You can tell an awful lot about a magazine’s readers from a magazine’s ads. As a frequent magazine writer, I tend to believe the ads, and to write accordingly, no matter what fanciful reader profile some editor may spin. It’s simple free enterprise. The advertisers pay to reach the readers. If they don’t reach them, they don’t pay anymore.
There’s a reason why so many beer commercials appear on football games, after all. Have you ever watched some habitual TV show — say, the Friday night “Star Trek” marathon — and found yourself watching a commercial for Geritol or for Playtex Panty Liners? “Who do these people think I am?” you may wonder. Go look in your bathroom. Those people know who you are.
Let’s see how this reader-viewer-advertiser profile works out in political life. Let’s create, and then visit, imaginary readers — based on the advertising messages in each magazine — of the New Republic and National Review. TNR and NR may have finely-honed ideas in their editorial departments about who reads the magazines. What do the ads actually tell us? Who do the advertisers think are really there?
* * * * *
“You’re late!” says Ms. New Republic, glaring at me from the front stoop of her brownstone row house. It’s barely dawn. I start to protest that I got lost in the maze of one-way streets in this older, central section of the city, but she cuts me off. “If you want to talk, you’ll have to go on my run with me. Now, stretch! I don’t want you injuring yourself.”
I do a few obedient toe-touchers, and Ms. New and I take off, she consulting her watch, I trying to keep up in Hush Puppies. This woman certainly can run. She’s thin, like the magazine she reads, and fast and determined. She wears ragged old gym shorts, an Ivy League T-shirt, and, around her waist, a small black zipper pack in which (as she later tells me) she carries her insurance cards and her jingling half-pound ring of keys.
“I’m flying to Paris at nine-thirty,” she tells me as we pound along the sidewalks. “And I’ve got a class to teach at seven before I go.”
Ms. New, it appears, runs for half an hour a day. We finish her regular route, me stumbling after her up the steps of her house. At the front door, she unlocks three deadbolts and we tumble into a big, bright kitchen.
“Mineral water? Juice?” Ms. New asks.
“Got a beer?” I croak, thinking of a frosty commercial American brew.
Apparently not. I settle for water while Ms. New dashes upstairs for a shower. I peruse the kitchen, apparently the only occupied room on the ground floor. On the counter, a smiley-face sign declaims, “Thank you for not smoking.” Cupboards and shelves are filled with a motley assortment of chunky pottery and glassware, an espresso maker, books, a set of spring-loaded bookends stuffed to overflowing with papers that look like insurance policies and brokerage statements, books, books, and yet more books — serious books, not a speck of fiction in sight. Through an archway I see what apparently will someday be a living room. For the time being, the chamber is dark, and filled with cardboard boxes and filing cabinets.
The pipes bang as the shower shuts off upstairs. In minutes, Ms. New reappears, dressed in jeans and a baggy sweater, her red hair crackling with energy and her green eyes flashing.
Again she checks her watch. “I’ve really got to go,” she says half- apologetically as she packs a bulky shoulder bag with passport, ticket, books, and (I presume) insurance identification. “You want to come to my class?”
I decline. But outside, as she locks her three locks, trots down the steps, and turns a key in the door of a narrow old garage, I notice how attractive Ms. New is, how energetic, and I think that I might like to see her again.
No use. The impulse to speak is scarcely born before she turns on me with those determined laser emerald eyes and says, “Don’t even think about it, buddy.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online