Alternative media is generally considered to be any type of media that is not under the control of a business operation or syndicate, or a government agency. This form of media may involve traditional outlets such as newspapers and magazines, or radio, television, and movies. Alternative media may also involve the newer media outlets of web sites, e-books and e-magazines, streamed audio and video, or other media outlets that are found online.
The main function of alternative media is to offer a different perspective that what is presented in the media that is under the control of a government or a big business. At one time, alternative media was also known as counter-cultural or underground media, terms which helped to identify the media outlets that provided opportunities for dissenting points of view and ideas to be shared outside the established media. This was often thought necessary when other media alternatives were unwilling or unable to offer these dissenting views equal time with views that were more widely held.
While alternative media has been around for centuries, the concept did not begin to emerge as a specific form of media communications until the middle of the 20th century. As social unrest became more prominent in a number of nations, people with alternative points of view on issues such as race, religion, lifestyle, orientation, politics, and social organization began to use small presses to create their own publications. Brochures, newspapers, and eventually magazines provided a foundation for what was soon identified as fringe media, denoting the fact that these views were not generally held by the majority of the populace. By the 1960’s, alternative media has branched out from printed publications to the inclusion of low budget movies, as well as independent radio and television broadcasts that were syndicated on low-frequency media outlets.
Many alternative media publications begin life on shoestring budgets that make it necessary to utilize the most cost-effective means of printing and distributing the materials. Over time, a number of these underground or alternative publications build considerable reader bases, and are able to increase the scope and the quality of their work. Others remain publications that serve a niche base of readers and continue to operate with relatively little resources.
One of the innovations in recent years has been the use of the Internet as a form of alternative media. While underground radio, television, and movies have been around for decades, the creation of alternative web sites that focus on minority points of view in politics, music, fashion, lifestyle, and other areas have proliferated. Today, it is possible to find media online that addresses just about any idea, concept, or opinion by conducting keyword searches using a reliable Internet browser. These online media outlets continue to offer the opportunity to explore different understandings and ideas that are either overlooked media, or receive relatively little attention from the more conventional media outlets.