Organization of Media Industries

  1. Objective: Explain how the five functional departments of the publisher

work together

As newspapers grew exponentially in size and influence in the mid-1800s, they

adapted organizational structures resembling those of the emergent, exploding industrial manufacturing era. Mass media companies operated in a manner similar to factories that produced great quantities of goods in the booming consumer economy of that era.

The organizational structure of newspapers from the latter part of the 19th century remains the model of choice for today’s media enterprises. The structure is headed by a publisher, who is either the owner or someone appointed by the ownership. The publisher acts like a chief executive officer in other businesses. In other media, the role most closely resembles a general manager.

Functional Departments of the Publisher The publisher heads a chain-of-command structure with five functional departments.

Creative Department The chief for content at a newspaper, also at magazines, is the editor. The editor heads a news-editorial unit, which creates content in a bifurcated structure. The news side focuses on covering events and issues and generating entertainment, human interest, and other content. At its peak, the New York Times had one of the largest news- editorial staffs—about 1,200 editors, reporters, and writers. The editorial side produces opinion sections separately and apart from the news side. Book companies also have editors.

As other media developed, they adopted parallel creative structures. In the recording industry, the equivalent creative staff would be vocalists, lyricists, composers, and producers. In movies, the “creatives” would include screenwriters, actors, directors, cinematographers, and set and costume designers. Similar creative functions exist in broadcasting organizations.

Production Department Production is a department of technicians who maintain and operate the presses,

which are gigantic, complex machines that rival anything else from the Industrial Age. Latter-day production equivalents in broadcasting and other media include technicians who operate and maintain the equipment.

Advertising Department The huge expense of creating and manufacturing a newspaper is underwritten mostly by revenue from advertisements. The content of ads rarely is created by media companies themselves but by the advertisers (or the ad agencies representing them), who buy space to reach mass audiences. In the book, recording, and movie industries, which are not dependent on advertising, there is no equivalent to an advertising unit.

Circulation Department A separate newspaper department builds circulation, which depends on widening the paper’s customer base, often by means of standard subscriptions and special promotions. In some media companies that are not newspaper-centric, the circulation department also encourages subscriptions. In the publishing, movie, and recording industries, promoting sales of individual products, like new books, films or songs is paramount.

Business Department The immensity of a media company’s operations requires bookkeepers, accountants, lawyers, and other standard business functionaries. This is called the business side.

With modest refinements, the structure that began with newspapers in the mid-1800s remains viable almost 200 years later. Not surprisingly, it resembles that of many Industrial-Age companies, whether the product is widgets, newspapers, or movies.

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