Continuing to ramble on newspapers…
Noticed this 1917 edition of the Ayer newspaper atlas. It represents early Oklahoma better than the editions found in American Radio Library.
We believe that modern social media gives every group a chance to write and communicate. Partly true, at least for fashionable groups, but NOT NEW. In 1917 every town of more than 200 had a weekly. Within larger towns, many ethnic and religious and political groups had their own paper, again starting around 200 circulation. Several towns published monthly trade journals along with one or two papers.
Here’s a chopped and channeled ‘curation’:
Ardmore pop 10k: 1 D, 1 R, 1 Black Baptist
Boley pop 1k: 1 Black paper (Boley was a Black town)
Guthrie pop 12k: 1 Black Baptist, 1 Black R, 1 Black Taborite, 1 D, 1 R, 2 Union
Hobart pop 9k: 1 D, 1 R, 1 socialist
Muskogee pop 38k: 1 D, 1 R, 2 Ind, 1 Black Baptist, 1 Black R, 2 trade journals
Perry pop 3k: 2 R, 1 D, 1 German
Rosston pop 50: 1 socialist
Taft pop 300: 1 Black progressive (Taft was another Black town)
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A paper representing a few hundred people with shared interests is better than having your own outlet. When you’re one paying subscriber out of 200, the publisher effectively knows you and WILL listen to your questions and suggestions. When you’re one paying subscriber out of 2 million, your interests are utterly meaningless.
The modern subscription economy, typified by Substack, seems to need about three times the threshold. If you can get 600 subscribers at $5 a month, you can live on the income in most places.
What’s the difference? The smalltown weeklies also carried advertising, and they also did job printing on the side.
By 1950 the economics of a small paper were actually EASIER. VariTyper and offset required much less time and skill and overhead than hot-lead typesetting. Despite the cheaper physical side, small papers were extinct and newsletters were rare, mainly for hobby groups.
Why was there much less demand for separate written representation in the ’50s, and much more demand now? Best guess is that prosperous and secure people don’t need an outlet.
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Nonbark footnote: 1917 was just 10 years into statehood. Before statehood the eastern half of Okla was under tribal government, at least nominally. The tribes had far more political and economic power than Blacks. (Remember that the Cherokee were prosperous slaveholders before they became prosperous oilmen.) But only one paper, a biweekly in Anadarko, lists Indian as its brand. One example means the name wasn’t prohibited by Ayer or the newspaper circulation bureaus. Why only one? Maybe the same answer as above. The Cherokee and Chickasaw were prosperous and secure.