The other day I picked up the November issue of Sojourners, a magazine and an organization that I feel a lot of shared values with. I flipped to the cover story, “The Meaning of Life”. I started to read the article, but quickly became distracted by the advertising that took up the majority of every page.
I decided to do the math. Over 17 pages “The meaning of life” was over 71% advertising and only 29% photos and text.
Here’s the breakdown by page, with the percentage dedicate to advertisements and the advertisers:
p. 12 (100%) – Azusa Pacific
p. 13 (66%) – Baylor University and Friends Committe on National Legislation
p. 14 (100%) – IVP Books
p. 15 (66%) – Sierra Club Books
p. 16 (50%) – Eastern University
p. 17 (66%) – Beacon Press and Goodpreacher.com
p. 18 (66%) – Herald Press, Peace by David Cortright, Bread for the World
p. 19 (66%) – Trinity Wall Street, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
p. 20 (66%) – Luther Seminary, San Francisco Theological Seminary, New Society Publishers
p. 21 (66%) – Eardmans, Clergy Leadership Institute
p. 22 (66%) – Nazarene Theological Seminary, Self Help Credit Union
p. 23 (50%) – Church publishing
p. 24 (66%) Wesley Theological Seminary
p. 25 (100%) – Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
p. 26 (50%) – Auburn Theological Seminary
p. 27 (66%) – Westminster John Knox Press, Sojo Store
p. 28 (100%) – Bethel Seminary and University
Now I’m sure all of these are good organizations. It’s not like they’re advertising for Victoria Secret, Budweiser and McDonalds, but the problem with advertising isn’t just about what is being advertised, its about the way ads dominates our cultural imagination. I understand that advertising is a necessary part of journalism today, but a 70/30 ratio of advertising to content goes too far. If they have that many advertisers, shouldn’t they be increasing the amount of content to match?
In 1995, in a Sojourners article entitled When Advertising Is Obscene, Susan Monaco discussed the way advertising was beginning to dominate our culture:
Are we ready to get beyond the empty political discourse and attacks on select culprits to fight a real force in our culture–advertising itself?
Unfortunately, 13 years later, it seems like it is this “real force” that Sojourners has thorough allied itself with.