Media economics is a term used to refer to business transactions and financial activities of the organizations producing and selling products in the media industry. Every profit-inclined company offers a product to the public in exchange for value. A commodity or product is an offer made to actual and potential customers in exchange for value. It is a package that satisfies the desires or needs of customers. It could be tangible (physical product) or intangible (service).
The mass media in Nigeria, just like in every other part of the world, offer products to the public. That is what makes them an economic unit. Media products or media commodities are packages or offers which satisfy the desires or needs of audience members in exchange for value. Newspaper organizations for instance, offer news stories, feature articles, editorials, and other contents, including newspaper copies, as products to the public. These are the offers (products) that attract consumers (readers) to patronize newspapers. When newspaper copies and contents are seen as products, the business perspective of the media is better understood. Broadcast organizations offer a wide range of products to the public. They include news and current affairs programmes, entertainment programmes, movies, documentaries, among others. Television stations offer audio-visual products of all kinds. Broadcast audience members decide on which programmes and stations to be exposed to based on the satisfaction they derive from such products. Just like every other product, media products are made at a cost and sold at a price. Good products attract huge patronage to a media house which eventually translates to income in terms of advertising revenue, sales, or other profitable attractions that yield money to a media establishment.
Media products are created to meet the demands of potential and actual consumers in the media market. A media market refers to an area or group of people where everyone receives the same products of a media organization. The products could be newspapers, magazines, television or radio programmes, etc. The market could be an area or a group of people located in diverse areas. Though location or geography is essential in determining media market, the emergence of the internet has expanded what the concept of physical location in characterizing the media market. This means that the market of a newspaper organization for instance, does not have to be physically close to the establishment as used to be case but the advent of the internet. Online media market provides opportunity for limitless market expansion for the products of any media organization. You have media houses in Nigeria with audience across the world, a situation made possible by the unlimited nature of the internet and digital broadcasting. Giant broadcast media across the globe such as CNN, Fox News and BBC utilize satellite broadcasting to make the geographic space of their market unlimited.
Media institutions at local and international levels work to create products that meet the need of various segments of the public. Some specialized media organizations such as sports, music, movie or wild life broadcast stations for instance, create products that are targeted at satisfying needs of specific target audience. An individual watches CNN for instance, because of the wonderful products offered by this station. Even news stories are seen as products by media economists and business-minded editors. This is why stations go the extra mile to offer breaking news and depth investigative reports to dominate the media market by having huge audience base.
In the broadcast media market in Nigeria, Channels television has dominated for a long time with its products in form of interesting news and current affairs programmes offered the public. This is why the station has won Nigeria Media Merit Award (NMMA) as the Best Television Station of the Year 13 times. Its products are in high demand by the Nigerian audience members. Other stations such as TVC, AIT, and Arise Television are also constantly improving the quality of their products and are battling for market share (in terms of audience patronage of their products) with Channels.
Media products can also be seen from three other perspectives: as information goods, dual (multiple) goods, and talent goods. Information goods refer to the messages that the media give to their audience. This comes in terms of news content, movies, music, every content that offers information, education and entertainment function of the media. As dual (multiple) goods, media products target two different markets at the same time: contents for audiences and the attention-time of audiences for advertisers.
As talent goods, media products amplify cultural ingredients in their offers. The talent component of the commodity is reflected in imagination and creativity involved in media contents. This explains why someone can leave several radio stations for instance, to listen to a programme aired on a specific radio station. Someone else watches a particular movie or patronizes a specific online movie platform and leaves the rest. Creativity helps to generate flows of attention to the media and produce truly valuable contents which give an organization competitive edge.
The media landscape in Nigeria, for instance, is saturated with several print and broadcast organizations that have shifted competition for audience attention to the creative sphere. Radio presenters have to adopt captivating and creative presentation skills to win audience members to their stations. Newspapers go an extra mile to use multi-media contents (text, audio and video) on their online platforms to increase audience base. Journalists are using creative writing skills to keep audience members loyal to their media organizations.
Media product is also viewed from the perspective of the society as a whole. Media contents such as films and musical recordings, including some serialized current affairs programmes comprise part of the cultural heritage of a society. They play roles in shaping social identities. It is based on their contributions to the society that media products are seen as public goods.
Commercial commodities offered in the media market include movies, television and radio programs, magazines and their articles, and other media content. These commodities are created or ‘manufactured’ by media workers (journalists and other editorial crew members, programme producers and various other broadcast crew members, film makers, music producers and singers, among others) to be sold to in the market as a means for attracting reading and viewing audiences. This content can also be sold, or re-sold through syndication to other broadcast and cable networks, offered for purchase on pay-per-view TV, repackaged as video and CD product, or copyrighted and “synergistically” produced in other media products such as books, computer programs, and internet websites or non-media products such as apparel, games, and toys.
Understanding the perception of media output as commodities is one essential requirement of every media economist. This helps in decision making aimed at ensuring that scarce resources available to an organization is well utilized. The basic point to take away from here is that media commodities refer to the various contents and end products of the media establishments, including the audience base these organizations are able to generate based on their programmes. The media exist in a dual purpose market. They sell directly to audience members, and also ‘sell’ the audience to advertisers. So media products are targeted at satisfying the needs of the audience and advertisers – two major ‘consumers media houses work to satisfy at a profit.