Cultural History of Magazines

Magazines were truly America’s first national mass medium, and like books they served as an important force in social change.  The mass circulation magazine grew with the nation. Between 1900 and 1945, the number of families who subscribed to one or more magazines grew from 200,000 to more than 32 million. New and important magazines continued to appear throughout the decades.

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Magazine industry research indicates that among people with at least some college, 94% read at least one magazine and average more than 11 different issues a month.  Nearly the same figures apply for households with annual incomes of over $40,000 and for people in professional and managerial careers, regardless of educational attainment.  The typical magazine reader is at least high school graduate, is married, owns his or her own house, is employed full time, and has an annual household income of just under $40,000. Advertisers find magazine readers an attractive, upscale audience for their pitches

How people use magazines also makes them an attractive advertising medium.  People report: Reading magazines as much for the ads as for the editorial content, keeping them available for up to four months, passing them along to an average of four similar adults, and being very loyal, which translates into increased esteem for those advertisers in the pages of their favorite publications.  In 1950 there were 6,950 magazines in operation exceeding 22,000 in 2002, 12,000 of those being general interest consumer magazines.  Of these, 800 produce three-fourths of the industry’s gross revenues.  Ten new magazine titles are launched every week (Magazine Publishers of America, 2000).

Magazine specialization exists and succeeds because the demographically similar readership of these publications is attractive to advertisers who wish to target ads for their products and services to those most likely to respond to them.

Source:
Introduction to Mass Communication
Media Literacy and Culture
Second Edition
Stanley J. Baran

Cultural History of Mass Communications

Oral or preliterate cultures are those without a written language, some existing thousands of years ago and some still functioning today. More than 5,000 years ago, alphabets were developed independently in several places around the world.  The initial complexity with picture based alphabets, requiring a huge number of symbols to convey even the simplest idea, meant that only a very select few, the intellectual elite, could read or write.  Culture slowly expanded, using symbols to represent sounds rather than objects or ideas around 1800 B.C. with the Sumerians.   The syllable alphabet slowly developed, and then flowered in Greece around 800 B.C.  For orders to be placed, deals arranged, manifests compiled, and records kept, writing that was easy to learn, use, and understand was required.

A medium was necessary to carry this new form of communication.  The Sumerians had used clay tablets, but the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans eventually employed papyrus (rolls of sliced strips of reed pressed together).  Around 100 B.C. the Romans began using parchment (A writing material made from prepared animal skins), and in A.D. 105 a paper making process was perfected employing a mixture of pressed mulberry tree bark, water, rags, and a sophisticated frame for dying and stretching the resulting sheets of paper.  The paper making technology made its way to Europe some 600 years later.  With the coming of literacy, people could accumulate a body of knowledge and transmit that knowledge from one generation to another.  However in the newly literate cultures, writers could reach only those literate few that held their handwritten scrolls or letters.  The printing press would change this, making it possible to duplicate communication, thereby expanding our ability to communicate with one another.  Printing and the printing press existed long before Johannes Guttenberg perfected his process in or around 1446.

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It is impossible to overstate the importance of this development.  Guttenberg, however, was a poor businessman.  He stressed quality over quantity, in part because of his reverence for the book he was printing, the Bible.  He used the highest quality paper and ink and turned out far fewer volumes than he otherwise could have.   Other printers however, quickly saw the true economic potential of Guttenberg’s invention.  The first Guttenberg Bible appeared in 1456.  By the end of the century, 44 years later, printing operations existed in 12 European countries, and the continent was flooded with 20 million volumes of 7,000 titles in 35,000 editions.  Although Guttenberg developed his printing press with a limited use in mind, printing Bibles, the cultural effects of mass printing have been profound.

By the mid-18th Century the printing press had become one of the engines driving the Industrial revolution. Industrialization affects increased leisure time and expendable cash with the spread of literacy resulting in a large and growing audience for printed information and entertainment.  By the mid-19th century, a mass audience and the means to reach it existed.


Cultural History of Magazines

Magazines were truly America’s first national mass medium, and like books they served as an important force in social change.  The mass circulation magazine grew with the nation. Between 1900 and 1945, the number of families who subscribed to one or more magazines grew from 200,000 to more than 32 million. New and important magazines continued to appear throughout the decades.

Magazine industry research indicates that among people with at least some college, 94% read at least one magazine and average more than 11 different issues a month.  Nearly the same figures apply for households with annual incomes of over $40,000 and for people in professional and managerial careers, regardless of educational attainment.  The typical magazine reader is at least high school graduate, is married, owns his or her own house, is employed full time, and has an annual household income of just under $40,000. Advertisers find magazine readers an attractive, upscale audience for their pitches

How people use magazines also makes them an attractive advertising medium.  People report: Reading magazines as much for the ads as for the editorial content, keeping them available for up to four months, passing them along to an average of four similar adults, and being very loyal, which translates into increased esteem for those advertisers in the pages of their favorite publications.  In 1950 there were 6,950 magazines in operation exceeding 22,000 in 2002, 12,000 of those being general interest consumer magazines.  Of these, 800 produce three-fourths of the industry’s gross revenues.  Ten new magazine titles are launched every week (Magazine Publishers of America, 2000).

Magazine specialization exists and succeeds because the demographically similar readership of these publications is attractive to advertisers who wish to target ads for their products and services to those most likely to respond to them.

Cultural History of Mass Communications

Oral or preliterate cultures are those without a written language, some existing thousands of years ago and some still functioning today. More than 5,000 years ago, alphabets were developed independently in several places around the world.  The initial complexity with picture based alphabets, requiring a huge number of symbols to convey even the simplest idea, meant that only a very select few, the intellectual elite, could read or write.  Culture slowly expanded, using symbols to represent sounds rather than objects or ideas around 1800 B.C. with the Sumerians.   The syllable alphabet slowly developed, and then flowered in Greece around 800 B.C.  For orders to be placed, deals arranged, manifests compiled, and records kept, writing that was easy to learn, use, and understand was required.

A medium was necessary to carry this new form of communication.  The Sumerians had used clay tablets, but the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans eventually employed papyrus (rolls of sliced strips of reed pressed together).  Around 100 B.C. the Romans began using parchment (A writing material made from prepared animal skins), and in A.D. 105 a paper making process was perfected employing a mixture of pressed mulberry tree bark, water, rags, and a sophisticated frame for dying and stretching the resulting sheets of paper.  The paper making technology made its way to Europe some 600 years later.  With the coming of literacy, people could accumulate a body of knowledge and transmit that knowledge from one generation to another.  However in the newly literate cultures, writers could reach only those literate few that held their handwritten scrolls or letters.  The printing press would change this, making it possible to duplicate communication, thereby expanding our ability to communicate with one another.  Printing and the printing press existed long before Johannes Guttenberg perfected his process in or around 1446.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this development.  Guttenberg, however, was a poor businessman.  He stressed quality over quantity, in part because of his reverence for the book he was printing, the Bible.  He used the highest quality paper and ink and turned out far fewer volumes than he otherwise could have.   Other printers however, quickly saw the true economic potential of Guttenberg’s invention.  The first Guttenberg Bible appeared in 1456.  By the end of the century, 44 years later, printing operations existed in 12 European countries, and the continent was flooded with 20 million volumes of 7,000 titles in 35,000 editions.  Although Guttenberg developed his printing press with a limited use in mind, printing Bibles, the cultural effects of mass printing have been profound.

By the mid-18th Century the printing press had become one of the engines driving the Industrial revolution. Industrialization affects increased leisure time and expendable cash with the spread of literacy resulting in a large and growing audience for printed information and entertainment.  By the mid-19th century, a mass audience and the means to reach it existed.