Measuring Media Impact: An Overview of the Field

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
February 2014
Philip M. Napoli
Rutgers University
Number of Pages: 

This report provides a comprehensive overview and assessment of the approaches that are currently employed in impact assessment of media as a socially valuable tool. “Social value,” in this context, is described in terms of outcomes that extend beyond financial measures of success such as improving the well-being of individuals and communities. This report seeks to identify relevant analytical approaches, methodologies, and metrics for assessing media’s social impact that can inform further work in this area and that appear particularly promising.


Work that informs efforts to assess media impact emerges from a variety of disciplines, including: information science, marketing, political science, sociology, and, communications and journalism. This report draws from a body of literature, including unpublished literature, minor journals, and self-published documents by media organizations.


The report lays a foundation of terminology used in the field including the differences between media effect and media impact; media engagement and impact; outcomes and impacts. The emphasis on definitions is beneficial both for the purposes of the report and for the overall goal to streamline resources in the field.


The report is organized in sections that highlight three major themes in the field:

  1. The importance of media impact assessment maintaining a high degree of methodological flexibility and diversity as was repeatedly illustrated
  2. The availability of a broad range of performance metrics
  3. The centrality of audience engagement to impact assessment


Within these sections, various impact assessment models are identified using specific examples from the field, across numerous disciplines. These examples range in specificity, but create an exhaustive overview of media impact from diverse perspectives.

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