A press syndicate is a distributor of specialized content for newspapers. Comics, puzzles, advice columns, sports columns, horoscopes, movie reviews and other soft news items are typical fare.
Press syndication has a long and influential history in the world of media. Syndicates often publish the work of well-known columnists and writers, allowing them to reach a wider audience with their humor, knowledge or opinions. As a business strategy, syndicates gave small and large papers alike access to proven products, attracting readers while controlling costs.
The purpose of press syndicates was to meet the needs of smaller and rural newspapers by helping them compete with the well-known and funded city papers. Newspapers began to share content with each other and allowed smaller papers to access articles, stories, and features that would have been hard to produce locally. Cost effectiveness was a primary concern for smaller papers, making syndication an economical alternative.
Although the business of press syndicates in the United States took root after the Civil War, the idea of distributing content to multiple newspapers dates back to 1768. In that year the Journal of Occurrences was circulated by a group of patriots in Boston. By late 1860s, three syndicates were successfully operating, providing various feature news items and short stories. In 1870, a company in England called Tillotson & Son started supplying British papers with serialized fiction. In 1881, Henry Villard, a reporter for the Associated Press (AP), established his own syndicate in Washington, DC, and began supplying content to newspapers like the Cincinnati Commercial, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Herald. Around 1884, Charles A. Dana of the New York Sun created a syndicate to sell short stories by authors such as Bret Harte and Henry James. Samuel S. McClure also entered the field in the same year, offering fiction and obtaining the rights to stories by Rudyard Kipling and other famous authors. McClure Newspaper Syndicate, founded in 1884, was known for representing a number of famous authors and cartoonists, including Willa Cather, O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), Damon Runyon, and George Ade.The McClure Newspaper Syndicate experienced a decline in the mid-20th century due to changes in the industry. However, it played an extremely important role in the shaping of the press syndicate business.
In 1896, large industry players like William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World began producing and publishing comic strips in their Sunday editions. Additionally, the Hearst Syndicate popularized and distributed well-known strips like "Krazy Kat", “Little Jimmy” and "Popeye."
In 1907, comics were introduced in daily newspapers, which transformed the nature of the business and made it more profitable. The year 1912 saw the introduction of color comic strips, a major innovation. These proved wildly successful, generating more attention, sales and profits.
While the initial aim was to tickle the funny bone and make the readers laugh, over time many strips became serialized dramas. Subsequently, the 1930s and 1940s transpired to be the "Golden Age of Comics." During this time, comic strips became a dominant form of entertainment, birthing classics such as "Little Orphan Annie," “Terry and the Pirates,” “Alley Oop,” “Brenda Starr,” “Prince Valiant,” “Beetle Bailey,” “Dick Tracy,” “Mandrake the Magician,” “Mary Worth,” “Alphonse and Gaston,” “Nancy,” “Gasoline Alley,” "Dennis the Menace," and “Lil Abner,” and dozens more. The immense national popularity of these strips was achieved through syndication.
In Britain the idea of comic syndication was met with skepticism. Bud Fisher's "Mutt and Jeff" was first purchased and published in England in 1920 on a trial basis. However, it proved successful, and British editors eventually created their own comic strips to compete with American ones. By the late 1950s, American and English comic strips were being translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide.
Present day key players in syndication include King Features Syndicate (Hearst), Universal Uclick and Creators Syndicate. King carries some of the most iconic and beloved comic strips in American history: "Popeye," "The Phantom," "Blondie," "Beetle Bailey," and "Prince Valiant." A fierce competitor, Universal Uclick specializes in comic strips, editorial columns, and puzzles/sudoku to newspapers, websites, and other publications. It is widely lauded for its exceptional comic strips like "Garfield'' by Jim Davis, "Doonesbury" by Garry Trudeau, and "Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis.
Press syndication, while lucrative, has also been a contentious, particularly around the areas of sensitive content, censorship, and editorial decisions. Issues can arise when syndicated content is deemed offensive or controversial by some readers, leading to debates about freedom of the press and editorial responsibility. Additionally, syndicates often camouflage their ownership or control of the product. Historian Julia Guarneri notes, in an October 29, 2019 article for Smithsonian Magazine, a deceptive methodology: "The average American reader didn’t necessarily notice the way syndicates and chains had come to dominate the news. Syndicates were careful to sell their material to only one newspaper per city. While syndicated features usually carried a small copyright symbol, the name that followed that symbol could be deliberately opaque. Readers wouldn’t automatically know that “King Features” denoted Hearst material, or that “NEA” indicated content from the Scripps chain."
Syndicates primarily operate on a revenue-sharing model, with newspapers and magazines paying fees to access and use the content. In the digital age, syndicates may distribute content through platforms and apps, which can generate revenue through in-app purchases, advertisements, or premium content subscriptions.
© 2023 Newsjunkie.net