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The third core concept of media literacy is that all media messages are produced for a particular purpose. In fact, most media outlets can be lumped into two main groups: media outlets that want to sell us a product or a service, and media outlets that want to sell us a lifestyle or ideology.

In previous core concept lessons, we learned that many media outlets are commercial outlets, and their revenues are gained by selling us a product or service by giving us content we like, such as a television show or a newspaper, and then mixing in the ads so we can buy those products and services. But not all media outlets are commercial in nature. Many media outlets are of a non-commercial nature, but these outlets still intend to sell us something.

Take for example a speech by a politician. The politician has a message he or she wants to deliver to the public, so the politician can be considered a type of media. But the politician isn’t trying to sell us laundry detergent or clothing. Politicians, just like other non-commercial media outlets, want to sell us on their ideas of how the world should work.

Other types of non-commercial media outlets that want to sell us their ideologies or lifestyles might be an organized religion, convincing us to believe in a particular truth about life, our families, teaching us their views on right and wrong from a young age, and even our friends, convincing us that we should go to that concert because “everyone else is going.”

Commercial and non-commercial media are all around us, and both types have embedded values and ideologies in their messages, and with enough repetition, both types have the ability to sell us something. While one type of media outlet’s revenue is gained through the direct sale of a product or service, the other type of media outlet’s metaphoric revenue is gained through convincing us of an ideology or lifestyle.

Sometimes, the two types of sales happen simultaneously. For example, a popular youth-oriented fast food chain may try to sell their products through an advertisement during a television program that tries to sell a youthful and hip lifestyle, such as a show about music. The advertisement and television program work together to help validate each other as appropriate messages for their target market. This is why people who live certain lifestyles are usually attracted by the same brands. The media has helped solidify the marriage between the product and the lifestyle.