Posted by: Mike Plett | October 27, 2013

Sustainable consumption and alternative media

In “Mediated communication of ‘sustainable consumption’ in the alternative media,” Komathi Kolandai-Matchett examines an information campaign that used a message-framing strategy.

The campaign consisted of a series of articles published over three months in an alternative publication. The articles employed the following strategies: stressing local relevance of environmental problems; using an emotional appeal; detailing the intrinsic satisfaction gained from sustainable consumption; and suggesting individual actions that can be taken to address the problem.

A theme of “caring” was used throughout the series to provide an emotional appeal. For example, the articles appealed to sympathies by equating intra generational equality to caring about sweatshop workers in developing countries. They then suggested that readers demand goods be produced under fairer labor conditions. The articles also implied that by taking such action readers could enjoy the satisfaction gained from being a caring, “ethical and responsible consumer.”

The campaign was deemed a success when researchers found a significant increase in readers’ understanding of sustainable consumption, as well as a significant increase in concern over advertising effects on their children.

The use of alternative media was thought to have been part of the campaign’s success. Kolandai-Matchett further says alternative media are likely to be supportive of sustainability, thus their use “needs further exploration.” But if alternative media are likely to be supportive, could that mean their readers are more likely to be supportive as well? If your goal is to change hearts and minds, shouldn’t you use a more mainstream venue for this message?


  1. Mike, I had the same questions as you. Is the readership of the St. Albans Neighborhood News (STANN) more likely to be open or supportive of a concept like sustainable consumption? Is there a trust issue with the mainstream media in Christchurch that would make a small news source more trustworthy. Even, Kolandai-Matchett states that “the media as channels for communicating sustainability is, as Parker (2003) suggests, their capacity to inform and educate a large number of people within a short period.” Reaching a large number of people in a short period is only achieved by utilizing mainstream media vs. smaller publications like the STANN with a circulation of only 5,000 people.

    However, I do agree with what Kolandai-Matchett says about communication strategists needing to “broaden their search for insights in framing sustainable consumption messages.” Its always good to think outside the box and to not discount alternative news sources. As communication professionals we want to utilize alternative media outlets if it could be a viable method of messaging to reach our targeted audience.

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