In his speech about the challenges facing the newspaper industry, Alan Rusbridger claims that “Only through the growth of advertising did the press achieve independence”(p5) from political control. Even if this is true, and I have my doubts, corporations who advertise have agendas too.
Advertisers chose their placements based on many factors including whether the political and/or social message that the media source upholds is of benefit to their business. For example, you don’t see Roundup Ready system products advertised in Mother Earth News. In addition, corporations face pressures from organized customer groups who threaten to boycott their products unless ads are pulled from media sources contrary to the groups agenda. Corporations, in turn, pressure the media sources to abide by their customers’ demands.
As newspaper and magazine advertising revenue declines, I suspect that the independence Alan Rusbridger speaks of will also decline. When newspapers lose profitability, the value of bowing to the remaining advertisers becomes greater — content adjustment becomes survival. Newspapers are,after all, a business. And businesses prefer black ink to red.