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G325: Skills development & progression (1a); applying theoretical conecpts to your work (1b); Critical Concepts (2-11).

WE the Media

You need to prepare for this exam using a variety of knowledge and skills.  Below are some examples from the exam board and also advice on structure for each exam.  Remember to use case studies and check out our guide to theorists page. 

Some last minute thoughts ahead of June 2018 G325.

Firstly, really important you use current case studies to back up your points (last 18 months) to avoid frustrating very bored examiners

Regulation - debate the need for it in a digital age - how can it be managed, if at all?  Data is a hot topic - social media is a centralised hub for pictures, videos, opinions, hate speech, etc.  Think about how media institutions get round regulation using the internet...

Globalisation - for the seven students who answer this each year, focus your ideas on Disney and Sony owning everything you've ever loved, and Google and Facebook seeking permission to homogenize the world in the start of an anti-establishment era.

WE the Media - not such a great thing now, people still need the likes of The Guardian and real grass roots experts to get things done, especially in the age of the prosumer where people will sell their soul to make money  Oh, how the media companies are continually finding ways to  take power back from us - was Web 2.0 just a dream, are we now in a Web 3.0 dystopia?

Representation at A2 is different to AS, in the sense that you effectively get to write in depth about the type of group or area of representation.  For example, whereas the focus of the AS exam in 2017 was on Gender, you may wish to write about the representation of America across Media texts.  Alternatively, you may wish to investigate the changing representations of women in the Media.  The choice is yours, or rather that of your Media teacher who will choose which topic will provide you with more opportunities for success.

So what makes an answer successful?  As you can imagine, a lot of responses focus on typical or common representational issues, such as Age: Youth or Gender: Women.  Whilst you are not treated any differently for writing about common stereotypes, what distinguishes you from other candidates is the variety, depth and complexity of the case studies you use.  Furthermore, do you have enough evidence to show development of representation from a historical period in the media and are you able to make coherent predictions about how representations may continue to evolve (or devolve) in the future?  The key here, people, is having a good range of case studies that are not repeated.  

Once you've identified your focus you need to ensure that you have applicable theorists and commentators to bounce your opinions off.  Your ideas (your argument) will either stick or not, based on what they say. Therefore, you are using theoretical ideas as an instrument to support the structure of your argument.

Oh, and you get a choice of two questions, so learn to choose wisely, one that will allow you to present a strong and coherent argument.

What's a historical case study?  Anything from traditional offline media platforms could be defined as historical, however in the media saturated world we are in I would encourage you to consider than anything older than five years is historical (certainly, no longer contemporary).  Remember, it's about balance and there is no set formula - some areas of representation will have more content than others.

What's a contemporary case study?  We used to say that anything within five years is contemporary, but if you are choosing a particularly common area to write about, such as age or gender, then I would use examples that are new and relatively fresh, not recycled from exam scripts you've found online or teaching resources that haven't been updated since 2009.  18 months to present is contemporary - go for this!

What's a future case study? If you know something is in development, or a media text is on the horizon, or you see a pattern of change that has been brought about by a ground-breaking text, then my advice is to use this to anchor your ideas about future predictions.  Having a launchpad to propel your idea forward i.e. an example to base your prediction on, really helps show the examiner that you are insightful and prepared to be bold in your predictions. 

Representation G325

The Online Age is one of the most exciting topics in Media Studies, probably because so much is changing because of the internet.  As consumers and producers continue to migrate solely towards online consumption of Media, this has a knock-on effect on traditional industries; as such, they must rethink their strategy to stay current and attract fragmented audiences.


The mark-scheme is generic for all questions and topics in online media, but for those who require more structure I can suggest honing your writing skills to cover these key points when addressing a question.  Here is a generic template for a question linked to either industries or audiences:


  1. Introduction – decipher the question & tailor it for your benefit (5 mins - this includes thinking time).  Your thesis is your angle: agree, disagree, or simply weigh-up.  

  2. Give historical context to how the internet has shaped our current world (use examples if necessary) – 1 to 2 paragraphs (10 mins).  You can refer to historical examples at other times in your essay, but having a good knowledge of web 1.0 and web 2.0 is useful and showing how quickly the internet has evolved in a decade is also worthwhile for any question.

  3. Contemporary examples and relevant theory to support the idea that internet is providing opportunities for audiences/industries – 2-3 paragraphs (12 mins).  Points 3 and 4 are the main body of your essay, your main discussion/argument is based around how well you use case studies and the ideas of media theorists or commentators. 

  4. Contemporary examples to show the threats facing industries/audiences by the internet – 2-3 paragraphs (12 mins)

  5. Prediction (future) about how you think internet will continue to have an impact on industries/audiences – 1-2 paragraphs (10 mins).  If you've used a good range of examples for points 4 and 5 then this paragraph only needs to summarise your prediction based on what trends you've identified.  However, the internet is fast so you should talk about predictions.

  6. Short conclusion drawing your ideas and arguments to a close. (5 mins)  Make sure you are certain that you answered the question and validated your thesis.

Then build in 5 minutes reflection time to check over your work - add if necessary*, fact check. 

Key Terms you should Know:

WWW - the world wide web, a system of documents contained on the internet; web browsers allow you to view pages containing a combination of text, image and video and other multimedia, navigatable using hyperlinks (1989).

WEB 2.0 - applications that faciliate sharing and collaboration on the web.

WEB 3.0/Semantic Web - evolving web which understands us (audience) and our habits and likes. 

Dystopia - internet is bad for our lives, breaking down our lives.

Top Down Communications - the old WEB 1.0, big companies producing content and sending it down to audiences (passive).

Bottom UP - more of web 2.0 movement, grassroots movement driven by communities and audiences (active).

The Long Tail - low demand, low sales products (niche content) can collectively rival mass products over time. 

Freemium - business model offering a service driven usually by advert potential.

Push Media - rate at which content is sent to the user/audience at rate decided by producer. 

Pull Media - interactive experience determined by demand of audiences. Audiences 'lean forward' and engage with content (driving demand).

Technological Determinism - the impact of devices changes the way society operates. 

Technological Convergence - the coming together of information and technology to create new ways of producing, distributing and using info and entertainment. 

Institutional Convergence - the merging of media companies to form multu/cross-media conglomerates (new media gods and oligopolies).

Peer-to-Peer - polite way of saying file sharing; piracy (impolite).

Timeshifting - death of appointment TV, using devices to record or store media for consumption later.

Microscheduling - as above but more in digital format (podcasts, iPlayer).

Lean back tech - offline media, eg. Radio, TV, newspapers. 

Lean forward tech - internet, online gaming. 

iPTV - internet protocol television; online TV players. 

simulcast - online content streaming at the same time as traditional media outlets (listening to radio live online or watching rolling news on web).

Audience Fragmentation - the  breaking up of audiences into niches (a direct impact of proliferation of technology and services). 

UGC - user generated content (prosumer) or consumer made media. 

Citizen journalism (Netizens) - the public playing role of process in news (collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating). 

2017: What are the key issues/arguments?  Here I have outlined key opportunities and threats affecting media industries (separate box for audiences).  These should form you main body.

Opportunity:  New companies continue to emerge in new online markets with similar business models to that of existing social media platforms or companies that have a safe business model because more people are consuming media online.  Companies such as Netflix constantly have to see off new challengers  – this leads to a price war (good for audiences); Threat: it can affect their business growth (lots of large media companies have an interest to make money for shareholders and produce quarterly figures - see Twitter as an example).  Many smaller companies cannot compete with the size and dominance of larger internet companies; ideas are either copied or the company is bought out by the larger companies, and the company simply fades away (Facebook's Instagram Stories borrowing ideas from Snapchat). 


Threat: Audiences are moving away from stable media outlets – e.g. TV to iPlayer only, CD and Radio to streaming sites and podcasts only using convergent device.  Industries are no longer guaranteed fixed or stable audiences.  Audience fragmentation (the breaking up of mass audiences into lots of micro/niche audiences) is becoming more common because of the internet.  Opportunity:  it may be possible to attract larger audiences over time rather than relying on scheduled slot (traditional media – e.g. Appointment TV); you are effectively able to monetize content over longer periods of time (Chris Anderson’s Longtail model is true of this).  Many media texts now have simultaneous release across online and offline platforms to maximise exposure and income. 


Threat: Increased channels, outlets and sources – proliferation in technology leads to a flood of new content (this can affect budgets for media texts both positively and negatively); popular content with low production values can be produced relatively quickly and cheaply, and then given online access almost immediately (prosumers challenging expertise).  Traditional industries still have large fixed costs, staff, offices, etc. Companies also must invest more money and time in quality programming to maintain loyal audiences (non-Millennials), attracting them away from the internet and make people want to go to the cinema, or subscribe to a particular premium service (e.g. Tidal – exclusive content, improved audio quality), Cinema (3D and Imax films like Man of Steel); larger companies must make an investment on the franchise model – (long tail, e.g. Disney buying Star Wars rights and Marvel Studios; synergy between film, TV cartoon and gaming model) rather than produce safe media texts in an age where niche content is rising in popularity.  Opportunity:  Producing content that can be accessed across convergent devices can increase income opportunities; budgets to advertise online are still relatively cheaper than advertising on TV or radio or in magazines, so you can advertise across a wider range of channels and pages relatively cheaply; industries can target specific audiences (use of cookies, companies selling private data of free accounts) more effectively because the data is becoming more accurate. (compare Cookies to Barb surveys).


Threat: Innovation costs increase – companies keep having to invest large amounts of money to stay fresh and current to adapt to trends and audience demands (demand pull).  New 360 professional cameras can cost around £40,000 (Nokia Ovi) whereas bigger companies try to encourage prosumers to invest in low tech devices, like Google 360 lens.  No media company can remain complacent about success, and not every new piece of tech is destined to succeed (look what happened with Google Glass); Vine was popular but had a flawed business model that didn't generate enough income to support running costs (artists leaped across to Youtube once they were famous or got signed by other companies; Twitter had no claim to their work).  Companies need to invest in new talent to stay at the top.  Opportunity:  Industries often have the money and technical know-how to invest in new media tech and therefore lead the market (YouTube didn't become profitable for several years).  Crowdfunding websites (Kickstarter) have allowed companies like Oculus Rift to get funding which has positively impacted social media and gaming industries since its development.


Opportunity: Increased number of prosumers – informs the market about what audiences (Millennials) want and industries can make low cost risks by offering contracts to certain individuals. This is a good opportunity for companies not to have to research what audiences want (this can take time and money).  We are in the world of analytics where companies look at data first before quality of content (analytics = web 3.0, recommendations).  Compare this to your own experience of watching content from the likes of ShotsStudios; they use a tried and tested model forged on data and big data to engineer content that wouldn't have a place on traditional mediums, e.g. you wouldn't find 7 minute sketch shows on BBC 1. 

Opportunities: to monetize content (old and new) – repackaging shows for online viewing, remakes, rebooted shows on the back of fan demand; selling box sets online or having rent-able content.  All of these things are designed to keep audiences feeling like they have choice and control.  Companies can offer old back-catalogs of media to generate multiple streams of income (Anderson's Long Tail).


Opportunity: The quality of products continues to increase.  Big companies like Sony and Disney are leading the race to produce ground-breaking content and sequels that would never have been considered – but it’s to appeal to a generation who enjoy nostalgia and the chance to see films in the cinema.  This is almost a reactive response to prosumers who watch low-quality, micro-narratives across platforms like YouTube. 


Opportunity: Leads to further innovation (VR tech is going forward).  Cinemas have developed experiences like 4DX to stop audiences from watching pirated versions online and attract them away from home; virtual reality programming and music videos are being produced to account for new markets; technology push means virtual gigs and experiences for customers of music and sports events are being made available, and will encourage audiences to invest in new technology.  Some companies will get a USP if they create VR experiences that attract huge followings.


Opportunity: Synergy – there are more opportunities to collaborate with other industries and branch out across platforms online, and with social media marketing there are more opportunities to develop new ways to reach audiences and gain ‘big data’ so that similar products can be as successful, if not more.  Social Media marketing is cheap and effective (mostly) at targeting the right people.  Threat: lots of media products can be badly panned or trolled using social media which might affect the success of a product if people are talking about it in a negative way. 


Threat: Streaming – less revenue is generated from physical sales of media, industries and artists have to do more touring and other promos to make as much money before digital decade.  Opportunity:  Online costs usually cheaper than offline cost.  Quicker distribution, delivery of media products and eliminates physical cost of getting product made and sent out.


Threat: Illegal downloading – continues to take revenue away from companies which makes re-investment of profits harder. Opportunity: releasing free content ahead of a product release might encourage people to pay and see or hear the real thing.  Encourages people to use legal channels of distribution to share and distribute content (think about how many trailers and reactions there are on YouTube).


Threat: ISPs (internet service providers) asking for money from biggest industries (net neutrality – Internet Tax/toll charge).  Companies may have to pay to have their content given priority across the internet.  At present, all internet traffic is treated equally.  We may have an Orwellian situation where some internet traffic is more equal than others. 

june 2018 update - for Questions 8/9 - absolutely loads of stuff happening regarding the way that streaming services have reshaped the media landscape (use that phrase!).  


Biggest developments of recent 18 months have been growth of streaming services for music and film/TV - you need a solid, up to date understanding of Netflix and how they are giving the big six (soon to be big 5) a run for their money.  What are audiences doing - is it all a benefit or will/could there be drawbacks?  


Net neutrality - what if the internet traffic is not treated equally, that some internet traffic is more equal that others? Whatever happens in US has huge implications globally, so read up on it.


Social media and data harvesting - thinking about how databases now determine our choices/recommendations, how could the new gdpr rules affect media? possibly not that much but the big companies have already got round it (Google, Facebook) - but remember that echo chambers and filter bubbles are key terms you should commit to memory.


Try to imagine what life would be like if Disney owned all of your favourite films and TV programmes, or if Sony owned all your music library - is that a good thing?  Argue your point (no wrong or right answer - top candidates can argue a sophisticated point: do it!).


The price of Free - Chris Anderson (of LongTail fame) also came up with the Freemium concept, a monetisation method adapted by many companies.  Perhaps mention this - what is the cost of free? 


KNOW YOUR CASE STUDIES - it's all well being able to argue but if you use NO case studies, expect bottom of Level 3 at best - you need to apply your knowledge and ideas using case studies, so please do.

Online Age

Key opportunities and threats affecting audiences in the online age include (but are not limited to and  can be argued against): 

Opportunities: Social Media platforms allow audiences to connect with people who have a similar interest.  Global boundaries no longer a problem (we are global village - McLuhan).  We are united by our interests and through that of fandom (Jenkins).  We are no longer passive audiences and are able to search and retrieve (web 1.0) but also share, comment and distribute (web 2.0) content freely on the web.  

Opportunities: Audiences are more creative (debatable). Viewing, sharing, crowd-sourcing is becoming the norm.  Threat: still a lack of original content versus ration, i.e. several people might make a trailer reaction to the same film on YouTube, mash-ups still following generic conventions; professional content and producer talent is devalued (Keen) in favour of low quality, low-brow viral video and blog content (often uncensored). 

Opportunity: You can create unique identities online thanks to WEB 2.0  Threat: At what cost?  Media platforms use and exploit user data and this can cause issues like data hacking and selling of information on.

Opportunity: Ability to make more niche content to rival the mass produced media of old Media Gods.  Threat: Quality of prosumer content can vary greatly.  Andrew Keen says that we are in a state of Cultural Chaos.

Opportunity: Streaming sites and faster download speeds means audiences have more access to a wider range of content, effectively saving them money if bought through traditional media models. Threat: accounts reliant on always on internet connection; ISPs and internet/phone companies are starting to raise cost of data bundles now that auidences are hooked on 'always on' devices.

Opportunity:  Ability to Media Stack and Mesh in and around the home (do multiple things at once because of convergent devices.  This also allow more of a social participatory culture where audiences can upload UGC and interact with other audiences or even programme makers, e.g. X-factor 5th Judge, BGT app, Million Pound Drop play online live.  Threat: This type of behaviour is eroding social norms (Chomsky) and creates a nation of narcissistic addicts; this supports Michael Wesch's ideas and those of cyber-dystopian commentators. 

Opportunity: Audiences are able to access a wider range of content thanks to things like recommendations (WEB 3.0 phenomenon) which allows consumers to access content not previously accessible through traditional media products; sites like Amazon and Netflix and YouTube all use such features to maintain site usage and user engagement.  Threat:  Health and well-being of audiences seems to be only factor limiting access to content; a recent Netflix commentator said 'sleep' was the only barrier to growth. 

Opportunity: New experiences using technology that has been brought about by crowdfunded projects, such as Oculus Rift and the rise of VR technology.  Totally new consumption experiences are now made possible and enhancing traditional formats.  Threat: Wealth divide; technology isn't cheap and only early adopters and workers (not Millennials) tend to be ones able to access content.  Majority of content for new VR apps is still dominated by Pornography so the internet is not necessarily a straight swap for traditional media outlets. 

Opportunity:  Sites such as iPlayer and Facebook, as one example, are allowing communicable features in new apps to allow people to share in virtual worlds; traditional viewing of TV will migrate into virtual living rooms.  Threat:  people will only use media for social interaction; health benefits do not outweigh risks associated with consistent use of computers and tehcnology (blue-light, mental illness, anxiety). 

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