Media Richness Theory

Have you ever received a text message from your boyfriend/girlfriend stating that “It was fun while it lasted, but I’m breaking up with you”? Reading this message might make you think one of two things- 1. They have got to be joking or 2. How insincere, we’ve been dating for 3 years and they’re going to end it over text? The way we deliver messages is important in human communication, so much so that Richard Daft and Robert Lengel developed a theory called the Media Richness Theory, which I will be discussing today.

The Media Richness Theory describes what medium we should use based on the content we will be sharing. In other words, we must choose the correct way to relay information based on the seriousness of the message. For example, if you were to lose a family member in a car accident, you wouldn’t want to hear about it over an e-mail but rather in a face-to-face conversation.
As proposed by Daft and Lengel, there are four criteria to consider when deciding what method of communication you will be using:
1. Are you able to get instant feedback
2. Do you have the ability to convey multiple communication cues
3. Are you able to communicate non verbally (ie body language, facial expressions)
4. What is the personal intent of the message

Media Richness Theory Diagram

Media Richness Theory Diagram

Based on these criteria we can decide if the message we’re communicating is rich media or lean media- If you are able to meet all four or close to all of these models then your medium is considered to be rich. If you can only demonstrate a few of these models, you’re medium is considered to be lean.

I like this theory because in this century people think that anything can be discussed through SMS or e-mail, when really there are factors to consider. I’ve received one too many texts in the past few years that contained information that should have been transmitted to me in other ways. I think if more people were aware of the criteria to meet when trying to communicate effectively their conversations would be interpreted better. We must connect via richer mediums when the time calls for it and not to take advantage of the “oh so easy” ways of leaner communication to get the message across. However, in some situations we don’t have control over our choice of communication and must resort to a leaner medium. I think that when these situations occur we must adapt the best we can, while still coming up with the most effective way to communicate.

Overall, I think the meaning behind this theory is for people to think about how they want their message to be interpreted and responded too. Communication is a two way process in most situations and we must consider the content of the message before we send it. After learning about this theory, do you think you will change your ways of communication in certain situations?


– Schiefelbein, Jill (April 10, 2012) Media Richness and Communication in Online Education. Retrieved from
– Walters, Bill. Communication Theory-CMC in ODR. Retrieved from
– University of Twente (September 10, 2014). Retrieved from

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