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Mainstream ([ ˈmeɪnstriːm ], English “mainstream”) reflects the cultural tastes of a large majority, the mass tastes of mass culture in contrast to subcultures or the aesthetic underground . This corresponds to the term popular culture and, according to Antonio Gramsci , can be interpreted as a concept of cultural hegemony .

In the field of media, the term is often linked to the concept of leading media and expresses a claim to quality.

Media mainstream

The term media mainstream refers to the mass media that, as printed publications, have the highest number of readers or, in the case of radio and TV programs, the highest audience rating . In a context that has recently often been viewed as negative, media mainstream is thus contrasted with “independent” publications known as indie media . The internet , in particular, and the blogosphere in particular , like to oppose the mainstream media.

The media scientist Uwe Krüger defines media mainstream as a “more or less extensive media consensus on certain issues” or “as a number of topics and opinions that dominate the media landscape in a certain period of time ) and thus form a mainstream or mainstream ”. In his publication Mainstream. Why we distrust the media from 2016, he works out what , in his opinion, are the decisive causes for the loss of confidence in the mainstream media of large sections of the population, as evidenced by opinion polls . In his opinion, this loss of confidence became clear during the Ukraine crisis . Many recipients, also encouraged by right-wing and Russian propaganda , noticed the one-sidedness and homogeneity of the reporting. The media reacted to the criticism of "also well-known personalities from politics and journalism" with defamation and defamation and thus further intensified the crisis of confidence. It is necessary, with empathy for both sides, to convey the external view of their recipients to the media and to convey the media work processes to the media critics, and in doing so to understand "how a free and pluralistic democracy can create media harmony." Krüger sees the socialization- and working conditions of journalists, the informal communicative processes within the media as well as the dependencies and influences between the media, society and politics “on a political and media backstage that is not publicly visible”.

Mainstream in pop culture

The term mainstream is used in pop culture to distinguish it from the independent and corresponding subcultures . It can be used by critics of the mainstream, who also express their dislike or indifference and feel that they belong to a subculture outside the mainstream, such as “ hipsters ”. Especially used as a partial word (mainstream rock, mainstream cinema, mainstream radio (" bag radio ")), it can have negative connotations, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. This form of cultural pessimism sees, especially in the field of music and film ( blockbusters ), that “the” mainstream is gaining more and more acceptance, which is possibly one of the causes of falling sales figures in the music industry . These critics also observe that artists who act outside the mainstream have less chance of being featured on radio and television .

Further use

The term can also be found in areas such as society , politics and science . Many alternative - reformist -minded people and the New Social Movements criticize above all the "mainstream thought"; it can also be used pejoratively as the opposite of individualism.

The idea that the “intellectual mainstream” can be influenced also leads to gender mainstreaming , disability mainstreaming , family mainstreaming , cultural mainstreaming , summarized as “mainstreaming biodiversity”. “Mainstreaming” can have an effect on various political and social levels. The concept of active aging can also be understood as a form of mainstreaming.


  • Tom Holert, Mark Terkessidis (Ed.): Mainstream of the minorities. Pop in the control society. Edition ID archive, Berlin / Amsterdam 1996, ISBN 978-3-89408-059-4 .
  • Fréderic Martel: Mainstream. How works what everyone likes. Knaus Verlag, Munich 2011 (e-book).
  • Kaspar Maase: The mainstream of popular culture: field or enemy of cultural education? In: Kulturelle Bildung Online, 2015; URL:
  • Uwe Krüger : Mainstream. Why we don't trust the media anymore. CH Beck, 2016. CH Beck Paperback 6232, ISBN 978-3-406-68851-5 .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. mainstream. In: Langenscheidt English-German dictionary. Retrieved January 8, 2017 .
  2. George Ritzer, J. Michael Ryan: The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology . John Wiley & Sons, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4443-9264-7 ( [accessed January 8, 2017]).
  3. a b Media in the mainstream. Problem or need? Federal Agency for Civic Education , accessed on January 8, 2017 .
  4. ^ K. Wallsten: Agenda Setting and the Blogosphere: An Analysis of the Relationship between Mainstream Media and Political Blogs. In: Review of Policy Research. 24, pp. 567-587. doi: 10.1111 / j.1541-1338.2007.00300.x
  5. Mainstream: The pull of the crowd . In: Die Zeit , No. 46/2011
  6. Tanya Lübber: Established and Outsiders in Pop Culture. Between mainstream and independent - a study on the established and outsider configuration in the field of pop music. GRIN Verlag , Munich 2003 (e-book)
  7. ; Mainstreaming biodiversity. Retrieved August 11, 2018 .