“The burgeoning of the mass media from the late nineteenth century helped to raise expectations even higher. At his newspaper’s launch in 1896, Alfred Harmsworth, the founder of Britain’s Daily Mail candidly characterised his ideal reader as a man in the street ‘worth one hundred pounds per annum’ who could be enticed to dream of being ‘tomorrow’s thousand pound man.’ In America, meanwhile, the Ladies’ Home Journal (first published in 1883), Cosmopolitan (1886), Munsey’s (1889) and Vogue (1892) brought an expensive life within the imaginative reach of all. Readers of fin de siècle American Vogue, for example, were told who had been aboard Nourmahal, John Jacob Astor’s yacht, after the America’s Cup race, what the most fashionable young ladies were wearing at boarding school, who threw the best parties in Newport and Southampton and what to serve with caviar at dinner (potato and sour cream).
The opportunity to study the lives of people of higher status and forge a connection with them was also increased by the development of radio, film and television. By the 1930s, Americans were collectively spending some 150 million hours per week at the cinema and almost a billion hours listening to the radio. In 1946, 0.02 percent of American households owned television sets; by 2000, the figure stood at 98 percent.
The new media created longings not only through their content but also through the advertisements they imposed on their audiences. From its amateurish beginnings in the United States in the 1830s, advertising had by the end of the nineteenth century grown into a business worth $500 million a year. In 1900, a giant Coca-Cola sign was erected on one side of Niagara Falls, while an advert for Mennen’s Toilet Powder was suspended over the gorge.”