History of Marketing and Newsletters Part 1 Introduction and Izzy Stone

About the history of marketing and newsletters, an introduction to the idea, a look at businesses and companies which use them, biography of Izzy Stone, a pioneer in the field.

A Newsletter on Newsletters

A New York petroleum executive pays $490 a year for his. A part-time baggy-pants clown in San Diego spends $4 for a year's supply. An annual allotment costs a Wall Street tycoon $200, but an Iowa secretary gets by for $9.

What are they buying? Newsletters--bull's-eye distillations of hard facts, behind-the-news interpretations, and crystal-ball predictions, zeroed in on their special interests.

Whatever your interest, chances are there's a newsletter aimed directly at you. If you don't find your subject among the 230 headings in The Standard Directory of Newsletters' list of nearly 5,000 publications, don't despair. Newsletters are popping up like mushrooms in one of the country's fastest-growing communications media. Soaring from a few hundred in the 1920s and 1930s to an estimated 7,000 today, they outnumber daily newspapers 4 to 1.

Some 5,000 are published by industry and organizations to keep interested readers informed. But the influential powerhouses are the 2,000 commercial newsletters published by individuals either weekly, biweekly, or monthly, and wholly supported by subscription. Rates are a few dollars a year and up--mostly up. A $200 price tag is not uncommon, and subscribers to the 10-K Transcript business information letter part with a 10-karat $1,850 for an annual serving.

Such figures would have seemed incredible to America's 1st newsletter publisher, John Campbell, founder of The Boston Newsletter in 1704. But today's fragmented society of specialists is showering gold on the newsletter industry, and corporations are the biggest spenders; Xerox is reported to pay $12,000 a year for newsletters.

The media explosion was touched off in 1918 when the 1st modern newsletter, The Whaley-Eaton American Letter, won instant popularity and made its founders millionaires. Close on Whaley-Eaton's heels came Willard Kiplinger with the most successful entry of all. The Kiplinger Washington Letter, established in 1923, boasts a circulation of over 400,000 today; at $24 a reader, that's a tidy $9 million-plus per year. Kiplinger's crackling mix of fact and opinion, peppered with prophecy, is presented in a typical newsletter format--4 pages, 8 1/2" by 11", typewritten and offset printed, and free of advertising.

These pioneers capitalized on a human peculiarity--the average person's urge to be "in the know." The ego boost of a private pipeline to inside information is the keystone of newsletter success.

But success can be elusive; newsletter mortality is high in the 1st year or 2. Some survive as they began, one-man operations with little more than a battered typewriter and a compulsion to plug a communications gap.

One of the more prosperous--and most famous--of the one-man newsletters was the I.F. Stone Weekly. Discontinued in 1971--much to the dismay of its 74,000 faithful followers--the Weekly was a pace-setting, literate examination of Washington foibles for 19 years.

"Izzy" Stone specialized in ferreting out chicanery concealed in political double-talk. "Seeking the significant detail" he called it. Happiness for Stone was scooping the big-time Washington correspondents with his exposures of bureaucratic knavery.

Stone landed a newsbeat in 1957 when he ran across deception in a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission report. AEC was fighting a nuclear-test ban, claiming that a moratorium wouldn't work because existing equipment was inadequate to detect underground tests. As "proof," AEC claimed in the report that an underground test in Nevada had not been detected beyond 230 mi.

Scurrying to the Office of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Stone dug up information that the explosion was recorded over 3,000 mi. away. He ran the story in his newsletter, blasting the AEC falsehood, and red-faced AEC officials admitted their "misstatement." Stone's scoop won nationwide applause and scores of new subscribers.

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