Originally, a media content analysis was used to study propaganda, later - to evaluate how violence, racism, women and other important social issues were presented in movies and media. Nowadays, it is widely used by businesses. Through the media analysis companies can track their brands, corporate image, rivals and a plenty of other commercial issues and see to what extent their campaigns are successful within consumers. Furthermore, the media content analysis makes them build effective strategies in the future, focusing on a likely consumer behavior and attitudes.
One major advantage of the media content analysis, as compared to any other audience research techniques, is that it is a non-intrusive method that allows a research of various contents over a long period of time that makes it more precise and full.
The content analysis stands for counting different aspects of the contents. It has nothing to do with subjective impressions or reviews. The results of this method are presented in figures, not in words, making the summary more objective, thorough and illustrative.
There are a lot of ways of conducting the media content analysis. For instance, there is a possibility of computerized coding of media contents. Some companies sell computer programs for a do-it-yourself media analysis. Many commercial research firms offer a wide range of media analysis methodologies.
Generally, the media content analysis includes six stages. The first one is selecting contents for the analysis. As the amount of contents is huge( web pages, billboards, advertisements, graffiti, posters,
broadcast media, news items, radio programs, TV programs, etc. ), and thus, it is absolutely impossible to do a comprehensive research, you should come with a clear-cut goal of what you want to get in the end. It is important to consider the content, the period of time and choose some aspects of evaluation. Otherwise, you can waste much time on analyzing minor issues.
It is recommended to choose a sample for the analysis. For instance, a sample may cover from nearly one hundred to two thousand items. In case with the television and radio, the best way is to sample by time. For print media it makes sense to base the sample on column and page numbers. It is easier to perform the media content analysis with print media, as you do not need to ask somebody or install a special computer program to record radio or TV programs at regular time intervals.
The second stage of the media content analysis is to identify the units of contents. The body of information you choose, the sample, is called a corpus. You should divide the corpus into several units of similar size.
The third stage is preparing contents for coding. The coding depends on the size of units, which may vary from a single word or a group of words to a larger document. The amount of units in a corpus may be whatever you need, the general rule still says "the larger the unit, the fewer units you need."
Actually, it is more difficult to code a longer unit; hence, if it is necessary, a large unit can be broken into smaller ones, each coded separately.
The fourth stage, called coding the content, means summarizing responses you get into groups with concepts that are both similar to each other within a group and different from concepts in other groups.
The quickest stage is the fifth one - counting and weighting. As a rule, using special computer software, counting and weighting will proceed easily.
The contents you get in the analysis is more useful if it is compared either with the contents that you or your audience expected, or when it is compared with another set of content. This is the task of the last stage - drawing conclusions
On the whole, the content analysis findings have more sense, when units of analysis are large ones (the whole radio or TV programs) and when you can compare these findings with those of the audience research.