American Pie 20.03.01

There is a big change here in how magazines (and newspapers) can count their sales. They can now include copies that sell for as little as a penny. It’s the first major rule change since the Audit Bureau of Circulations was founded in 1914. Until now publishers could only count copies that sold for at least 50 per cent of a magazine’s subscription price. But publishers also now have to provide the magazine’s average sale price, excluding expenses such as the cost of promotions and advertising. Publishers will also be required to reveal how many copies are sold through marketing partnerships. This will give advertisers a better idea of how well a publication sells. From April, newspapers will be able to count copies that sell for at least 25 per cent of their advertised price, instead of 50 per cent. Publishers believe the more relaxed rules will allow them to woo new customers without jeopardising their official circulation figures.



Those racy ads that appear near the back of many give-away publications are under attack. Several organisations are complaining that ads for masseurs, models and escorts are often thinly disguised promotions for prostitution. Even such reputable weeklies as The Village Voice and the New York Observer run pages every week filled with such ads. Primedia, which publishes New York Magazine and Seventeen has pledged it will no longer accept ads that are explicitly sexual in magazines that could fall into the hands of children. But the owner and publisher of the New York Observer claims that such ads are just part of big city life. "New York and sex go together, like pastrami and rye," he said. The NY City Police Department’s public morals division says it now keeps an eye on some of the ads.


The right for foreign correspondents to re-use material that has appeared in other papers is under challenge here. A writer in Brill’s Content, a journalism publication, claims many newsmen lift not just stories but also quotes without acknowledgement. Singled out are correspondents here for The Scotsman, The Guardian, the Glasgow Herald and The Times. Martin Kettle of The Guardian told Brill’s Content that the biggest problem is the time difference. "Your deadlines are effectively 1pm. I’ve filed 860 stories in the last two-and-a-quarter years, and inevitably a lot of them are cut, lift and paste." Jim Bone of The Times suggested there was also a cultural difference. "There is no convention in British journalism of attributing quotes to papers that no one has ever heard of." Some Americans reporting from abroad acknowledge they often do the same. Admits Warren Hoge of the NY Times’ London bureau: "We simply can’t be everywhere at the same time."

If we have been surfeiting on champagne lately it’s all the fault of my wife, Myrna. This year she celebrates her 20th year as editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal. Last week she was named Publishing Executive of the Year. A week earlier MORE, a new magazine she conceived for women over 40 as a spin-off of LHJ, was included in this year’s list of up-and-coming magazines. And now Columbia Journalism Review has listed her among the Top 50 Magazine Journalists in New York. If only I could claim I taught her all she knows!


Quick quiz: How many daily newspapers are there in the US these days? Answer: 1,483. And how many companies own the majority of these papers? Answer: Just six!

by Jeffrey Blyth

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