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

  • Introduction
  • Core Texts
  • Media Production
  • Political Logic
  • Mediation versus Mediatization
  • Digital Media Logic

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Communication Media Logic
Gianpietro Mazzoleni, Sergio Splendore
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0166


This entry offers a review of works in communication studies. It discusses the theoretical debate and empirical research that have contributed to define, highlight, and expand the concept of “media logic.” The concept is grounded in the media sociology perspective, but it acquires an interdisciplinary nature from its numerous applications in different domains. Media logic is connected both with the ideas of production of media content and with the area of media effects. From the production perspective, the concept leans on the sociology of journalism, and particularly on studies of newsmaking. In this sense, media logic consists predominantly of a formatting logic that determines the classification of materials, the choice of mode of presentation, and the selection of social experience. When David Altheide and Robert Snow—in Altheide and Snow 1979 and Altheide and Snow 1991 (both cited under Core Texts)—worked out the concept of media logic, they pointed at the formats, the processes by which media produce their content. The “media logic” refers to the organizational, technological, and aesthetic determinants of media functioning, including the ways in which they allocate material and symbolic resources and work through formal and informal rules. If media logic refers to the processes for constructing messages within a particular medium, “format” becomes a key term because it refers to the rules and codes for defining, selecting, and presenting media content. From the perspective of media effects, the concept also envisions the impact media have on institutions. One popular theoretical development of the media logic approach is the concept of “mediatization” of society. The media logic is seen as the ‘engine’ of the processes of mediatization. Mediatization is then the result of the influence of mass communication on society, where many societal institutions, politics especially (Mazzoleni and Schulz 1999, cited under Journal Articles on Mediatization of Politics), adapt themselves, their aims, their statutes, their conducts, and their logics to typical production formats and imperatives, mainly of a commercial nature, of modern communications. Schulz 2004 (cited under Mediatization) explains such processes in terms of “extension, substitution, amalgamation and accommodation.” However, the establishment of digital media environments prompts scholarly reflection on developing new theoretical perspectives, looking beyond traditional ‘formats’ (Klinger and Svensson 2015, cited under Digital Media Logic).

Core Texts

David Altheide and Robert Snow first coined the term “media logic” in Altheide and Snow 1979. Since then they have improved it extensively. In Altheide and Snow 1988 and Altheide and Snow 1991, they treated it in terms of social and economic contexts and technological progress, compelled to assign different meanings to the process of communication through mass and new media. This continuous reinterpretation has expanded the scope of the concept. The authors have contributed to develop the framework: they extend media logic from the original idea of format presented in Altheide and Snow 1979 to that of codes and rules that define the production routines of media content discussed in Altheide and Snow 1991. They also debated the concept in Altheide and Snow 1988 in terms of theory of mediation, a theoretical framework that scores a huge debate within the media studies. In Snow 1983, Snow included a cultural approach in his discussion. Altheide 1995 includes a discussion of media logic within the broader framework of the ecology of communication. More recently (in Altheide 2004), Altheide has discussed it in terms of mediatization of politics and social control. Thimm, et al. 2018 revisits the concept of media logic within the new media ecology.

  • Altheide, David L. 1985. Media power. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

    The book specifies the relationship between media content and its formats (the way in which is produced). It singles out the relevance of the frames in terms of social influence and how they affect the perception of reality acquired from the media.

  • Altheide, David L. 1995. An ecology of communication: Cultural formats of control. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

    Media logic as format is discussed here in connection with the idea of ecology of communication. The author refers to the organization and accessibility of information technology and media. As more activities incorporate media within their organization, new activities are added and others are changed according the media logic.

  • Altheide, David L. 2004. Media logic and political communication. Political Communication 21:293–296.

    DOI: 10.1080/10584600490481307

    In this brief article, the author reaffirms the importance of media logic in the field of sociology of media and political communication. He argues that the entertainment format pervades news and politics, changing the organization as well as the culture of audience and journalists.

  • Altheide, David L., and Robert P. Snow. 1979. Media logic. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

    This is the book that introduced the concept of “media logic.” It singles out the role of media in shaping and transforming different areas, such as politics, sport, and religion. The media also affects the knowledge of users.

  • Altheide, David L., and Robert P. Snow. 1988. Toward a theory of mediation. In Communication Yearbook 11. Edited by James A. Anderson, 194–223. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    The authors revisit the concept of media logic as a format, but they analyze it in terms of the “theory of mediation.” They highlight how social experiences are increasingly mediated.

  • Altheide, David L., and Robert P. Snow. 1991. Media worlds in the postjournalism era. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

    The authors expand their analysis on media logic. They hold that all social institutions are media institutions. They claim to initiate another generation of media studies, where the focus is on social institutions, public discourse, and cultural logic (that is informed by the media logic).

  • Snow, Robert. 1983. Creating media culture. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

    The author uses the concept of media logic to highlight the reflexive nature of communication and culture. He analyzes the mass media to show how they structure content, and therefore how they structure the way audiences view the world.

  • Thimm, Caja, Mario Anastasiadis, and Jessica Einspänner-Pflock. 2018. Media logic(s) revisited: Modelling the interplay between media institutions, media technology, and societal change. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-65756-1

    Starting from Altheide and Snow’s media logic concept, this volume develops a new approach, including chapters written by Altheide, Krotz, and Hjarvard. The fil rouge is the changed media landscape. The editors define the new media ecology as “poly media channels” that are more and more intertwined with our everyday lives, arguing that this is the reason to revisit the theory of media logics.

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