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How a dominant magazine publisher developed the business of market research

A New Brand of Business

Charles Coolidge Parlin, Curtis Publishing Company, and the Origins of Market Research

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Douglas B. Ward

"Ward expertly weaves magazine publishing, advertising, business and marketing, and cultural history together to show that mass communication history does not happen by itself. He keeps readers turning the page. A New Brand of Business is a highly interesting book featuring extensive use of primary sources, particularly the Curtis Publishing Company papers, and his grasp of history during the years of his study is exceptional."
Patrick S. Washburn, Ohio University

Charles Coolidge Parlin was considered by many to be the founder of market research. Working for the dominant Curtis Publishing Company, he revolutionized the industry by providing added value to advertisers through information about the racial, ethnic, and regional biases of readers and consumers. By maintaining contact with both businesses and customers, Parlin and Curtis publications were able to turn consumer wants into corporate profits.

In A New Brand of Business, Douglas Ward provides an intriguing business history that explains how and why Curtis developed its market research division. He reveals the evolution and impact of Parlin’s work, which understood how readers and advertisers in the emerging consumer economy looked at magazines and advertisements. Ward also examines the cultural and social reasons for the development and use of market research—particularly in regard to Curtis' readership of upper-income elites. The result weaves the stories of Parlin and Curtis into the changes taking place in American business and advertising in the early twentieth century.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"A New Brand of Business provides a fascinating look into the early development of marketing research at a key moment in the development of consumer capitalism. Ward's historical research is rigorous and his focus is important and engaging."
Timothy Gibson, George Mason University

"Parlin's work at the Curtis Publishing Company and his impact on the marketing and advertising industry (e.g., his development of readership and circulation surveys) are detailed in this well-researched and documented work.... Thus, this well-written volume will appeal to a broader readership than would be typical of a scholarly business history. Summing Up: Recommended"
CHOICE

"Ward does an admirable job taking the reader on a journey through the early development stages of organized scientific marketing research...The book offers the reader the benefit of War's engaging interpretation and focus of his research combined with his rigorous attention to detail... A New Brand of Business is a must read for anyone who would like to have a better grasp of how modern marketing research developed within the chaos and uncertainty of an emerging consumer leviathan."
American Journalism

"[A]n important addition to marketing history. It illuminates the development of market research--not marketing research, an important distinction--and provides a solid model for development of historical research in marketing.... This is an important book worthy of serious attention by scholars and students for understanding the development of important marketing practices. It serves as a positive model for teaching historical research in marketing. There are no reservations in recommending this book and it should be part of every course in marketing history."
The Journal of Macromarketing

"Exhaustively researched... Beautifully written and accessible to a broad audience, Ward’s analysis of [Charles Coolidge] Parlin’s career trajectory at Curtis Publishing and the long-term importance of his market research work is both penetrating and comprehensive."
Enterprise and Society

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Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. A New Era of Business
2. An Unlikely Leader
3. What Was Commercial Research?
4. Winning over the Skeptics
5. Barbarians, Farmers, and Consumers
6. Readers as Consumers
7. Chasing the Consumer, Protecting the Company
8. The Legacy of Commercial Research
Epilogue
Notes
Index

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About the Author(s)

Douglas B. Ward is Assistant Professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. He was formerly an editor on the business desk at The New York Times.

Subject Categories

Business/Economics
Mass Media and Communications
History

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