Since early media was handwritten, it was often hard to come by for the common man. The idea of "mass" media hardly existed until more efficient methods of production of the printed word were found that could bring the written word to the populace.
Then along came a man named Johann Gutenburg. While it is debatable whether or not he actually invented the printing press, as he is so often given credit for doing, suffice it to say that his name is the most common one associated with development of movable type, which he most certainly was involved with.
Gutenberg's invention (let's just give him credit for the sake of narrative) was a watershed event in the history of mass communication. With the arrival of the printing press came the emergence of what we can truly describe as mass communications. For the first time, books were easy (well, easier anyway) to come by for the common man.
This certainly helped to bring the world together. Although literacy levels were still pretty low in the largely agrarian world population, it was the humble beginnings of what we would later refer to as the "information" society
Early newspapers and magazines helped to spread literacy and information. Much of the history of newspapers can be traced to the New World, and the history of journalism often parallels the history of the United States.
Still, even with the new and improved method of recording the written word, distribution of the product was difficult and costly.
The next major invention to change the world of communications was the telegraph. Previous to its invention, it could take weeks or months for word to travel to various parts of the world. With the telegraph, instant communication was available for the first time. Still it was limited and its use was largely out of reach of common citizens.
The telephone was the next great invention, and finally, the general population was able to use it. Even people who didn't have a phone of their own could get access to one fairly easily. Another step toward convergence.
By the 19th century, newspapers, magazines and books were commonplace and their power and potential was enormous. The "new journalism" of the 19th century established many of the principles and practices still used in the media today. Information was becoming big business.
Radio, and later television, knocked down many of the final doors on the way to convergence by truly bringing the masses closer to each other. For the first time, people were able to hear and see what people all over the world were like.
The development of motion pictures also brought mankind together. Whether it was for education, entertainment, information, or persuasion, the media had established a strong foothold in the world by the beginning of the 20th century.
Today it seems like there is a magazine, newspaper, television station or radio show for everybody. Media giants like Rupert Murdoch continue to profit from the public's hunger for information.
Although newspaper, magazine and book publishers were initially wary of newer media forms like radio and television, they learned to adapt and co-exist. Despite worries that radio would kill the newspaper, it did not. Neither did television.
Now the big perceived threat to traditional media comes from a little silicon chip used in the "next big thing," the personal computer.