This weekend at the Philadelpha Inquirer, Carlin Romano had worthwhile takes on two issues that have spawned a lot of read-alike opinion pieces. First, banned books (“There, in the mirror – a book banner!“):
Pardon me, though, if I swing the camera this year and focus on another culprit in book banning.
The mass media.
Which books do they ban?
Scholarly books. Virtually all of them.
Second, discussing a topic–the Book Review Crisis–that most defenders have defended with brows raised high, Romano makes the only argument likely to win the executives over (“Why publishing book reviews makes sense“):
Benighted managers, we think, fail to notice that the five newspapers with the most coverage and staff devoted to books – USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post – are also the five newspapers with the highest circulations in the country.
Newspaper managers, or the marketing consultants they hire, don’t usually break out the figures that way, but they should.
The five papers mentioned all recognize that the most important task in attracting advertising is not hunting for advertisers to take ads, or expecting businesses connected to every sector of editorial content to buy advertising to support that space (i.e., book publishers should buy ads to support book pages, sports teams to support the sports section).
The trick is drawing the kind of readers, and enough of them, to one’s newspaper that advertisers (especially high-rollers) desperately want to reach. All five papers above understand that book coverage, like all coverage of what smart, successful sorts do, draws society’s most highly educated, likely-to-buy readers, a group that also skews wealthy.