General Hospital

Special Report: The Evolution of the Soap Opera Press and A Look To The Future

Soap operas had been around for nearly 40 years before anyone started seriously writing about them. There would be an article here or there or some dire warning thesis about the “harm” that soaps were inflicting on housewives. Yet there was nothing truly devoted to fans of the genre. That all changed with a magazine called Daytime TV.

Soap Opera Press — For The Fans

Daytime TV was the brainchild of Paul Denis, who had been a celebrity columnist with a number of New York newspapers and magazines, and his partner, Al Rosenberg.

“In 1969, we did a one-shot called Who’s Who In Daytime TV,” recalled Rosenberg, who would stay with the magazine until his 1997 retirement. “The original editor was Paul Denis and I was the Art Director. At that time, our publisher was not sure if it would happen for us because there was never any print on soaps in any of the magazines.

“Up until then, the fan magazines concentrated mainly on movies and movie stars. But when we put out this soap opera magazine, it sold very well. So we went to the publisher and said that we wanted to try a soap magazine on a more frequent basis. We decided to put one out first to see if it would work. So, we gave it a shot with Daytime TV,” he said.

“The first issue we ever did was Winter 1970. It was called ‘Winter’ because it was going to be a quarterly at the time. If it bombed, we wouldn’t have to put out the next quarter. But it was very successful, so we decided immediately to put out another one and another one and it became Daytime TV as a monthly. And the second soap opera magazine that came out was Afternoon TV, which had a different publisher. But we had the field pretty much to ourselves until the mid-1970s,” Rosenberg revealed.

An Industry Is Born

“I think we would have to be credited with creating this industry because, originally, Paul Denis and I had to go to the producers and ask for cooperation,” he continued. “There were no publicity departments for daytime television at the time at the networks. Procter & Gamble owned most of the shows, and naturally, they didn’t want any kind of controversy whatsoever.

“They lumped fan magazines together and we were guilty by association with [gossip magazines] Photoplay and Movie Mirror and TV/Radio Mirror. We promised them that we wouldn’t do anything to bring discredit to the industry because we wanted to sell magazines. But we also wanted to create an industry and make some friends. So they allowed us in and we went to the studios. I was there as a photographer and took pictures.”

The care with which they approached the shows extended to the actors as well. Rosenberg detailed the evolution of access, and how they were able to bring even more of what the fans wanted.

”We met some of the actors and were invited to their homes. They let us take pictures of them with their families.”

Often the stars, especially the younger ones, would tell stories about their lives and escapades – perhaps something as seemingly innocent as the fact that they lived with their boyfriend or girlfriend – that could damage their careers.

“A lot of them didn’t realize that there was a morality clause, especially in the Procter & Gamble contracts, that if they did any extracurricular activity that might bring discredit to the show or the advertisers, they could be summarily discharged,” Rosenberg shared. “In that instance, we protected them. So we made friends that way, too.

“Up until the mid to late 1970s, there was never a magazine out called ‘Soap Opera’ anything. It was anathema to the industry. They feared, and so did we, that soap opera was a derogatory term. So we called ours Daytime TV. Our competition was Afternoon TV. Then a marketing firm ran a television campaign for a subscription to a new magazine called Soap Opera Digest. It wasn’t a newsstand magazine at the time; it was a television-advertised subscription magazine. They wanted to see how many subscriptions they could get. And the rest is history.”

A Branding Sea Change Occurs

Magazines with the words “Soap Opera” in the title became the rule. Sterling, the company that published Daytime TV, even changed the name of one of its other periodical, Daylight TV, to Soap Opera Stars.

Other magazines began incorporating the storyline recaps that made Soap Opera Digest so successful. With soaps enjoying phenomenal popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the soap opera magazine field became overcrowded.

Al Rosenberg noted, “Around that time, there were something like 22 or 23 soap opera magazines out on the newsstands. There was tremendous competition. Sterling had about five or six of them. Something had to give; there was a shakeout of magazines and a lot of them fell by the wayside. Some went away really fast.”

Daytime TV, however, continued to survive and prosper. The industry changed again in the mid-to-late 1980s with the success of a weekly, subscription-only newsletter called Soap Opera Now! Although its readership was small, its journalistic approach to reporting backstage moves and upcoming storylines spawned several newsstand imitators that came to dominate the soap magazine field.

A New Kid on the Soap Opera Block

A new publication, Soap Opera Weekly, included news, history, commentary, and intelligent writing from its staff. That magazine became the new gold standard in soap opera reporting at the time. Others followed like Soap Opera Magazine, Soap Opera News, and Soaps In Depth. Daytime TV was an island in the changing tide.

“We couldn’t compete with the weeklies, so we turned our magazines into specials,” recalled Rosenberg. “We put out magazines featuring individual soaps. One magazine a month, whether it be a Days of our Lives issue, featuring the people on Days of our Lives or featuring the stories of The Young and the Restless or General Hospital or Another World. Daytime TV tried to focus on big special features in the magazine. We couldn’t be as timely with recaps and synopses as Soap Opera Digest or Soap Opera Weekly, so we changed the character a little bit. But we were still around.”

Sadly, as the late-1990s and 2000s arrived, soap opera magazines began going out of business, including Daytime TV and all of Sterling’s publications. Even non-soap magazines and newspapers saw diminishing returns as the Internet became the new way that people received their news and gossip.

Today, you’re reading SoapHub Insider. Some of the people who wrote for those magazines are employed here. It’s thanks to what came before that we can look forward to what’s to come!

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Leona G. Barad
Tags: Days of our Lives soap opera Young And The Restless

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