This constant pressure, which means a never-ending fight to gain circulation on the part of the big paper and an equally strenuous struggle to retain it on the part of the smaller ones, raises serious problems for newspaper managers.
The “national” papers, of course, have their own special circulation difficulties which they try to overcome in a variety of ways, including the duplication of their plant in one of the northern centres. It is fairly certain that there will be important extensions of this method.
It is probable that in a very few years we shall see at least one of the national morning papers making a bold bid for a circulation far in excess of anything yet achieved, with a triplicates or even a quadrupled plant in chosen centres. This will mean a still greater intensification of newspaper competition.
Circulation and advertisement revenue go hand in hand. The greater the former, the greater the amount derived from the sale of space, and, consequently, the greater the value of the newspaper as a commercial concern. This is the reason why the managerial factor has become so strong.
The first problem and the chief concern of management, therefore, may be said to be the maintenance or the increase of circulation. The organization of the circulation department of the modern newspaper has been extended in a manner which would have been considered impossible a few years ago. As is usual in any industry or business, the intensification of competition has had an inevitable result.
That result has been the initiation of all sorts of schemes designed to sell newspapers by providing something more than simply satisfying the news curiosity of the reader. One of the most generally adopted is newspaper insurance. This idea was adopted by the London daily newspapers after it had been tried for many years by some of the popular weekly magazines, and it is now being exploited by provincial journals.
From time to time newspaper insurance has given rise to considerable controversy. Those who oppose it say that it is simply buying circulation. Those who support it argue that it stabilizes circulation.
At all events, it seems to have been accepted generally, and has seen considerable variation and extension, including insurance against sickness. The modern daily newspaper, indeed, finds it necessary to adopt an attitude of universal benevolence. It is ready to give expert advice to its readers on all manner of problems, from their legal responsibility for the depredations of straying house waste to- the discovery of faults in their wireless receivers.
It is ready to foot the bill if a reader’s aerial pole crashes into a neighbour’s greenhouse; it is prepared to keep the wolf from the door if a reader is temporarily disabled; and it stands by, ready with open cheque book, in case he suffers from shingles or finds it necessary to be treated. Some people may be inclined to doubt if the modern newspaper occupies the old position of guide and philosopher; can anyone doubt that it is, indeed, a friend?
This aspect of circulation work has created new responsibilities in newspaper management. It means that not only have new methods of stimulating circulation to be thought out and applied, but also that there is constant need of house publicity.
The modern newspaper has not only to carry the advertising of other people, but it must constantly advertise itself.
It is almost impossible to pick up an issue of any of the popular daily newspapers without finding that it carries a considerable amount of matter relating to itself, its incentive schemes, and its puzzle competitions.
On the more important newspapers the supervision of this work is allocated to a member of the staff, who is responsible for all house publicity. At the same time, it is the managerial side of the organization which has to bear the ultimate responsibility, and to keep the newspaper abreast of its rivals.