a matter of months, books written by journalists and survivors of the accident began to appear. Meanwhile, mourners showed their respect with music. Weeks after the tragedy, publishers produced sheet music presenting the hymns played by Titanic's band as the great ship went down.
Not even a century later, news of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, took virtually no time at all to spread around the world. Viewers all over the globe watched the second hijacked plane slam into the South Tower in real time. They also witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center on live television. Those at work followed the events on radio and the Internet. Newspaper extras carried front page stories from New York and Washington that very afternoon. Reports by survivors and public figures were available without delay on television and the Internet, while reporters and commentators provided continuous analysis of the events. During the following days and weeks, progress in the rescue attempts and cleanup was seen by audiences worldwide. Months later, television documentaries used computer graphics to explain the reasons behind the collapse of both 110-story towers.
The advances in communications of the past ninety years could not have been foreseen in 1912. Changes in communications over the coming decades promise to be just as revolutionary. As the 21st century progresses, people with creative and technical skills will be able to find more and more opportunities for challenging, exciting, and fulfilling work in the amazingly diverse communications industry.
THE ARTS: THE SAME
Most people think of communications and the arts as very different career fields. After all, being a tenor for the Metropolitan Opera is quite different from being a broadcast journalist. Yet the distinction between communications and the arts is not as clear as it first seems.
Communications theorists break their field into four major components: people, content, appliances, and networks. People create and use communications systems. Content is the information carried on a communications system—it could be a message left on a telephone answering machine or an operatic aria broadcast over radio. Appliances are machines such as cell phones and computers with modems—any device that enables people to share their thoughts or gain access to information. Finally, networks are the communication systems that carry the millions of pieces of information people share and use. In recent years the impact of technology on both mass communications and the arts has made the common elements of these different disciplines even clearer.
The Evolution of Communications
Unlike many of the industries that make up a modern economy, the communications industry is not new. Communication is a basic human need, along with shelter and food. Thousands of years ago people wrote their messages on pieces of animal skin, and messengers carried those documents from one place to another. Throughout most of human history, messages could be conveyed only as fast as people could move.
Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, dramatic advances in communications technology have occurred with remarkable frequency. In 1837, for example, Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, a device that could transmit coded messages as fast as electricity could flow through a wire. Other electricity-powered breakthroughs followed in rapid succession: the telephone in 1876, the radio in 1895, and the television in 1923. In the early 1970s developments in electronics and computer programming paved the way for the personal computer as well as the "information revolution" now sweeping the planet.
Today, advances in digital technology are leading us into a world where the distinction between computers, telephones, television, and other communications appliances is growing less and less clear. What is clear, however, is that the creation and delivery of art and information will continue to be a major aspect of our lives and our economy.
The rapid evolution of technology has led to major shifts within the communications industry. Although some of these trends have created entirely new occupational fields, others have led to the decline of jobs linked to outdated technologies. People interested in a communications career—whether as a fiction writer or a musician, a Webmaster or a scriptwriter—should look carefully at current trends to evaluate their impact on jobs in the future.
The New World of Communications
Imagine watching a television commercial and being able to use a remote control to click on an icon that says "contact us," and immediately being connected to a customer service representative from the company running the advertisement. This moment is not far off. In today's communications world, seemingly diverse media such as phones and television are converging into one system. Copper wires, coaxial cables, fiber-optic cables, and wireless communications technology connect homes, offices, factories, stores, schools, and entertainment centers throughout the country. Digital technology allows enormous amounts of "content" to be sent along the various communications networks in the form of phone calls, television broadcasts, traffic and weather reports, stock quotes, pay-per-view movies, home shopping, video games, text messages, and much more. People use appliances to gain access to this content. As technology evolves, both the networks and appliances used to gain access to content will change in ways that are hard to predict. Current technology continues to change daily with new features and advancements making appliances such as cell phones and computers outdated only a few months after purchase.
The rapid growth of the Internet is an excellent case study of how technology can enable whole new communications industries to spring up practically overnight. For decades, computer users in universities and the military had access to what is now called the Internet, a network of networks linking computers across the globe. Internet users were mostly computer scientists and engineers sharing research and expensive computing applications. The personal computer industry, which started in the 1970s, led to the growth of a huge market of potential Internet users in homes and businesses. In 1990 a pair of Swiss computer scientists proposed developing software that would allow users to post "pages" containing pictures and sound on the Internet, which until then had been used only for e-mail and transfer of data files. Other software developers invented "browsers" to allow users to easily find and see these pages. By the mid-1990s the colorful, user-friendly World Wide Web was providing millions of individuals across the world access to easy-to-find information and entertainment. The Web is a communications medium that did not exist twenty-five years ago. Such rapid development in the communications industry will probably be the norm, not the exception, in the twenty-first century.
Seeing the potential for billions of dollars in profits and the opportunity to reach millions of people, businesses and arts organizations are doing their best to capitalize on the rapid evolution of communications technology. On the one hand, media giants have grown even larger as publishing companies, Hollywood studios, television networks, and cable television systems merge and form ever-larger mass media companies. On the other hand, small start-up software developers and independent film and video producers are finding more and more outlets for their work. As the Internet landscape evolves, successful companies in the communications industry—those that are large and small—are aware of and eager to take advantage of change.
Risks along the Way
The rapid evolution of information technology raises a variety of economic questions. For example, no one can predict with certainty which medium for delivering content will predominate. Will it be fiber-optic cable run directly to homes? Satellite transmissions delivered to personal satellite dishes? Existing coaxial and telephone wires augmented by improved televisions and modems? The communications industry will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to develop these various networks, and inevitably some companies will fail.
There are also ethical questions raised by the growth of the information economy. Many people fear that the increasing sophistication of technology will divide the country's access to information along economic lines, thus making it even harder for the nation's poor to acquire the skills they need to succeed in an ever more complex economy. According to results from the Digital Divide Project conducted by the University of California at Santa Cruz, in 2005 approximately 60 percent of homes in the United States had a computer (up from 42 percent in 2000) and just over 50 percent of homes were connected to the Internet—which means that about half the nation's homes had yet to gain full access to the World Wide Web at home. However, Internet access is now freely available in most public libraries. Many children have access at school and many adults have access at work. In addition, today's flat monthly fees for unlimited access to the Internet have decreased the cost dramatically compared to the original per-minute charges.
Finally, although communications networks provide individuals with vast information resources, they also put users' security and privacy at risk. For example, when consumers use the Internet to purchase products, they are asked to give credit card information. Even though this information is encrypted and nearly impossible for a hacker to obtain, some people remain concerned. Furthermore, people who do not take security precautions risk revealing private information to strangers—information about themselves, their preferences, and their personal lives. Identity theft has become an increasingly serious concern for those making Internet purchases and applying for loans and mortgages online: in reality, however, most identity theft is the result of offline information having been compromised. An Internet scheme known as "phishing" caused an uproar in the early 2000s, teaching Web users never to respond to e-mails requesting personal information, even if the e-mail purports to come from legitimate Web sites. Security downloads now offer computer users protection from worms, viruses, spyware, potentially unwanted programs (PUPS), and other Internet traps that can lead to computer crashes and identity theft.
Policing the Internet
The federal government has a large part to play in the regulation of the Internet—or as it is officially called by government and industry, the National Information Infrastructure (NII). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has much of the responsibility for policing the NII. It also oversees the auctioning of the rights to unused parts of the wireless communications spectrum. The wireless spectrum is used for cellular and broadcast communications and is a major source of revenue for the government. Congress and the president also have a voice in the regulation of the NII through legislation such as the Communications Act of 2003. This law guides the development of the NII, ensuring that it remains competitive and is not monopolized by a handful of telecommunications and media giants. Other laws governing the Internet include the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) of 2000, Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, and the Anti-Spam Act of 2003, which was passed to help prevent unsolicited e-mail.
The telecommunications industry provides local, long-distance, and international telephone service, as well as cellular phone service, paging services, and access to online services and the Internet. Historically, this industry has used analog technology to transmit voice messages over copper wires. However, as the transmitted data has become increasingly more sophisticated, the industry has undergone a dramatic conversion from analog to digital technology. The new digital networks, employing fiber-optic technology and electronic switching systems, are able to carry far greater amounts of information and are easier to install and maintain.
The marketing of telecommunications services is rapidly evolving, too, as long-distance service providers, local telephone service providers, wireless communications companies, cable television systems, and other information providers offer their services to homes, schools, and businesses.
The Transformation of the Telephone Company
For decades, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) had a monopoly on the telecommunications industry in the United States. By the mid-1980s, however, a prolonged antitrust suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice forced AT&T to divest itself of its local telephone operations, thus forming seven regional companies, dubbed the "Baby Bells." AT&T faced competition for long-distance services from companies such as MCI Communications and U.S. Sprint.
Today, federal legislation allows various regional and long-distance telephone companies to compete in a wide variety of markets—long distance, local, and wireless.
The Equipment Boom
Before deregulation, AT&T also had a monopoly on telephone equipment. Customers were required to lease their telephones from AT&T, which charged a monthly fee for each telephone receiver. The phones also had to be installed by telephone company personnel. After deregulation, customers were free to buy and install their own equipment, including appliances such as fax machines and modems. By the mid-1980s many electronics manufacturers had entered the booming telecommunications equipment industry. Today, they offer low-cost telephones, answering machines, fax machines, and modems to residential customers, as well as sophisticated telephone networks and computerized switching services designed for large corporations and institutions. AT&T itself has spun off its research and technology business into a corporation called Lucent Technologies.
In the late 1980s telephone companies began to replace standard telephone lines with cables made of optical fibers. Although standard telephone lines were satisfactory for voice communication, they did not provide adequate bandwidth to meet the data-intensive needs of digital communication and the ever growing volume of calls on the telecommunications network. Fiber-optic cables, which convey pulses of light rather than impulses of electricity, can transmit digital data far more quickly and accurately than analog signals sent via electric impulses over copper wire. Telecommunications companies have been spending billions of dollars to extend their fiber-optic networks into new areas, especially consumers' homes.
The fastest growing segment of the telecommunications industry is wireless communications. Wireless appliances keep people in touch with home or office whether they are flying in a plane, relaxing on a beach, or driving across the country. AT&T activated the first cellular telephone system in 1983. The long-distance giant believed that fewer than a million people would use such services by the year 2000. As it turned out, by 2004 more than 180.5 million people in the United States subscribed to cellular phone service. Beginning in late 1994, the FCC began to auction off the rights to use untapped portions of the wireless spectrum, which enabled the highest bidding communications companies to greatly increase the capacity, versatility, and reliability of their wireless products.
Over the years cellular phones have become smaller, less expensive, and more sophisticated. The first cellular phones weighed eight to eleven pounds and required their own shoulder bag. Today's most popular styles weigh only a few ounces and fit in a pocket or purse. Many cell phone models now provide direct Internet access. Some cellular systems are equipped with text messaging and photo capabilities. Cellular systems have greatly improved the quality of transmission by upgrading to digital service.
Another development in wireless communications is the personal digital assistant (PDA). These tiny computers transmit voice messages, send and receive faxes, access online computer services and e-mail, and keep track of phone numbers and appointments.
A Dynamic Career Field
The telecommunications industry is changing rapidly as new technologies are developed to meet the needs of a modern information economy. In the years ahead workers in the telecommunications field will need to adjust to continuing technological changes. Those workers who monitor occupational trends and update their knowledge and skills through further training will be the most successful.
Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type in 1447 forged a new era in the publishing industry. For the first time in history multiple copies of the same document could be made easily and in large quantities. Information and ideas moved rapidly. Indeed, CNN deemed the invention of movable type so important that in 1999 they named Gutenberg the most influential person of the millennium. Today printed materials—books, magazines, and newspapers—continue to play a vital role in delivering information to the public; however, advances in technology have led to the rise of other forms of publishing such as books on CD, online publications, e-books for PDAs and portable digital media players such as iPods, and downloadable Podcasts. New electronic media have led the way in publishing industry changes in the twenty-first century. On-demand printing has reduced in-office jobs in publishing, and publishers are using more and more freelancers and telecommuters to reduce costs. The use of computers and networking has made transmitting text faster and more convenient.
The Book Brigade
Despite fears that Americans lack cultural literacy and watch too much television, it is still true that Americans love to read books. The book publishing industry's net sales for 2005 totaled $25.1 billion, up $1.4 billion from 2004. Book superstores and used bookshops proliferate, although independent booksellers are rapidly disappearing because of competition from large chains. Online bookstores such as Amazon.com and online versions of bookstores such as Barnes and Noble have become important additional sources for the book reader and have made it possible for books without large mass audiences to remain in print. While the large publishers scramble to come out with popular bestsellers, small publishers and university presses are becoming increasingly involved in finding and publishing books by interesting new writers.
The tens of thousands of new books published each year in the United States require more than just an author to take them from manuscript to a bookstore shelf. Acquisition editors working for publishing companies read book proposals and manuscripts, then negotiate with the author's literary agent for the right to publish a promising book. Editors work with the author and the manuscript to improve the text. Copy editors, proofreaders, designers, compositors, and printers each contribute to the finished product. Illustrated books require the services of photographers, artists, and layout specialists. Many books, including certain children's picture books, school textbooks, and reference books, are developed by book "packagers"—independent businesses that employ writers, editors, illustrators, and designers to develop books marketed and distributed by publishing companies. Overall, permanent, full-time jobs in publishing are expected to decline slightly from 2004 to 2014, but opportunities for freelancers will increase.
Computerized typesetting and automated printing presses reduced the demand for some types of production workers but at the same time increased the need for others, mainly those with computing and mathematical skills. In addition, the interest in technology-oriented books has grown rapidly, raising the demand for qualified technical writers and editors.
Custom Book Publishing
As the more than $25-billion-a-year book publishing business grows, it continues to adapt new technology to meet its various needs. Bookstores and copy shops use online technology and high-speed printers to produce books on their premises at customer request. "On-demand printing" has two major advantages. First, it saves publishers and retailers money by avoiding wasteful print overruns, transportation charges, and rent for storage facilities. Second, it allows publishers to print books to a client's specifications. On-demand printing is already changing the $7-billion-a-year market for college textbooks. Many college professors now design their own textbooks, mixing and matching chapters from various books in a commercial database.
Like book publishing, newspaper and magazine publishing is a huge industry. In most cases, publishing a newspaper or magazine is more complex than producing a book. Dozens or even hundreds of writers may be involved, deadlines are rigid, and the pressure is intense. In addition to writers, editors, and proofreaders, other types of workers—from designers and photographers to advertising sales people to equipment maintenance technicians—also play key roles in the publishing of a newspaper or magazine.
Every day more than 118 million Americans read a newspaper. Even so, this figure represents a decline in readership from the days when newspapers outpaced all other information channels. Growth of the mass news media, such as all-news cable TV stations, has fundamentally altered the journalism profession. Newspaper advertising revenues also have dropped because of competition from broadcast media and direct mail advertising. Whereas many important daily newspapers are losing readers or going out of business altogether, an increasing number of weeklies, biweeklies, and "shoppers" serving towns, suburbs, and neighborhoods are attracting new readers. A majority of newspapers have an online edition that contains many of the same stories as the print edition. Some even include frequent updates on local and national news. A 2002 poll conducted by the Newspaper Association of America and MORI Research of Minneapolis reported that 62 percent of Internet users surveyed turned to an online newspaper when looking for local news. National and international news is available at many popular Web sites and updated within minutes of its release by news agencies, so that people who log on frequently see it long before it appears in a newspaper.
While newspaper publishing undergoes a period of consolidation, the quantity and variety of magazines continue to multiply. The percentage of income that Americans spend on recreational activities has doubled since 1990. New magazines—hundreds of titles each year—have been produced on a variety of leisure-time activities, including health and fitness, cooking, sports, computers, soap operas, travel, and music. Publishers also develop magazines specifically for groups of readers attractive to advertisers such as teenage girls and men in their thirties. Although some new magazines survive for only a few issues, many flourish as advertisers seek to market their specialized products to clearly defined and precisely targeted audiences.
Computers and Periodicals
Computer technology has radically changed the way both newspapers and magazines are produced. For example, in the past a newspaper reporter would attend an event and phone in the story to the newsroom, where someone else would write it. Today a reporter can write the story on location using a notebook computer and then transmit the story to the newspaper's central computer via the Internet. An editor retrieves the story on a desktop terminal and makes revisions to the text. Page layout, proofreading, and typesetting are also being done by computer. Finally, a computerized version of the finished publication may be sent electronically to a printing plant across town or across the country, where it is downloaded for publication.
In magazine publishing, the development of high-speed desktop computers, sophisticated software programs, and high-quality laser printers means that an individual at a desk can accomplish what once required a small army of people and a mountain of equipment. For certain purposes a desktop publishing system's local printer can turn out documents equal in quality to publications that have been printed on a printing press. In other cases desktop publishers prepare documents and then send them to commercial printers for reproduction.
Job prospects in the periodicals publishing industry are best for people who combine creative skills with technical ability, especially freelance or consultant editors, designers, and production workers who will contract work from a variety of companies and publications. Writers, editors, and proofreaders who can understand and work with specialized scientific and technical subjects will be in demand, as will designers and production workers with training or experience using computer-based desktop publishing systems.
At first, books were books; then came "books on tape," and then came books on CD-ROM. CD-ROM technology records the text of a book on a compact disc, which can hold 260,000 pages of printed text. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)—a twenty-volume reference work—comes on a single compact disc. CD-ROM technology seems best suited for reference works (such as the OED or Microsoft's popular Encarta electronic encyclopedia) because the information can be updated easily—often via the Internet—and new discs can be made at relatively low cost. Many reference works, including encyclopedias, are available on both CD-ROM and DVD (direct video disc). DVDs can hold more information than CD-ROMs.
Interactivity is a real plus in books that aim to impart knowledge and skills. For example, one interactive disc on photography contains a built-in camera simulator that allows users to experience taking pictures. The term "edutainment" describes CD-ROM packages that are both educational and entertaining.
The Internet provides a means for readers to find texts and graphic arts without having to deal with traditional publishers at all.
Book publishers already use online bookstores that allow Internet users to purchase books that are then shipped to their homes. Many book authors and publishers are taking the step of placing their work directly on the Internet. Already, the Internet has provided thousands of writers, photographers, and artists with a medium that allows them to communicate directly to millions without filtering their work through a publisher. In addition, materials traditionally published between the covers of a book—ranging from Shakespeare's plays to Langston Hughes' poems to the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica—can now be found easily on the Internet. E-books, which can be downloaded directly from the Internet by readers, are becoming more popular, and many books first published in print are available in this format. In 2000 renowned author Stephen King became the first major writer to publish a book exclusively as an e-book.
Newspaper and magazine publishers are also taking advantage of the Internet. Some forward-thinking publishers see themselves as "suppliers of news," not newspapers and magazines. Most big-city newspapers and many local newspapers have developed Web sites containing the news reports and features published in their newspapers and magazines. The World Wide Web is especially well suited for classified advertising, since it allows advertisers to include more information more economically than print does. It also, for example, allows users to find real estate in different parts of the country by finding area newspapers.
Like most major newspapers, major magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, and the Atlantic Monthly have repackaged themselves electronically. U.S. News Online, the electronic version of U.S. News & World Report, features the full text of the magazine, lively conversations with readers, and interesting supplemental material, often with no fee attached. Other respected publications, such as the journal Slate, exist only on the Internet.
As technologies evolve, the potential for communicating over the Internet will grow accordingly. In 2005 it was estimated that more than a billion people around the world had online access.
The Internet is a worldwide network of computer networks. There is no "owner" of the Internet, although it is directed by the Internet Society (ISOC), a volunteer council. Users get on the Internet via Internet service providers (ISPs), businesses that provide consumers with software and access to a computer server linked to the Internet. Cable, telephone, and satellite companies have tapped into this industry with faster, more up-to-date capabilities. Anyone with a computer, modem, and the proper software can find vast amounts of information and software, along with e-mail capabilities, on the Internet. Most ISPs also offer subscribers the chance to post their own Web pages.
Other popular features of the Internet are chat rooms, where groups of computer users engage in conversations by typing messages to each other, and blogs, where discussions in the form of comments posted by users remain online permanently. The Internet makes it possible for individuals without many financial resources to reach an audience of millions, assuming they have something to say or show that others wish to read or see.
As computing power grows less expensive and advances in software, modems, and telephone networks continue to improve the quality of the Internet experience, the online communications industry will also grow and evolve. Individuals with technical skills will continue to find opportunities in cyberspace.
Broadcast media include sound recordings, radio, television, and films. The term "broadcast" refers to distributing sounds and images far beyond the place where they were created. For decades, a few major broadcasting channels dominated broadcast media: three national television networks, a few radio syndicates, and a handful of major movie studios and distributors. Since the 1980s, however, the development of cable television, home satellite dishes, VCRs, DVD players, TiVo and other DVRs (digital video recorders), and new distribution channels has vastly increased consumers' choices. Compression techniques made possible by digital technology will create hundreds more TV and radio channels. To fill all of this airtime, content will become much more specific and focused. As it is, most cable or satellite TV viewers can find dozens or even hundreds of channels, such as a history channel, a golf channel, a gardening channel, a woman's network, a man's network, and any number of home shopping channels. For this reason, broadcast media are evolving into what some observers term "narrowcast" media.
A Recording Revolution
It was a turning point in the history of sound reproduction when digital audio discs called compact discs (CDs) were introduced in the nation's record stores in 1983. The appeal of the new technology was its truer sound reproduction, the absence of background noise, and the lack of wear—nothing mechanical ever touches the disc surface when it plays. At first, sales were slow because the cost of a CD was three or four times that of the same music on a vinyl record and a CD player cost more than one thousand dollars. As the price of discs and players dropped, however, sales of these items skyrocketed. By 1991 many U.S. record companies had stopped manufacturing long-playing records (LPs) altogether, primarily because sales of LPs accounted for less than 4 percent of total industry sales.
The digital revolution set off a mini-boom in the recording industry by creating many new jobs for digital audio engineers and technicians. In many cases, engineers digitally remastered old analog recordings to improve their sound. Record companies then used the new digital masters to press compact discs of the recordings. Classical music fans were especially eager to add digital recordings of symphonies and operas to their collections, as were fans of classic rock groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Concurrent with the growth of the CD industry, VCRs forever changed America's TV-viewing habits. The rapid spread of VCRs led to an entirely new retail industry—rentals and sales of pre-recorded movies. Later, electronics manufacturers and Hollywood studios rolled out a new digital video format, direct video discs (DVDs), which had as profound an effect on the home video industry as VCRs did.
Radio: More Talk, More Music, Less Noise
When the first television stations began broadcasting, broadcast industry analysts predicted the end of radio. They were wrong. Although television has indeed replaced radio as the dominant entertainment medium in the nation, radio remains alive and continues to flourish.
There are approximately thirteen thousand licensed commercial stations in the United States. Following the communications industry trend toward specialization, many of these stations serve specialized groups of listeners. One station may play Top 40 pop hits, while another focuses on classic rock, and still another on adult contemporary music. Talk radio has become extremely popular in recent years, as have all-news and all-sports stations.
In the early days of radio, network radio filled the airwaves. Then locally produced programs became more important. Today, the pendulum is swinging back, with about 80 percent of radio stations airing some network programming. Network programs transmitted via low-cost satellite channels help local stations fill airtime and reduce expenditures.
Although the proliferation of radio stations has increased the need for radio advertising sales workers and other marketing personnel, the extensive use of automated equipment has reduced the demand for engineers and broadcast technicians. According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, approximately $21.5 billion was spent on radio advertising in 2005. However, the radio industry will undoubtedly gain strength as it continues to convert to digital technology. Digital radio—a system in which radio stations send digital signals via cable lines or satellites to digital radio tuners—will enable listeners to pick up a static-free signal no matter how far they are from the broadcast site. Incredibly, automobile travelers on a trip across the United States will be able to tune in to a radio station on one coast and listen to it all the way to the other coast. Internet radio is now available as well. Sites such as NetRadio link listeners to commercial-free programs in a variety of music genres.
Satellite and HD radio will also attract new radio listeners. Developed in the early 1990s satellite radio is a subscription service that delivers content from satellites in orbit around the Earth. It provides signals to hundreds of radio stations tailored to the interests of listeners, many of which are not financially viable on commercial radio. For a monthly charge, subscribers can listen to big band music, college basketball games, golf tournaments, world music, bluegrass, or any of a host of other broadcasts. Moreover, radio personalities do not have to work under the same FCC restrictions that those in commercial radio do. XM radio and Sirius are the major players in the satellite radio market. HD radio offers digital radio signals on radio, which brings a clear CD-like sound to the listener.
Television viewers today have an amazing number of channels from which to choose, including channels dedicated to sports, history, science, health, home improvement, music, movies, and children's programming.
The broadcast television industry can be broken into a few segments: local broadcasting, where local affiliates carry national network programming over airwaves; cable and digital cable television, which provides a far greater mix of local and national programming; and direct satellite broadcasts, which offer an even greater selection of general programming to a national audience and are adding local channels in an increasing number of cities. Each sector of the broadcast television industry stands to be affected by technological advances, especially by the advent of high-definition digital television.
After spectacular growth during the 1980s cable TV reached a plateau in the mid-1990s. Cable operators are using a number of strategies to retain their market dominance: merging with other companies, lobbying to influence the regulations that establish the rates they can charge consumers, and seeking new sources of revenue such as video-on-demand and digital cable services, which offer more choices for viewers.
The first satellite system for consumers was launched in 1994 by RCA. Using digital video and compression technologies, RCA's service offered more than 150 channels received in the home by an 18-inch satellite dish. The system boasted outstanding picture quality and sound as clear as that of a CD. The dishes are now considerably smaller and can handle more than 800 channels. Currently, satellite TV providers are competing with one another and cable system operators for consumers. Like cable systems, they offer TiVo or other DVR services so that programs can be recorded at whatever time of the day or night they happen to be broadcast and watched hours or days later.
High-definition television (HDTV), a digital technology that greatly increases the resolution of images on a TV screen, is growing in popularity. The picture on an HDTV screen is stunning—a television picture with clarity and brilliance rivaling that of film. It is anticipated that the cost of HDTV will drop over time, and that it will one day be as common as color television is today.
The Silver Screen
The introduction of sound film revolutionized movie making in the late 1920s. Today, computer-generated imagery (CGI) is creating a similar impact on the film industry. Most of the highest grossing movies in recent years have featured powerful special effects. For example, the 2004 box office hit The Aviator used CGI technology to recreate an airplane crash in a Beverly Hills neighborhood with stunning accuracy. Studio executives are counting on CGI for future hits and are courting talented computer programmers and engineers to work on their films. In fact, the title "director of digital production" has become a new screen credit.
Besides wowing moviegoers with special effects, Hollywood studios are using merchandise tie-ins to earn additional revenue and to create interest in their films and fill theaters. Spider-Man and its sequel, as well as other films relying on CGI for unique effects, have spawned books, video games, plush toys, action figures, and t-shirts, among other items. (There was even an agreement between Sony and Major League Baseball in 2004 to display the Spider-Man logo on the bases during games—until fan uproar killed the idea.) The second film in the series, Spider-Man 2, grossed over $375 million in the United States in 2004—not to mention the millions more made from merchandising deals—making it a true Hollywood blockbuster.
Increasingly Hollywood studios are part of huge corporate conglomerates. At one time the prevailing strategy was for electronics manufacturers to acquire Hollywood studios, controlling both the "hardware" and "software" of the entertainment industry—for example, the Sony Corporation bought Columbia Pictures in 1990. The more recent trend is toward vertical integration within vast entertainment companies. For example, the Disney Corporation runs a movie studio, owns the ABC and ESPN television networks, distributes videos, operates theme parks, produces Broadway musicals, and licenses its name and characters to a myriad of products as well as to a chain of retail stores. Thus the Disney Studios can create a memorable movie, distribute the movie to theaters and on video, broadcast it on television, then use the movie and its characters to market products ranging from children's clothing sold in its stores to live-action shows performed at its theme parks.
Spiraling production costs and the need to appeal to the broadest possible audience have combined to make major Hollywood producers more conservative than ever—their increasing focus is on blockbusters. At the same time, smaller, independent filmmakers with fresh ideas and visions have an opportunity to find an audience via the burgeoning broadcast technologies.
THE ART OF PERSUASION
Although it may come as a surprise, the place where communications and the arts are most closely related is in advertising and public relations (PR). Ad agencies and PR firms work for a wide variety of clients, including politicians, religious organizations, and educational institutions. People who work in advertising and PR use the media to promote products and ideas—selling a breakfast cereal or campaigning against drunk driving. Whereas advertising is aimed at selling a product, public relations is aimed at changing opinions. Public relations has been described as "doing good and getting credit for it." PR firms mainly use nonpaid publicity to gain goodwill for a client. Advertising, on the other hand, is a multimillion-dollar industry.
Before designing an ad campaign, an advertising agency usually does extensive market research to find out which type of message will produce the desired effect. Who are the most likely buyers? What will convince them to buy the product? Which medium will best convey the message? Once these decisions are made, advertising agencies look to the arts to amplify the power of their message. Agencies call on a variety of artists—writers, graphic designers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers—to create a compelling effect. The finished product—an advertisement or commercial—is distributed through one or more of the communications media: television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.
After dropping off in the early 1990s as a result of economic recession, advertising industry employment appears to be rebounding. It is expected to increase in the 2004–2014 period, but competition will be keen because this field traditionally attracts far more job seekers than there are openings. The industry will seek creative workers who can adapt advertising techniques to the electronic media of the future.
Advertising by Invitation, Not Invasion
"Infomercials" that appear on network and cable TV are one of the most significant developments in the history of advertising. Traditionally advertisers paid for messages to be broadcast or printed in conjunction with other content such as news or entertainment. Then came infomercials—program-length advertisements extolling the benefits of a product or product lines. These extended commercials attempt to increase consumer knowledge and awareness of products and services and, perhaps more significantly, to build a relationship between viewers and advertisers. Making infomercials has become a $1.5 billion-a-year industry. The success of this type of advertising, along with the spread of cable "shopping" channels that broadcast nothing but advertisements inviting viewers to buy products with a phone call, demonstrates that it is possible to present advertising that people will actively seek, as opposed to placing ads among other content.
Advertisers are also experimenting with interactive ads on the Internet by paying for banner ads that appear at the top and bottom of Internet pages. Consumers can click on the banner and be taken to the company's Web site. The economics of Web advertising are still evolving, however. In traditional media, advertising rates are established according to the number of readers or viewers a media can "deliver" to advertisers. At this time, there is no agreed-upon method of accounting for the "hits" a Web page of advertising will receive. Regardless of the medium, "relationship marketing," or advertising that builds a relationship with consumers rather than just selling a specific product, will continue to be the trend in advertising.
A painting, a story, a song, or a dance are forms of artistic expression. Some of these are communicated through the mass media, including movies, books, and television programs. Others are communicated more directly—to visitors at a museum or to an audience at a dance concert or an opera.
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