Monday, November 24, 2008

Does Anyone Review Books for Magazines or Newspapers Nowadays?

I used to review books quite frequently, and my own books--fiction and non-fiction were reviewed almost as often. But my two most recent titles have seen little coverage in print media. Both received excellent reviews from bloggers and other readers (posted at Amazon, for example). But none have turned up in magazines for either book. I can't quite figure it out. Certainly Blogging Heroes appeals to a specialized audience, but the magazines that interest bloggers weren't reviewing it. Neither were publications about politics (a topic in which Blogging Heroes often ranks high on Amazon) or small business.

Same-same with On the Way to the Web. I have excellent reviews from readers at booksellers' sites and on blogs. But no magazine or newspaper reviews. It's not that magazine reviewers didn't receive copies; they did--nearly 100 were sent out for one book, and I've sent out more. Come to think of it, while my book Crosley got several print media reviews, I had to work hard to encourage editors to review the book.

What's up? There are always magazines and newspapers who don't notice a book coming in because they get so many of them. A Certain Midestern Daily is bad for that; in fact, one staffer told me they pretty much lose all the books they receive because they're just tossed into a closet, out of the way. Presumably the closet gets cleaned out periodically, and staffers who like to read get bonuses. (Drop me a line if you want to know the name of the paper.)

But that doesn't answer to the majority of instances. I think what's happening is something I've seen occur in the past: magazines and newspapers aren't reviewing books because book reviews don't generate advertising. The attitude appears to be "Forget the readers who might be interested in these books; we're not mentioning a product unless we get paid!"

This is nothing new. Elsewhere in this blog, I've related the story of the magazine editor who pressured me to write a negative review of a product because the advertiser reduced the frequency of his full-page ads. Obvious cause-and-effect. Yeah, "We'll punish them because they are not giving us enough money" sounds childish (or like interntational politics). But it happens all the time.

It happened back in the 1920s and 1930s; newspapers refused to run stories about radio unless radio manufacturers, retailers, or broadcasters bought advertising. When industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. bought a Lockheed Vega and put WLW and Crosley Radio on the wings, and then hired Ruth Nichols to set records in it, every newspaper in the country covered the big stories. But nearly every one ran tight, cropped shots of the Crosley airplane and did not mention Crosley as the sponsor--because they weren't getting advertising money from Crosley and, besides, radio was the enemy, stealing advertising from honest newspapers--so there!

Granted, print magazines and newspapers are hurting nowadays. Advertising revenue is declining. But there's a good possibility that some quality editorial matter of interest to readers and not tied directly to advertiser topics could attract more readers--and advertisers.

So, much good information do we miss because of various media policies (informal or not) that bar or admit coverage of facts based on whether money is paid for advertising? A lot. Read Crosley or my upcoming biography of Ruth Lyons for some examples. (As the Lyons book will illustrate, some advertisers play the same game. "Say something about a competitor, and we'll cut you off!")

It even makes one wonder how much we can trust the information that magazines, newspapers, and electronic media provide. In additional to personal bias getting in the way of straightforward coverage (and it always does), economic bias both shapes and forces out facLinkts. (If you can review One the Way to the Web or Blogging Heroes for a magazine, drop me a line at bookrevs overat aol dot com.)

(Addenda: I've done a guest editorial for the "Classics Rock" topic at Tech Republic, on the subject of cloud computing. For those of you who have books out or on the way, note that this is a promotional, unpaid contribution to TechRepublic. It's not material from the book, but it is closely related. The posting carries a tagline and link to On the Way to the Web at Amazon.)
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks

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