In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Media Economics

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Data Sources
  • Advertising
  • Competition
  • Global Studies
  • News
  • Ownership
  • Political Economy

Communication Media Economics
Randal Beam
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0069


Scholarship on media economics applies economic principles and theories to the study of organizations and industries engaged in communication. The traditional mass media—newspapers, television, film, magazines, books, and radio—have been the focus of much of the scholarship that media economists have produced. But the field also encompasses telecommunications and digital communications, along with associated industries such as advertising. Scholarship draws from microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, and much of it is informed by political-economic perspectives. Often the goal of media economists is to explain how economic forces shape media content, such as news and entertainment. Research has identified the structure of markets and the conduct of media organizations as two important factors that influence content. Ownership of media organizations and government regulation are other important domains of study.


Because media economics is a small field, only a handful of comprehensive texts have been written on the subject. Most are intended for undergraduates. These texts adopt either an industry or an economics focus. Texts with an industry focus typically begin with short discussions of economic concepts and principles, such as supply, demand, and market structure. The rest of the book explores economic issues within various media sectors, such as the television industry, newspaper industry, film industry, and so forth. The texts Alexander, et al. 2004, Albarran 2002, and Doyle 2007 are organized this way. One drawback of industry-focused texts is that their descriptive information about media industries—profit margins, revenues, numbers of organizations—becomes outdated quickly. Economically focused texts are usually organized by key economic concepts and principles, and they emphasize economic theory. Examples from media industries are used to illustrate concepts and principles. Hoskins, et al. 2004 and Picard 1989 use this approach. Some texts draw extensively from economic principles though they are not explicitly economics texts. These include industry critiques (Croteau and Hoynes 2006) and hands-on media-management guides (Picard 2002, Sylvie, et al. 2008).

  • Albarran, Alan B. 2002. Media economics: Understanding markets, industries and concepts. 2d ed. Ames: Iowa State Univ. Press.

    Albarran’s industry-focused text is well suited for undergraduates who have little understanding of economic concepts and principles. Each chapter ends with exercises that reinforce main points. Glossary and appendixes summarize key terms and concepts and provide resources for students doing research about media economics.

  • Alexander, Alison, James Owers, Rod Carveth, C. Ann Hollifield, and Albert N. Greco, eds. 2004. Media economics: Theory and practice. 3d ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    More than a dozen leading scholars in media economics and management collaborate on the third edition of this industry-focused text. The first chapter briefly reviews microeconomic and macroeconomic principles. What follows in the first section are discussions on regulation, industry structure, and globalization. The remaining chapters examine structure, regulation, and financing in nine key media industries.

  • Croteau, David, and William Hoynes. 2006. The business of media: Corporate media and the public interest. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

    Economics serves as a foundation for this critical assessment of the practices of “corporate” media businesses. The authors, who are sociologists, propose two ideal-type frameworks—the market model and the public-sphere model—within which to examine the performance of media businesses. They conclude that media businesses should do more to serve the public interest.

  • Doyle, Gillian. 2007. Understanding media economics. 2d ed. London: SAGE.

    An emphasis on the media industries in the United Kingdom distinguishes this industry-focused text from those published in the United States. (Discussion of US media industries is included in the book.) Chapters on the individual industries juxtapose US and UK models of media systems.

  • Hoskins, Colin, Stuart McFadyen, and Adam Finn. 2004. Media economics: Applying economics to new and traditional media. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    The complexity of media economics is evident in this comprehensive text for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. Chapters examine key concepts and principles (e.g., supply and demand, market structures) and the application of those concepts and principles in various circumstances (e.g., on consumer behavior or on pricing). Examples from media industries in English-speaking countries illustrate concepts and principles.

  • Picard, Robert G. 1989. Media economics: Concepts and issues. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Though this primer is more than twenty years old, it remains a classic text. The author provides lucid explanations of economic terms and uses simple graphs to illustrate complex economic principles. The emphasis on concepts and principles prevents the book from seeming dated. Its age is most evident in ancillary materials, such as lists of references, databases, and publications.

  • Picard, Robert G. 2002. The economics and financing of media companies. New York: Fordham Univ. Press.

    A book on managerial economics intended for managers and future managers of media organizations. Suitable for undergraduates. The text avoids highly technical explanations in favor of straightforward presentations about basic media business models, macroeconomic influences on media businesses, competition, financial management, and other topics necessary to understand how media businesses work.

  • Sylvie, George, Jan LeBlanc Wicks, C. Ann Hollifield, Stephen Lacy, and Ardyth Broadrick Sohn. 2008. Media management: A casebook approach. 4th ed. New York: Erlbaum.

    Economics influences many decisions of media managers. This text adopts a case-analysis approach, which is typical of graduate-level management courses. Economic considerations surface most prominently in cases on structure, globalization, regulation, market analysis, and budgeting.

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