The time when people began to read more than ever (especially gossip)

The time when people began to read more than ever (especially gossip)

Although we complain bitterly assuming that children people read little or that they spend hours and hours reading nonsense, gossip and memes on their social networks, the truth is that this has been a constant in history.

Even in the days when it was being read the most , most were reading trifles .

Since the birth of the printing press

When the printing press was born thanks to the German Johannes Gutenberg in 1436, the social changes that took place were as spectacular as those that the Internet is producing today. The growth in book printing was increasing rapidly as society became increasingly literate. However, there was a time when there was a peak of growth in book printing, back in the 1920s . Just before the radio began to hijack the attention of the mass public.

In the 1920s, publishers in the United States published 110 million books per year, double the number in the 1910s. The greatest growth in readership, however, occurred in the realm of magazines, especially gossip , a genre that until then was unpublished, and newspapers in general.

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In the 1920s, the book club was born in order to orient readers overwhelmed by the growing number of published titles. The first were the Book-of-the-Month Club (1926) and the Literary Guild (1927). The success of these clubs was unheard of, and it would never happen again. Nor the fervor with which the reading public revered their authors . For example, when Sinclair Lewis settled in his Minnesota home to write Elmer Gantry (1927), readers would travel from other locations just to watch him work.

Even more surprising was the rise of magazines. Hugo Gernsback , for example, founded the world’s first science fiction magazine ( Amazing Stories ) in 1913, and then began to found magazines of all kinds (if one went bankrupt, he founded two more). For example, America’s first electronics magazine , Modern Electrics . Sexology approached sexuality from the scientific point of view. Radio News was about news from the world of radio.

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Also at this time the Reader’s Digest (1922), Time (1923), American Mercury (1924), Smart Set (1924) and the New Yorker (1925) made their debut. Not surprisingly, advertising revenue increased 500% this decade . The magazines thus began to influence the entire population on a sociological level, even changing the way people expressed themselves, as Bill Bryson explains in 1927: A summer that changed the world :

Time magazine was famous for its predilection for certain words and expressions: "dark," "right-handed," and "piercing eyes." He also abused neologisms, such as "film-addict" or "film-actress". On the other hand, its editors loved to distort set sentences, so that "on the hour" became, without any hesitation, "on the hour." Above all, he exhibited a curious Germanic affection for reversing the normal order of words and accumulating as many nouns, adjectives, and adverbs as possible in the same sentence before providing the verb.


Yet the true growth of print took place through newspapers. American households already bought 1.4 newspapers a day. New York alone had twelve daily newspapers . All the big cities had at least two or three newspapers.

This push for the written letter was partly produced because it was in these newspapers that a genre was born that had been unpublished to date: the tabloid press or tabloid press . That is, the news that basically dealt with celebrity gossip, morbid crimes and sports.

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In England, the tabloids had been somewhat successful for some years, as is the case with the Daily Mirror , but in the United States they emerged in a much more virulent way thanks to two young members of the Chicago Tribune family of editors: Robert R. McCormick and Joseph Patterson . They would found a sort of Daily Mirror they called the Illustrated Daily News, which was launched in New York in June 1919 at the price of two cents. Its success led to other similar publications. Perhaps the most famous was the New York Daily Mirror , owned by media mogul William Randolph Hearst .

On these pillars of excess and morbid, then, the tall and robust pillars of the new generations of readers were built, but also on the need for leisure at a time when radio and television did not yet exist. The number of readers stabilized or decreased as a result of the birth of these new media, and possibly it has grown again thanks to the birth of others such as the internet (Blog, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc). We haven’t changed much, then, even though the platforms have .