The grandiosity of these ideas required a certain minimum of power that editors today do not possess. Though not every editor saw his ambitions fulfilled, these three forays show how magazines first experimented with their sway over readers’ tastes, dreams, and buying habits. In the interwar period the salesmanship became even more brash—probably because print had lost its dominant status. Harper’s Bazar (as it was then spelled) advertised gift packages curated by the editors and Parisian shopping itineraries designed by their expat fashion expert. Today we might be affected by the same hunger for a product endorsed by Better Homes & Gardens, the Wirecutter, or Young House Love.
But what would we be seeing if making a profit were less of a burden? What if media tastemakers had, once again, a measure of financial and reputational influence to bet on visions of the future? Today entrepreneurial rather than editorial innovation suggests an answer: Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’ ten-thousand-year clock and spaceport, for example. Alternatively, branding feeds more branding until the point of collapse, as was the case of Trump University or the Fyre Festival.