Haveman, Habinek, & Goodman (2012). How Entrepreneurship Evolves: The Founders of New Magazines in America, 1741–1860

Heather A. Haveman – University of California Berkeley
Jacob Habinek – University of California Berkeley
Leo A. Goodman – University of California Berkeley

Jessica Santana – Stanford University
Heewon Chae – University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Article link: http://asq.sagepub.com/content/57/4/585

Question 1. Why did you choose the American magazine industry? How did you become interested in this industry in the first place?

I (Heather) got interested in the magazine industry because it was a strategic site that would make richly detailed longitudinal research possible: the objects of production – magazines themselves – contain much useful data. Magazine mastheads and tables of contents list articles and authors. Their covers give detailed titles and information on who edits and publishes them, as well as when, where, and how often they are published. When a new magazine is launched, and often at later points in their history, editors and publishers explain what they intend their magazines to do and why. And the articles and illustrations themselves provide a ton of information that can be coded and analyzed quantitatively, as well as read and analyzed qualitatively.

When I began, I found some histories of the industry and started reading. My idea was to trace the co-evolution of the industry and the careers of people in that industry. Indeed, I wrote a grant proposal to the NSF laying out this plan (“The Co-evolution of Organizations and Careers”), and received funding for it in 1998. I developed arguments about the impact of the human and social capital of employees (for magazines, this would include people on both the editorial and the business/publishing side) on magazine performance and survival. I predicted that these relationships would become stronger over time, as the industry matured and the nature of editorial and publishing roles became institutionalized. Alas, as I slowly, laboriously gathered data on magazines, I realized that I couldn’t possibly get rich and serially reliable data on magazine employees’ human and social capital, so I switched gears to focus on the evolution of the industry and American society.

Question 2. Your data are expansive and contain wide-ranging and diverse information. Given such complexity, how did you settle on initial empirical and theoretical ideas for this paper? In what ways did you have to revise your focus as the research progressed?

The finished paper is quite similar to the first draft I (Heather) produced for a conference in Chicago in 2007. I outlined the argument and realized that I didn’t have complete enough data on founders to do a solid analysis, so I shelved the idea and presented a different paper (the one with Marissa King, which appeared in ASQ in 2008, the year after the conference). I returned to the manuscript when Jacob, who was a PhD student in our sociology program, began to work as my research assistant in the fall of 2008. I gave him the task of expanding the amount of information we had on magazine founders in the two temporal samples (1741-1800 and 1841-1860).

As Jacob gathered data, we debated what we were studying (entrepreneurship or the public sphere) and who was the target audience (organizational or political sociologists or both). We decided to incorporate questions about who had access to the public sphere, as well as who could become an entrepreneur. We coded new data on other markers of entrepreneurs’ social positions: immigration, gender, and race. These didn’t pan out – too few immigrants, women, and blacks, and not enough information on other markers of ethnicity. We finally added education (college) and location (big city, other urban area, rural area), which had sufficient variation to be interesting and analyzable. (That meant we had to gather data on urban areas – a total pain, but in the end, it proved to be very revealing.) We analyzed bivariate associations between each founder background characteristic and time.

One of the things that struck us when we were doing the bivariate analyses was just how difficult it was to tell a single story with our variables. Nineteenth-century magazine founders looked very different from their eighteenth-century predecessors, but the relative frequencies of different occupations, locations, and other characteristics changed in ways that supported different hypotheses. To deal with this, we added the multivariate analysis, and we brought Leo Goodman on as a coauthor – he was the person who developed the estimation procedure we used, and his guidance on the multivariate analysis proved invaluable. (Nerd factoid: Having Leo as a coauthor also gave us finite Erdős numbers (4).) We submitted the paper to ASR in 2010. It received a reject-and-resubmit decision, and we sat back to regroup.

For the revision, we opted to stay closer to the data and return to the original focus: who are the entrepreneurs, and how does the nature of their social positions evolve as an industry develops? We gathered more data to respond to concerns raised by the ASR reviewers and did a bunch of ancillary analyses – created a long methodological appendix comparing log-linear analysis to qualitative-comparative analysis and logistic regression. At that point, we submitted the revised paper to ASQ. Through the review process, we conducted other analyses to answer new concerns raised by the reviewers. We eventually dropped all these analyses because the paper was getting far too long. (When Linda Johanson says it’s too long, you sit up and pay attention!)

I (Jacob) am expanding some of the analyses we dropped – the methodological appendix. In working through the analyses I also got a much better sense of the relationship between log-linear analysis, Ragin’s qualitative comparative analysis, and logistic regression. The current draft of this paper doesn’t use the magazine data, but it all started with that appendix!

Question 3. An important caveat you make in the article is the lack of data on magazines that failed to launch. How would you recommend scholars of industry dynamics incorporate such “primordial” industry entrants?

This is something that simply cannot be done using the kind of archival data that much research on organizations and industry evolution uses – unless the researcher has access to an unusual kind of archive, a such as repository of incubators or records of incipient startups. I (Heather) can’t actually envision such an archive – but if you know of one, you should dig into it. Instead, you’d need to interact directly with aspiring entrepreneurs – survey people, interview them, follow them around – and see how their ventures evolve. This means doing longitudinal analysis – not usually done in ethnographies or even interview-based work, but certainly possible.

Question 4. Your study emphasizes how entrepreneurs navigate social structures to acquire the resources they need to found organizations. There are other factors, however, that influence entry decisions. Founders in different stages of industry development and/or from different social positions, for example, have different motivations to start new ventures. Why did you choose to focus on access to resources, rather than, say, incentives?

At one point we looked at magazine subject matter as a potential measure of founders’ motivations. We dropped this variable because it wasn’t very informative. Magazine subject matter turned out to be associated with founders’ occupations, but in ways that varied across occupations. Disaggregating effects of occupation and subject matter would have required a much large sample.

We also considered entrepreneurs’ motivations – what they wanted to accomplish by launching magazines. But probing motivations that would have required a completely different analysis, of magazine prospectuses and editorial statements. We thought it was a related, but distinct, topic, so we did not include it in this paper. Instead, Heather analyzed magazine founders’ motivations in the book (part of chapter 4), which brings us to your last question.

We (Jacob and Heather) have recently returned to the issue of motivations within a single occupation. Nineteenth-century doctors, it turns out, were highly motivated to slander each other in print. They debated the value of medical therapies and the role of the state in promoting or suppressing different practices. Using the full population of medical magazines, we are currently investigating why opposition to medical regulation gained so much traction among medical practitioners during this period.

Question 5. How does the paper relate to your (Heather’s) forthcoming book, “Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860?” Does your book go into more detail on the dynamics of the industry’s evolution, such as why magazines began paying writers and how this process diffused across the industry? How would you situate the book within the innovation and entrepreneurship literature?

Yes, the book has a lot more detail about how the industry evolved, as well as how the society in which the industry developed changed over the first 120 years of the industry’s history. The central argument in the book is that magazines were central to the modernization of America, to the development of new, more modern forms of community. Magazines were the social glue that brought together people who would otherwise never meet face-to-face, allowing readers to receive and react to the same cultural messages at the same time and, in many cases, encouraging readers to contribute to shared cultural projects. But at the same time, the growth of the magazine industry was made possible by the modernization of America: population growth, especially urbanization; the development of the postal network to distribute magazines across the country; advances in printing presses and other publishing technologies, some of which were pursued because there was demand from magazines and newspapers; the rise of the cultural conception of the author as a paid professional. In addition to these general modernizing trends, magazines both shaped and were shaped by the development of a pluralistic national field of religion, the burgeoning of a wide array of social-reform movements, and the drive to modernize the largest sector of the economy, agriculture.

As I tried to relate the evolution of the magazine industry to changes in American society that not only made it easier to publish magazines, but also changed the nature of magazines (e.g., their genres and their geographic reach), I was surprised by the fact that over one-quarter of magazines launched in this era were religious, so I began to read about the history of religion in America and the role of magazines in the proliferation of (and often battles among) religious communities. That later led me to an analysis of social-reform movements (e.g., antislavery, temperance, peace, women’s rights, vegetarianism), many of which were supported by churches, because their causes resonated with extant theology, as well as by magazines. Finally, I saw two very different effects of the magazine industry on the modernization of the American economy – failure in the failed case of counterfeit detectors and bank-note reporters and success in the case of agricultural magazines.

The book does go into some detail about why magazines began to pay authors for the material they contributed and how this practice diffused, but the evidence is really scattered, so it’s hard to pin down. Basically, magazines began to pay authors to insure a supply of original material to woo readers. But doing so required a cultural shift, from the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, from perceiving the author as a gentleman-scholar (yes, man in the eighteenth century) to perceiving the author as a professional who deserved to be paid for his or her contributions (yes, his or her – women became frequent contributors to magazines). Interestingly, this cultural shift occurred despite the fact that magazines copyright law was almost never used by magazines in this era – a phenomenon I am continuing to investigate with Daniel Kluttz, a Berkeley sociology student.

I’m not sure that I would situate the book within the literature on innovation and entrepreneurship – but if I were to attempt to do so, it would be as an institutional analysis, paying attention to the larger social milieu within which magazine founders operated. As I mentioned earlier, part of chapter 4 examines the espoused motivations of entrepreneurs – to use a term coined by C. Wright Mills, their vocabularies of motive, the language they used to explain their actions to potential readers and contributors. Examining documents from 1741 to 1825, when archival data were abundant, I found that these vocabularies shifted from a focus on serving society at large to serving a particular community – most commonly, people in a particular geographic region or members of a particular religious faith or demographic group, more rarely, members of particular occupations or political groups. This indicates that magazines started out as symbols of the unification of the thirteen colonies (later, states) into a single society, but later came to reflect and reinforce divisions in this society along geographic, religious, demographic, occupational, and political grounds. But the shift to serving particular communities complemented magazines’ original unifying function, rather than replaced it: there was no clear geographic differentiation between general-interest and specialist magazines. These types of magazines were equally likely to be published in the industry’s geographic core (Boston, New York, and Philadelphia ) as within the industry’s periphery. Thus, the members of many different religious communities (for instance), whose internal bonds were reinforced by magazines targeting their particular denominations, might still find common ground in their reading of the same general-interest magazines.

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