At the beginning of the twentieth century advertisements made up two-thirds of the revenues received by many newspapers. Indeed one wag had it that subscriptions only paid for the blank newsprint. Everything else – the reporters, the printing press, production, delivery, and of course the profit, was paid for by the advertisers.
Although Detroit was the center for these papers, the model was copied by daily papers in many other Michigan cities. Indeed, among the most in implementing the model was George Booth. The son-in-law of James Scripps and Scripps successor at the Detroit News, Booth saw an opportunity to use the formula in many other Michigan cities. In 1893 Booth purchased the weakest paper in Grand Rapids, the Morning Press. Shortly afterward he purchased the also ailing Grand Rapids Evening Leader. In November 1893 he combined the two papers into the newly issued Grand Rapids Press, which, using the formula developed at the News, was profitable within six months and quickly became extremely successful.
Booth, along with his two brothers Edmund and Ralph, did not immediately capitalize on George’s success in Grand Rapids. However they eventually began to build a small, profitable chain of newspapers in Michigan’s industrial heartland. In 1907 the Booth’s purchased the Muskegon Chronicle. In 1910 the brothers added the Saginaw News to their chain, and in 1911 the Flint Evening Journal. In 1918 the brothers, now incorporated at the Booth Publishing Company, combined two papers in Jackson to create the Jackson Citizen-Patriot. The Ann Arbor News and the Kalamazoo Gazette were also soon added to the chain.
Booth’s formula for success was, in principle, quite simple. The paper should be outstanding in its operations and , whenever possible, be the only newspaper in the community. Booth would eventually explain,
Elimination of competition puts an end to the miserable wrangling that once characterized so many newspapers. It assures a community a steadiness of purpose on the part of the publisher; poise in the presentation of news and opinion; greater efficiency in operation; reduction of expenses; more complete service to the advertiser at a lowered unit cost. It tends also to reduce contention in the community. On the other hand, the paper which is fortunate enough to occupy a filed alone, where once it had competition, must beware of smugness; of being too well satisfied, of employing its strength unjustly; of becoming greedy; of being biased or partisan. There are times when the most independent paper must take a firm stand, but it should be on a well reasoned basis.