While there’s no specific definition of alternative media, it offers no shortage of examples. There have been numerous terms given to the various sources of publications and information that can’t be categorised as mainstream. These terms include alternative, independent, dissident, radical, subversive underground, non-corporate, progressive, grassroots, activist, small, and anarchist. These definitions are largely less concerned with a description of alternate media but more so with a description of what it isn’t. For example, it certainly isn’t mainstream. It isn’t corporate-owned, either.
The majority of criteria for labelling a news source as alternative media depends on asking the right questions: Is the intention to generate profit? Is it looking to achieve a social or political change? What are its methods of production and distribution (for alternative media, it would most likely be the Internet). What is the context (is it news that is either misreported repressed by the mainstream Media?)? Is it corporate owned? An important distinction between mainstream and alternative media is that profit drives all of mainstream media while it isn’t the case with all alternative media houses so as not to let conflict of interest interfere with their goal.
These criteria are practical when attempting to label a media house as “alternative”. As a result, you’ll find that it’s largely polarising and typically attracts a small subsection of the population. Some publications in alternative media embrace sensationalism and are regarded as tabloids. Others are all about conspiracy theory. However, thanks to the power of the Internet, numerous alternative media houses are growing in popularity and are transitioning into the mainstream.
The differences between audiences
Due to the nature of both media types, there are great differences between their respective audiences. Most companies in alternative media are far smaller than those in mainstream media. Alternative outliers are also often polarised when it comes to content, some focus on polarised political views, with some produce largely conservative content while others produce largely liberal content. They also don’t tend to have any links with television, with most of their distribution coming through the Internet, newspapers, and radio. Alternative media came about thanks to the Internet due to the fact that they can reach an audience far more cheaply than mainstream media can.
Due to the above factors, audiences tend to be small and segmented, according to their perspectives and views, and are typically found online. It isn’t necessary for them to be polarised based on social or political views, although they’re the most common forms of polarisation. Mainstream media deals with far larger audiences and has far greater support in terms of funding. Audiences of mainstream media houses tend to be more diverse, although political views can still be polarising and therefore, more numerous than those of alternative media houses.
Another difference between both audiences is the level of accessibility online. It’s very easy to search for mainstream media sources while that isn’t the case with alternative media. However, alternative media sources are faithful to their sources as they have little faith in mainstream media.