We’re Interested In—Us

Writes Lord Northcliffe, Explaining His Methods of Attracting Readers


We’re Interested In—Us

Writes Lord Northcliffe, Explaining His Methods of Attracting Readers


We’re Interested In—Us

Writes Lord Northcliffe, Explaining His Methods of Attracting Readers


WHAT interests people? Themselves.

That is one of the unfortunate difficulties of newspaper making. There is so much that should interest the public, but that doesnt’.” writes Lord Northcliffe in the American Magazine.

“I tried to interest the American and the Canadian public in the war that was obviously coming—in which they would obviously be involved—by a series of speeches and statements delivered in 1997 to large gatherings and large newspapers in both those countries. The matter did not, apparently, affect them personally and they were not, therefore, interested.

“In Great Britain, the advocates of preparedness were slightly more successful. Germany was so close to our shores that tome people did feel that an impending war did interest them. A few preparations were made. They were chiefly due to the advocacy of the late Lord Fisher as regards the navy, and che late Lord Roberts as regards the army.

"To-day, the people of the Pacific coast, Itom California up to British Columbia, think that the Japanese question affects ■hem, and they are interested. Americans >n the Atlantic seaboard do not appear to oe much concerned. Japan is far off. It ioes not apparently affect them—they sre, therefore, not interested.

“A hundred and forty years ago, Doctor lohnson said that a runaway horse in Pleet Street was of more interest to the people of London than a tyyhoon in China involving the loss of a million lives. The horse story was ‘nearby news,’ and it interested the Londoners.

"Fortunately for the balance of a newspaper or magazine, there is a great number of people whose interests are impersonal—those who read for the genuine purpose of gaining information, as well as for passing their time, for laying hold of a ‘talking point’ for the dinner table.

“In all but the most frivolous publications there is, nowadays, a mixing of specialist information, often by the best auth-

ority on the subject. The American public, by the system of sindication, can, and does, get the best of the world’s literary brain work. Syndicates, which may be representative of five hundred newspapers—which five hundred newspapers may represent the purchasing cents of ten millions of people—can afford to outbid any one newspaper in purchasing the best of fact and fiction. These specialist features interest an increasing number of readers.

“What interests a person one year may not interest him the next. WTe are always outgrowing ourselves, our books, our magazines, and our newspapers.

“If a periodical did not continually introduce into its directorate young people who understand the interests of young people, it would wither and disappear.

“Old people cannot set their mental clock back and see things with the eyes of youth. I am fifty-six, and, for the life of me, 1 cannot understand young folks’ interest in dancing, though, as it is also a middle-aged man’s game, I can understand their interest in golf.

“When we get old we very often like retrospective reading matter. Our minds wish to be refreshed about the things of our youth.

“But, as a rule, young folks like ‘looking forward’ reading. The future is full of mystery and romance for them. Jules Verne knew that when he wrote “A Journey to the Moon” and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Boys, and girls too, like adventure reading. So strong is the power of make-believe in childhood

and youth that they often live and act the characters in the romance they peruse.

“Tremendous responsibility rests, therefore, upon those who prepare literature for young people, and films that may be seen by young people.

“Children are often interested in subjects that may appear to be beyond their years. A child still in the stage of the fairy story, or a bird or animal story, will often display vivid interest in elementary astronomy, botany, or chemistry.

“Adolescence has its own subjects— love, beautiful maidens, and dashing heroes. I presume that love stories, or stories which have some kind of amatory tendency, form the bulk of the popular fiction of the world.

“But, after all, it is yourself and your friends in whom you are interested. You read an article about health. It is to compare your condition with that described. In the same way, women read about fashions, and look at fashion drawings to

see whether they will suit them or their children.

“There is, it is true, a good deal of affected interest—the artificial interest pretended to by blotting-paper minds in any new cult or craze, preacher, poet, playwright or ism. It doesn’t do much harm. It is part of the world’s process of uplift. -

“Perhaps the chief factor in interest is the interest of the unexpected—the surprise in news, in fiction, in pictorial illustration.

“A piece of unexpected news is a hun hred times more interesting than some happening that has proceeded as we rather expected it would.

“We newspaper men put it this way: a dog biting a man is not news—that hap pens every day. But a man biting a dog would be news.

“The first time a thing happens, it is news. When the first automobile had its first road victim he was honored by a fine position in the front page. To-day the victim of an automobile accident is a lucky fellow if he gets a three-line item ’