Laswell’s Communication Model / Five W's

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Laswell’s Model / Five Ws

What is Laswell’s Communication Model / Five W's? Meaning.

The Five W's by Harold Laswell is a model used to analyze mass communication processes.


In 1948 Laswell proposed a model to describe mass communication processes known as the Five W's Method or Laswell’s Communication Model. He was the first in media studies literature to build up a valid framework that fitted both supporters of passive and active audiences. His studies started a new wave of ideas giving birth to mass communication theories like: Limited Effects Theory, Uses and Gratification Theory, Play Theory of Mass Communication, Spiral of Silence, Cultivation Theory, and Dependence Theory.


Note that in the 1950s mass communication was perceived to be asymmetrical, with powerful media and passive audiences manipulated by messages. See: Hypodermic Needle Theory.

According to the 5 W's model, a scientific analysis of a mass communication message is feasible by answering the following 5 questions:

  1. Control analysis: Who / What organization is behind the production of messages?
  2. Content analysis: What is the content of a message?
  3. Media analysis: Which media channel is used?
  4. Audience analysis: To Whom is the communication directed?
  5. Effect analysis: What effects are produced by the messages broadcasted?

Among the 5 W's, the most important enquiry field is the content analysis. It defines the scope of a message and enables to track the effects of communication.


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