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THE MARCH OF THE ADVERTISER

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No man can occupy the editorial chair of a representative daily newspaper for forty-eight hours without being made aware that the thirst for free advertisement has become one of the master passions of mankind. It is not so much that there is a shabby desire to shirk the mere money cost of advertising. The great idea is to secure the advertisement without appearing to have any hand in it—to procure its insertion in the pick of the news columns as though it were an item to which the discerning editor attached much value, and had himself been at the pains to obtain. These thrilling pieces of intelligence commonly arrive under cover of confidential notes which express a modest hope that they will be found to be of interest. On no account is there to be any indication in print of their source of origin. All the odium of the snobbery, the bad taste, or the trading puffery of them is cheerfully left to settle upon the editorial head. The degree to which this pursuit of masked advertisement has grown of late years will be understood when I say that fully 50 per cent. of my daily letters come from persons in quest of some such favourfrom Mr. Jeremiah Bounder, M.P., who wants the world to know that he has been shooting with the Duke of Forfarshire, to the professional advertising agent who coolly forwards an ornate recommendation of some quack or company whose advertisement is to appear in your columns.' The self-respecting editor usually drops these communications one by one into the waste-paper basket, and they are no more seen. For myself, I have fallen into the habit of slipping them into a drawer reserved for the curiosities of journalism with which I propose to entertain a cynical old age. I confess, however, that when I hear Bounder, M.P., chaffed at a private dinner party about the use he made of his ducal invitation, and in reply protest that he is excessively annoyed to find it got into the papers,' and that it is impossible to keep those newspaper fellows out of one's private affairs,' I feel tempted to squeal on him'there and then.

For there is generally some fourth-rate parochial print ready to minister to the vanity of the Bounder tribe.

But it is with some graver matters of commercial advertising that I wish to deal. The Newspaper Press has been for upwards of a century the most powerful engine at the disposal of those who wish to bring their wares before the public, and it will probably remain so. To the advertiser the British Press chiefly owes its prosperity. In some degree it owes to him also its high character, for it has derived from him the firm financial basis which has enabled its conductors to pursue a policy of independence and of incorruptible fidelity to the public interests. It has had something to sell in the ordinary way of business to a commercial people, namely, access to the consuming public, and it has never had any difficulty in finding customers for the facilities which it affords. The value of these facilities is, of course, governed by the degree of circulation and influence which the newspaper may acquire, and this in turn is determined by the measure of confidence and satisfaction which the public feel in it. There is no reason for ascribing the high character which is generally conceded to the representative British Press to any exceptional virtue on the part of those who own or conduct it, although undoubtedly its roots have been, like those of some other national institutions, nourished by the blood of martyrs. Its glory primarily springs from the fact that it was planted in a commercial soil, and if that condition should ever fail, the most profound believer in the honour of the Press might well hesitate to affirm that its high principle would remain unimpaired. The British Press does not pretend to do more than reflect the spirit of the British people, and so long as the nation as a whole continues to reserve its confidence and support for those who serve it faithfully, it will find no general deterioration in the great qualities that. have been developed in its Press. In the exercise of these qualities one fundamental rule has been observed by the conductors of the Pressand let me say here that in speaking of the Press I wish to be understood throughout as referring to what I have called the representative Press, which deservedly enjoys the confidence of the public for the proved integrity with which it fulfils its mission. It has been, I say, a fundamental rule to draw a sharp line between advertising and journalism—to make it perfectly plain to the reader what is advertisement and what is news or editorial matter. This rule has not prevented an editor from publishing descriptive articles or news paragraphs which, although in effect most valuable advertisements of the matter treated, have been written in frank and honest commendation of some invention, or enterprise, or commodity of legitimate interest to the public. It frequently happens that occasion arises for action of this kind, just as occasion arises for unsparing criticism of other schemes or commodities which are submitted for the public verdict; and it is a matter of entire indifference to the journalist whether the object of the commendation or the criticism be advertised on the next page or not. The typical British journalist is strong enough to disregard every consideration but that of the honest service of his readers He has justified their confidence for generations, and what ever he may say in the way of approval or of warning derives all its influence from that fact.

During the last year or two there has been a very marked expansion of advertising enterprise, and an equally striking change in advertising methods. To those who are in close contact with newspapers the transformation wears the aspect of a revolution. Four or five years ago, perhaps less, it would have been impossible to induce the leading morning journals in London and the provinces, with one or two exceptions, to accept on any terms whatever an advertisement calling for the use of large capitals across their columns, or even for the setting of a trade advertisement of two-column width. To have admitted any such bold display would have been regarded as the height of typographical impropriety and as a sign of weakness and decline. Yet to-day the Times itself is ready, subject to certain conditions, to clothe advertisements in type which three years ago would have been considered fit only for the street hoardings; while even that once intolerable monstrosity, the picture block, is now cheerfully accepted by journals of the highest standing to emphasise a full-page advertisement.

These things are of such recent introduction that they still send a cold shiver down the backs of those who have been accustomed to the doctrine that the advertiser, however lavish in outlay, must be made to conform to the old canons of typographical neatness and artistic effect; and in newspaper history the year 1896 will be said to have witnessed the successful revolt of the advertiser from the stifling bondage in which he had been enchained for over a century. And, as commonly happens in cases where restriction has been founded upon prejudice and usage rather than upon solid reason, as soon as a breach had been made the whole line of resistance collapsed at once.

There is scarcely a section of the wall left standing. It is not difficult to trace the immediate causes of the change. Perhaps the most practical of them is to be found in the fact that a new era in the construction of the rotary printing press has dawned in England within the last three years. Until then it was practically impossible for any daily newspaper of large circulation to add to its size. All the morning journals except the Times were machine-bound and could not turn out, except with fatal slowness, anything larger than an eight-page paper.' They were thus compelled to put the whole contents of their sheets into the smallest possible compass, and the daring advertiser who ventured to ask the price of a whole page had to be told that he must be content with much less. But the printing engineers came to the rescue. They devised presses capable of turning out ten and twelve page papers at double the speed at which the old ones produced eight pages. This relieved the situation and enabled the newspaper proprietor to give an extra page or two to the reader and a further extra page or two to the advertiser. Fortified by signs of reviving trade and by the growing evidence of the solid value of bold advertisement, the latter promptly availed himself of the opportunity, with the result that while the increase in the size of the paper sold for a penny has been costly it has been much more than repaid by the largest advertising revenue the British Press has ever known.

Thus every class directly interested has profited by the changing of the old order. The reader has had nearly double his former quota of news, the newspapers have gained in revenue, and the advertiser has got the prominence to which undoubtedly he is entitled whenever he is prepared to pay for it. The question of the relationship of advertisements to news, alike as to proportion and as to prominence, of course remains, as before, a question of degree, and it will be settled, as before, between the advertiser and the newspaper, with the reader as the silent arbiter. The latter has no reason to be dissatisfied with the existing balance of things as it is adjusted in the first-class organs of the Press. Certain clear and intelligible rules are observed. The reader still knows where to find what he wants. He has not to hunt for his news in the crevices of truncated columns broken into irregular order to satisfy his natural enemy. If he should ever be reduced to that humiliation he will not be slow to let his favourite organ know his views, and its judicious conductors will in turn prescribe fresh limits for the advertiser. The reader will always be the predominant partner.

That, however, is not quite the whole philosophy of the matter. The advertiser, having scored an important and honourable victory, does not in all cases seem to be entirely content with it. He is showing a disposition to carry his encroachments further, and upon somewhat delicate ground. He has got it into his head-perhaps it would be more exact to say some of the agents he employs have put it there—that a newspaper is nothing more than an advertising machine. It is not always enough for him that he is free to make whatever use he likes of the space plainly set apart for his purposes. His own recommendation of his wares leaves him something to desire, and he is beginning to hanker after a recommendation bearing the imprimatur of the journal he is pleased to patronise. He is not above asking the price of the masked advertisement to which reference was made in the opening passages of this article, and he is pursuing this line of enterprise by methods so subtle and deadly, and has already achieved so distinct a measure of success, that the time has come to invite the serious attention of both the newspaper manager and the public to the threatened breach in what should be an absolutely inviolable principle.

The danger which threatens the well-won glory of the Press in this country is not bribery in any direct sense, but bribery by advertisement, and the disposition of the modern advertising agent to

say, 'Here is an advertisement which must not appear among other advertisements, but must be set in news type, be classed with news, and be, in fact, indistinguishable from ordinary news; and in consideration of its being so treated I am prepared to pay at a special rate.' This paragraph or descriptive notice will probably be clothed in the flowery diction which the advertiser's hack conceives to be the accepted standard of literary style, and will skilfully lead up to the actual pill which the reader is desired to swallow as embodying the veritable recommendation and opinion of the editor of the journal in which he reposes his trust. There are perhaps twenty or thirty morning papers—the very cream of the British daily Press-that would contemptuously refuse any such advertisement, and that may be absolutely trusted to see that no such tricks are played with the public. They no doubt cover between them the bulk of the morning paper reading public throughout the kingdom, but, after all, they are a minority of daily newspapers, and, if we include evening journals, for every newspaper manager that says 'No'to the alluring proposals of the advertising agent there will be half a dozen to say "Yes.' If it were desirable to cite chapter and verse-- which of course it is not–I could name as easy victims to this corroding innovation journals which, although not coming within the pale of the highest class, are yet rightly regarded as papers of reputation and enjoy public confidence accordingly. In the midst of their financial or other news may be seen almost any day laudatory paragraphs more or less directly commending to investors company schemes about to be floated or companies already in existence-paragraphs which are supplied by an advertising agent, who either pays for them or promises in return the preferential insertion of remunerative advertisements relating to the same or other companies. Occasionally there is a feeble and wholly ineffectual attempt on the part of the paper so selling its editorial influence to qualify the effect by inserting three or four figures at the foot of the paragraph as a hint to all concerned that it is a registered advertisement. The ordinary reader knows nothing of the significance of this device, which is a sham, and is intended to be a sham, for the whole object of the advertiser is to deceive the public into the belief that the editor is commending the speculation.

One part of my purpose is to show to both the newspaper proprietors and the advertisers who are parties to the system not merely that this deceit is cankering the Press, but also that unless they can bring down every great journal in London and the provinces to their level it is for both of them a suicidal practice. The device is comparatively new, and as yet newspaper readers have scarcely had the chance to be on their guard; but in no long time they will learn to distrust alike the newspapers which thus sell their journalistic virtue and the schemes that are puffed in them. There is probably not the slightest danger of the greater journals thus stooping to purchase advertising

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