The history of the Haveman Media Empire is so deep and rich that it could be said to be a history of the mass media in the United States. The roots of the Haveman Empire go back to 1833, when a young Dutch immigrant, Albert Haveman, witnessed the success of the Penny Press that year and jumped on the bandwagon with his own newspaper, The Haveman Chronicle. The paper flourished, and soon the 19-year-old was an established businessman looking for ways to branch out into other media.
Opportunity knocked in 1860 when dime novels first appeared. Mr. Haveman recognized the potential for publishing inexpensive, popular books and started the bookselling division of the Haveman Media Empire. His timing couldn’t have been better, as literacy rates in the U.S. reached the highest of any nation in the world just one year later.
At the same time, Mr. Haveman saw the natural connection between his two ventures and the medium of magazines. However, the cost of mailing magazines was too high, and he knew there was no way to turn a good profit in that medium–yet. Recognizing the potential revenue and the benefit for business and readers, Mr. Haveman lobbied Congress for years to reduce the cost of shipping magazines. His efforts paid off in the Postal Act of 1879, which reduced the cost of shipping magazines and prompted his entry into that medium.
In 1895 at the age of 82, Albert Haveman handed the reins of his self-made empire to his son Edward Haveman. During a visit to France earlier that year, Albert had the chance to see a demonstration of the LumiÃ¨re brothers’ new film invention, “cinÃ©matographe.’ Convinced that moving pictures were going to be the medium of the new century, he encouraged Edward to get in on the ground floor and invest in film. Having seen a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s Vitascope one year later, Edward was also convinced that the future was in film, and he soon launched the Haveman Motion Picture Company. That division of the Haveman Media Empire enjoyed terrific success as the movie industry took off of the first half of the 20th Century.
Like his father, Edward kept his eye on new media technology but knew better than to jump in before the kinks were worked out. This proved to be a wise move for the medium of radio as well. Edward watched as radio gained in popularity in the United States in the early decades of the 1900’s, but he also recognized how disorganized and ineffective the medium had become. He saw his cue to enter the radio scene in 1927 with the advent of the Radio Act and the Federal Radio Commission. Now radio was regulated, and stations were no longer scrambling each other’s signals, so Edward quickly got on board with his introduction of HBC, the Haveman Broadcasting Company.
Twelve years later, Edward was touring the grounds of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York when he was ushered in to a demonstration of an amazing new invention. It was like a movie theater in your living room and, despite its expense and size, Edward knew he was looking at the next big mass medium–television. He immediately drew up plans for yet another division of the Haveman Media Empire, but World War II shelved his vision for the time being. The Haveman Media Empire went to work supporting the war effort with the combined force of its now massive media holdings.
After the end of the war in 1945, Edward again directed his attention to the future of mass media in the United States and his dream of entering this new medium of television. In 1952, Edward started HBC-TV, the television division of Haveman Media Empire. In that year there were only 108 television stations broadcasting to 17 million homes. By the end of the decade, the number jumped to 559 stations broadcasting to 90 percent of American homes. This would be Edward’s last act as president of the Haveman Media Empire. He died suddenly later that year from a massive stroke at the age of 87.
His daughter Margaret Haveman next took the reins of the media giant. She presided over decades of terrific growth and scandal within the company. Television exploded as a medium, and there was much money to be made. The temptation to attract larger audiences led to disaster within the television division when the quiz show scandal erupted in 1959. Producers bent on keeping ratings up rigged their quiz shows so contestants they considered to be more popular with viewers would win. Audiences were outraged when the secret went public.
The Haveman Empire had employed a division of public relations experts since 1947, when the Public Relations Society of America was founded, and Margaret turned to them to help clean up the mess. Chief among the changes they made was a shift from corporate sponsorship of an entire program to the new method of television advertising: spot commercial sales. No longer would shows be entirely sponsored by one company, like the Kraft Music Hall. Instead, companies would pay for commercial spots during the show.
The 1960s were a tumultuous time for the corporation, as they were for the entire nation. A product of the conservative 50s, Margaret worked to use the empire to maintain the status quo. In 1960, pirate radio broadcasters began playing rock ‘n roll off the shores of Great Britain to an audience of young Brits hungry for more youthful programming than they were getting from the stuffy BBC. Margaret publicly stood with the BBC and condemned the clandestine radio stations, like Radio Caroline, costing the Haveman Empire some popularity with teen audiences.
In 1972, Nolan Bushnell founded a little company called Atari that would ride the video-game boom into the 1980s. Unsure of how video games fit into the structure of the Haveman Media Empire, Margaret watched from the sidelines as the industry skyrocketed without her. It would be the first time a Haveman Media president watched a new medium develop without getting on board, which frustrated the empire’s younger executives.
The Haveman Media Empire went 48 years without adding another arm to its massive media holdings. Margaret had her one and only chance to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather in 1990, when the internet protocol HTTP emerged. Mass media would never be the same. She wrestled with the challenges of convergence in the 1990s and how each one of the Haveman Media divisions should merge with the internet. The evolution of the company was difficult and alienating for Margaret.
In 2009, nearly 600 magazines closed and the magazine, radio and newspaper divisions were all hurting from lost advertising revenue and shrinking audiences. That year she resigned, handing the company over to her eldest daughter and son-in-law, James and Harriet. It quickly became apparent that the visions of the two new executives were at odds. James favored going public, which would bring in tremendous wealth for the family but cost them control of the company they had run for so many decades. Harriet refused to go public, and so after years of floundering, they both resigned and left control to their son Robert.
Now, over 180 years old, the Haveman Chronicle is the oldest family-owned newspaper still in existence. However, the shifting sands of media technology in the last two decades have eroded the profitability of this flagship division of the Haveman Media Empire. Robert is committed to keeping the paper family-owned and has said he will let the newspaper go bankrupt before he lets it go public. The future of this legacy newspaper hangs from a thread.