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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

The Elephant in the Room

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The adult section plays a fundamental role in defining alternative newsweeklies. Sensationalism, an umbrella term encompassing crime, violence, emotion and sex, has been a characteristic of alternative publications since the beginning of American history (Applegate, 2). Even in the age of the internet, when porn is available in the privacy of our homes at the click of a mouse, the adult section of the Phoenix has persisted. This reality reflects on the fact that the Phoenix is a tangible expression of the community that it serves. There is still a powerful appetite for pornographic services on the part of local consumers, and consequently a powerful incentive to advertise in these areas. However, despite the fact that the market is so lucrative, the Providence Journal deliberately ignores it. As a family newspaper, it takes pride in its ability to sustain itself through non-pornographic advertising.


Number of full pages of advertising in an issue of the Phoenix, all sections included: 33.32

Number of full pages of sex advertising in an issue of the Phoenix, all sections included: 13.99

% of advertising dedicated to sex in a single issue of the Phoenix: 41.98%

*Based on my personal calculations, eye-balling what determines a quarter, third, half and full page add respectively.

For it's 30th Anniversary Issue the Phoenix asked community members for any personal anecdotes they might have involving the NewPaper or Phoenix. The following interviewees had something to say about the Adult Section.

"I did what any other self-amused, sardonic prankster would have – I flipped to the adult section and gave out the first ambassador of the night number I could find. I think I still hand that number out. I laughed at that one for days. Poor girl probably had to changer her number. Sorry."

-- Providence restauranteur Derek Wagner

"None that I wish to disclose."

-- Rich Lupo, proprietor of Lupo's

"Both Monocle and camera tend to turn people into things, and the photograph extends and multiplies the human image to the proportions of mass-produced merchandise. The movie stars and matinee idols are put in the public domain by photography. They become dreams that money can buy. They can be bought and hugged and thumbed more easily than public prostitutes. Mass-produced merchandise has always made some people uneasy in its prostitute aspect." -- McLuhan, 257

Placed in the middle of the Arts and Entertainment section, which itself falls in the middle of the larger Phoenix, the "Phoenix Adult" serves as the exact middle of each issue of the Phoenix. Phoenix Adult is always printed in full color, and always lies in a bed of larger full, half and quarter-page ads. It catches the eye both with the color of the images and their content.

The Phoenix Adult is characterized by the mostly-nude, erotically-posed woman on the cover of each issue. However it is also characterized by its ability to promote active Phoenix consumption. Just as the Phoenix encourages readers to seek out further information on its website, Phoenix Adult encourages readers to "Call, cruise connect for gaymates," and "check out what's going on between our sheets" in the Erosphere Adult Personals. Every other advertisement calls the reader's attention to other media, whether it be the internet for porn websites or telephone communication for "booty calls." An Erosphere Personals coupon in each issue is set off by dashed lines, and invites the reader to fill out a personal profile to cut out and mail in for publication. In this way the community becomes part of the medium of the newspaper. The community benefits from the privacy with which it can seek sexual partners, while the Phoenix benefits from the advertising revenue and the small payment it collects from those who chose to enter their biographies in the personals. Say what you will about Phoenix Adult, but it does not promote passivity.

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Cover of Adult section from October 24 - 30, 2008 issue, scanned from personal copy

Back to Form: paper, ink and the mosaic