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20. Marriage For Subscribers (1882)

20. Marriage For Subscribers (1882)

Since we are still in the 1800s, I thought I’d take another quick detour to help you get a feeling for how some newspapers of the time operated. Way back when, newspapers were willing to do just about anything to increase their subscriber base, giving out everything from free photographs to sewing machines to boost circulation.

Anyone can give out a sewing machine though.

What’s the sport in that?

If you want to see some real ingenuity, take a look at how one Western publisher managed to get an entire town to pay for a subscription,

…It has remained for a Western journalist to devise a new and brilliant scheme for obtaining subscriptions. It is obvious to the dullest mind that there is nothing in nature so valuable and attractive as a pretty and estimable girl . . . The offer of a desirable girl as a reward for subscribing to a country newspaper would be infinitely the most attractive offer that could be made, but unfortunately it is an impracticable offer. No newspaper publisher could provide himself with a sufficient number of girls for the purpose, inasmuch as no girl would be willing to permit herself to be offered indiscriminately to any subscribers. Nevertheless the ingenuity of the Western publisher above mentioned has triumphed over this obstacle, and he has by this time secured every marriageable man in his neighborhood as a subscriber.

“Nothing is more feasible and more unobjectionable than to induce the girls of a given town to agree not to marry any man who is not a subscriber to a given newspaper. This is what the Western publisher has done. By means of a comparatively small outlay on caramels and ice-cream he has induced every girl in what he would call his ‘section of the country’ to take a solemn pledge never to marry any man who is not a paid-up subscriber to the Smithstown Flag of Universal Freedom, price $1.50 per year.

I have a challenge for you. I am convinced that this story has a modern parallel on the Internet. I want you to find it and leave a clip, a comment or a video response telling me about it. My entry is a parody of a familiar late night infomercial.

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