Costs are generally not considered a relevant factor in media use research. In most theoretical approaches to media use and media choice, the costs are ignored. This is the case for the two dominant models: the Uses and Gratifications Approach and the Mood Management Theory (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rosengren, 1985; Zillmann, 1988; also see Oliver in this volume and Krcmar & Strizhakova, this volume). Media use is mostly considered a low cost situation and critics assume that the level of reflection in the decision to use media is considerably overestimated (Jäckel, 1992; Neuman, 1991, P. 95f). When taken on appearance, these thoughts seem to be justified. In this chapter we will reason why cost is seldom considered, and bring forward arguments for more carefully regarding cost situations in media use. First we will concentrate on monetary costs: We don’t pay money whenever we turn on the radio or TV. The normal situation of media use is indeed generally without costs. Either the cost of media use is payable in advance or it is implicit in the purchase of other commodities. For example, commercial free TV or public free TV are a part of the culture of the industrialized nations. This means that in the actual situation of media use, the cost for television broadcasting, which is the most popular form of mass media, is non-apparent. The costs for commercial free TV are paid through advertising, which in turn is paid for by consumers buying the products advertised. Public broadcasting is generally paid for through the revenue of taxes or dues that are quite irrelevant to how often and when media is used. In countries where the daily newspaper plays a large role, such as in Germany or Switzerland, we see a similar strategy in place. A large segment of readers pay, before the actual media use, through subscriptions, which then make the costs less apparent in the actual reading situation. Only in a small number of cases are charges immediately payable for media consumption to raise the media’s costs of production. Three arguments contribute to the need for more regard to encompassing

the costs of media use when conducting research. First of all, current changes in the media economy will lead to great changes in the financing of media. The ongoing media expansion could lead to a crisis in the system of advertising-based finance. More and more media compete for the advertising money. Simultaneously, advertising through media is becoming less efficient because the audience is spread over an ever increasing amount of media content. Media can counteract this phenomenon through sinking costs or finding or enlarging other sources of finance. This could also mean that in the future, users will be expected to contribute towards costs, e.g., pay TV will gain in importance. Germany has one of the largest free TV markets in the world, and the larger media players, such as RTL, intend to enlarge their percentage of pay TV (Horizont.net, 2006). Subscriptions for daily newspapers are losing their importance. It would also seem apparent that paid content Internet pages are becoming ever-more important. Second, it could be assumed that the amount of investment required before media use indirectly influences media use. That costs are often payable in advance, and thereby not evident in the actual situation of media use, does not necessarily mean that they do not influence media use. They can influence both the choices exercised by recipients as well as the potential for gratification involved with media use. Third, situations of media use where the costs are directly apparent, such as going to the movies or pay-per-view productions, are seldom considered in communication research. Our aim is to ascertain which costs could play a role, and to attempt to describe these costs within an established media use model. In the following section we will differentiate types of costs in media use and also give an explanation of our concentration on monetary costs.