2013/07/08: The role of advertising in providing between 50 and 100 percent of news media revenues—depending upon the medium—provided the illusion that popular journalism for a mass audience could be a profitable undertaking. Prior to the ascension of advertising in the final third of the 19th century in the United States, popular journalism was heavily dependent upon massive postal subsidies and printing subsidies. It was simply taken for granted that these subsidies were necessary for a mass press; otherwise only an elite news media would survive.
Advertising came with strings—at times, ropes—attached and much of media studies and media criticism has examined the tensions of a commercially generated journalism.
But, the big story is that advertising in the digital realm is abandoning journalism, indeed all media content.
The idea that the final consumer can pay the full amount directly through subscriptions to support a viable popular journalism—the kind a self-governing society requires—has not evidence to support it.
The logic points in one direction: as in the first century in U.S. history, if society values independent, competitive popular journalism it will require massive public subsidies to produce it. Much like education. This is a public good.