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Advertising and a Democratic Press

Advertising and a Democratic Press

C. Edwin Baker
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  • Book Info
    Advertising and a Democratic Press
    Book Description:

    In this provocative book, C. Edwin Baker argues that print advertising seriously distorts the flow of news by creating a powerfully corrupting incentive: the more newspapers depend financially on advertising, the more they favor the interests of advertisers over those of readers. Advertising induces newspapers to compete for a maximum audience with blandly "objective" information, resulting in reduced differentiation among papers and the eventual collapse of competition among dailies.

    Originally published in 1995.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6355-6
    Subjects: Marketing & Advertising

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    The first amendment guarantees the press freedom from “abridgment” by government. Adopted in the wake of the colonists’ resistance to the British Stamp Act, which heavily taxed newspaper advertisements as well as newspapers themselves, and at a time of early Massachusetts printers’ resistance to similar state levies,¹ this constitutional guarantee might plausibly be interpreted to prohibit all taxes or governmental regulations of the press. Government might be seen as the sole, relevant threat to freedom, and freedom of the press might mean at bottom a laissez-faire marketplace for the mass media industry.

    The thesis of this book, however, is that...

  2. CHAPTER I Advertising: Financial Support and Structural Subversion of a Democratic Press
    (pp. 7-43)

    Advertising in the media confers obvious benefits. First, but mostly beyond the scope of this book, are benefits to the enterprises that advertise, to the buying public that relies on advertising for information about transaction opportunities, and to the economy as a whole because of advertising’s stimulus to economic activity. Often, readers and viewers are as interested in the ads as in the media’s nonadvertising or “editorial” content. (Throughout, I will refer generically to all of the media’s nonadvertising content, including hard news, news analysis, features, and opinion, as “editorial content.”) For example, three out of four women in a...

  3. CHAPTER II Advertising and the Content of a Democratic Press
    (pp. 44-70)

    Don’t like news that connects the product you sell or your company to death or murder? Demand silence. Want an appealing, upbeat media environment for your ads? Pay to get it. Concerned that your advertising expenditures are wasted on media consumers, like the poor, who are unlikely customers? Just tell the media producers to stop providing material of interest to that audience.

    Chapter 1 described structural effects of advertising on the newspaper industry. Structural effects pervasively, even if only indirectly, control media content. Advertising causes a decline in content diversity among newspapers and helps establish a particular, ideologically laden style...

  4. CHAPTER III Economic Analysis of Advertising’s Effect on the Media
    (pp. 71-82)

    The influence of advertising on the media’s nonadvertising content described in chapters 1 and 2 should be very disturbing. Most readers either will rationalize the first two chapters as presenting only isolated problems with a larger institution that is fundamentally sound or will agree that something is terribly wrong with our press. However, a few doctrinaire free market advocates may be more defensive, arguing that advertisers’ influence is actually not bad at all. Readers who find their claim absurd or who do not find economic analysis appealing (although technical language is largely avoided) may choose to skip this chapter. Nevertheless,...

  5. CHAPTER IV Policy Proposals
    (pp. 83-117)

    Convinced that advertising results in censorship, skews content, contributes to inequality, and impairs media competition, one might propose banning advertising in the media. Such a move would be as undesirable as it is untenable. The proposal ignores the significant positive contributions of advertising in the media, the two most important being advertising’s financial support of media communications and advertising’s provision of useful information that media consumers desire. Nevertheless, targeted policies that reduce specific objectionable effects of advertising may provide net social benefits even if these policies also marginally reduce its positive contributions.

    Governmental responses to the problem can take one...

  6. CHAPTER V The Constitutionality of Taxation or Regulation of Advertising
    (pp. 118-138)

    The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” “Speech” and “the press” could be read as merely referring to different methods of expression. Alternatively, and I think more persuasively, they could be understood to refer to quite different concerns. Free speech is easily seen as a fundamental personal right, a guarantee of individual liberty, a person’s right to be expressive. In contrast, “the press” could refer to an institution or set of humanly created entities. The only persuasive (secular) reasons to give constitutional protection to an...