A few days ago, I posted about “The future of book reviewing and one cranky man.”
I wrote about the absurdity of newspapers expecting book review sections to be supported by advertising from the strapped book industry: “Of course, sports sections aren’t asked to support themselves by the advertisements of sports stores or the manufacturers of catcher’s mitts, so this standard has always been unevenly applied.”
In the comments section, medievalist Jeff Sypeck asked:
Is there a reason newspaper executives have behaved as if the ads in a book-review section could only be for books and publishers and similar literary/cultural products? Is it a lack of demographic info about book buyers for the ad sales people to tout? The unwillingness of, say, tire manufacturers to advertise alongside reviews of novels? A belief that the book section ought to be free of commercialism? Mere tradition or habit?
Frank Wilson at Books Inq. explained the simple demographics of newspaper advertising succinctly: “the point is that a book section would attract more readers to a newspaper – even a lot of people who watch baseball read – and the more readers you have, the more advertisers you get.”
Literary people read lots of things besides great literature and book reviews – they’re more likely to read newspapers in general. As Jeff has pointed out before, that’s a much better bet than trying to get stoners to read. Said Frank:
Newspapers flap their wings hoping to attract young readers by reviewing pop music, but those (theoretical) young reader don’t care what newspapers think about what they’re listening to. I certainly didn’t care that the local pop music reviewers thought little of Elvis when I was in high school. I also wouldn’t have cared if they’d thought the world of him.
But the experience of listening to music is fundamentally different from the experience of reading. Readers want to know what others have to say about what they have read. It’s an extension of the reading experience. Reading about the music you have heard is not an extension of the listening experience.
Maybe if more newspaper executives did some reading of their own, they would understand.
Your last point reminds me of how for more than 15 years, the Washington Post has been trying to lure young people with reviews of video games and hip-hop concerts, apparently misunderstanding how many outlets are already devoted to discussing those subjects with greater affection and thoroughness. Time has shown them to be unlikely and unsuccessful ways to lure new readers to old media.