American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview
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of readers may have been closer to one million although circulation figures were never that high. 14

In 1916, as World War I escalated, circulation again increased, and by 1917 the Review reached its all-time high of over 240,000 copies per month. Advertising volume kept pace, and new ads for automobiles, office supplies, and construction companies appeared. The Review regularly carried cigarette ads, but accepted no liquor advertising. In January 1919 the single issue price rose to 35 cents with annual subscriptions at $4. 15

In the decade of the 1920s the American Review of Reviews gradually declined. Circulation figures fluctuated sharply from 223,000 down to 205,000 and then dropped precipitously in 1923 to 150,000. To stem the marked decrease in circulation and a corresponding decline in advertising revenue, Albert Shaw, Jr., initiated a reorganization of the magazine and increased promotional efforts. The changes brought about a recovery in 1924 as circulation rose to 195,000, but neither Shaw nor his son could sustain the brief renewal. Despite increased appeals to business and travel advertisers, from 1920 to 1927 advertising income fell over $200,000 and the magazine faced its first deficit. 16

During this time the Review also came up against major challenges from both the publishing and the advertising industries. By the late 1920s two divergent paths were evident in periodical publishing. A weekly magazine like the Literary Digest* or Time* was more up-to-date than a monthly review could hope to be, and many weeklies provided readers with briefer articles and more illustration. In contrast to mass-market magazines, smaller, more specialized periodicals also flourished because they were targeted for a specific group such as businessmen, hobbyists, or travelers. The American Review of Reviews could not measure up in either category. Shaw did not have the financial resources to expand and publish weekly. Yet the Review still had broader appeal and circulation than many of the specialized magazines. The increasingly sophisticated nature of advertising also contributed to the decline of the Review. As advertisers sought to appeal to greater numbers of people, or to the specific group most likely to purchase their product, the Review again found itself in the middle. 17

Shaw tried several approaches to bolster his sagging publication. In 1929 he introduced changes in format and style. The Review, traditionally a small quarto, was changed to the full quarto-size page that allowed more printing and illustration options. Advertising was also easier to adapt to the larger pages, and for the first time the Review interspersed its ads within the text rather than grouping them at the back of the magazine. The major content change was dropping the Leading Articles section and merging its contents into the new News and Opinion section. 18

Despite attempts to revitalize the Review, the onset of the depression caused severe financial problems. By 1931 advertising income had dropped by one-half, and circulation continued its downward trend. Such drastic losses necessitated cuts in the magazine down to sixty-five pages of text and ads, about one-fourth

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