Codes and Conventions.

Jessica Van Deventer

Unit 9 – Characteristics and Contexts in Media and Communication


Within your chosen area you should research and discuss the characteristics, codes and conventions of the following outputs:

  1. Mainstream
  2. Independent
  3. Experimental

Mainstream Media: When comparing popular newspapers and magazines such as ‘The Times’, ‘The Sun’ and ‘Heat’, there were many characteristics that were the same concept once broken down. The information on the codes and conventions of Mainstream, independent and experimental media is not readily available, looking at said media and breaking them down to their basics, was how I found out these codes and conventions. I noted that tese publications had a large demographic and reached the majority of the population, they reported the stories first and were who fed the smaller publications such as ‘The Dunstable Gazette’, for example.

They are sponsored by and display the advertisements in their pages for multi-million pound companies; ‘The Times’ featured an advertisement for Burberry scarves on page five, taking up a third of the page, M&S taking up an entire page on page 10 and British Airways with half a page on page 11. I found that the pages these advertisement’s were featured on, had articles with pleasant or no images featured with them- this is a convention of mass print media.

These publications consisted of glossy pages for the magazines and high-quality colour printed articles for the newspapers; the price, date and publications name featured in the top or bottom right corners, large and bold titles that are either catchy or dramatic, and a font and its style that is set according to the publication and is basically a standard, clear font that is easy to read – These are the codes of mass print media

Figure 1: Mainstream Media Example 1


In this image we see how the mass media can use big, bold headings that are a play on words and is really attention grabbing. Images of celebrities used to get their fans to buymagazine to read about them and stories that would interest the majority of people to read.

Like its font, the age of the language used in these publications are set to a standard of about 8 years old so as to appeal to the majority, higher class newspapers and magazines would go up to a 15 year old writing age but no older as it is for mass media. The punctuation and use of grammar is of a good quality and it is not common to have colloquial words being used. These are more codes of the mass print media. These publications recognise the importance and popularity of social media and all have either a website, Facebook page, online edition or Twitter account, thus keeping up with what the mainstream are into and interacting with them as well, now a convention of the mass print media.

In the articles, unless the publication has a decided political party (in which case the articles are pro whichever party), the journalists will stay impartial and are able to get insider information, access to questioning politicians and celebrities and are able to use their quotes in their articles. This makes the articles substantial and popular as a famous person is now linked to it.

The articles are general and not specific like they would be in a gardening magazine for example. They are all about what the majority want.


Figure 2: Mainstream Media Example 2

In this image, the title displays a general article that would peak the mass public’s interest, the date and price are displayed and the font is clear and standard. There is a wealthy, well-known company featured on its front page and the heading is bold and captures your interest

Independent Media: Whilst researching into independent media, I came across articles by independent media publications that lash out against the mass media and its concept, especially by ‘’. They are accusing them of conforming to what the government and wealthy companies want them to print and that their articles are bias and manipulative.

Independent media like; ‘The Rolling Stones’, ‘Garden and Home’ and ‘Premier Christianity’, all publish articles that are niche, like the Rolling Stones publish articles on musicians and their music and anything to do with music as you can see in the image below.3

Figure 3: Independent Media Example 1

You would never find an article about Cameron and the refugees, in ‘Garden and Home’. The code of independent media is to stick to the niche you have chosen.

As they all focus on specialised topics, the language used may still be between the ages of 8 and 15, but it differs because it uses jargon, this is because people that are interested in a specific topic and buy a magazine or newspaper that is focused on just that topic, can be assumed to know jargon of that topic, another code of independent print media.


Figure 4: Independent Media Example 2

The articles are opinionated and many of them feature advice on new equipment released, lets you know about special events pertaining to the theme that are upcoming and they could have 3 part articles for example that will be published in order over a consecutive amount of weeks- conventions of independent print media. These publications usually have a large subscription audience and have a smaller amount of readers compared to that of the mass media. The above image shows competitions on offer that revolve around Garden and Home and tips on the topic. There are exceptions for more popular prints, they still appeal to the mass media, such as ‘Top Gear’, a car show that because of the humour and its antics is popular in the mass media, or ‘Vogue’ is another example.

Celebrities used will always have a link to the niche topic of the publication and the people who work in that specific industry will be interviewed and featured mostly. Quotes from the same recurring people are used often- this is a bit of a code working with a convention. Articles can appear more relaxed and personal with the use of colloquial language, headlines that aren’t always big and bold and argumentative articles, especially on topics that often are not current or being featured in the mass media, a convention of the independent print media industry and evident in the image below.5

Figure 5: Independent Media Example 3

Experimental Media:


Experimental media cannot be defined. It is about taking a subject and projecting it in a manner that pushes the envelope. The codes and conventions are difficult to pin point as there are a few and it is such an open concept.

Conventionally, the print is created by one person or by a small group of individuals, working on a small budget. There is little aspiration for the work to be a success publicly or to make money of it. It is created for personal passion. A code of experimental media is that it is displayed in an unconventional manner; for example, the article may be produced on a desk or mirror.

Another code is that the topic be something that carries an impact and ties in with the way it is displayed. No one person is defined by one job and the writer could be the artist as well as the editor. The message portrayed will never be clear and it won’t be just the one message but multiple that can be taken from both the way it is displayed and its content. It will make conventional use of the materials used in print media but it will use it in an obscure way so as to provoke thought and call attention to the work For example, multiple fonts may be used or part of the article may be printed on paper but then attached to the leg of a table. There are o boundaries or rules.

Experimental media will make its viewer question the values and stylistic manner that is so common in mass media. The convention of experimental media is to make the audience interact with the work and to interpret the work in multiple different ways.


Figure 6: Experimental Media Example 1

Here is a basic example of portraying experimental media. No clear message and done in an artistic manner that makes you consider what the possible messages could be.    6


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