Shaping a Weekly ‘For Everyone’: Italian Rotocalchi Entre-Deux-Guerres

  • Irene Piazzoni


In the years between the two World Wars, Italian publishing houses Rizzoli, Mondadori, and Vitagliano worked on the model of a specific ‘popular’ weekly. They built up a combination of periodicals constituting a complete and integrated offer, experimenting marketing strategies — such as frequency, distribution, price, and advertising message — and editorial formulae capable of attracting a large readership. This article analyzes these strategies and formulae in weeklies, so-called rotocalchi, such as Il Secolo Illustrato, Novella, Lei (by Rizzoli), Le Grandi Firme, Grazia (by Mondadori) and Excelsior (by Vitagliano). As the analysis shows, their publishers and editors focused on a product based on both a precise interpretation of the concept of ‘popularity’ and an interpretation of the expression ‘popular culture’ that was different from that of the past, when ‘popular’ cultural products were such because they were destined for the uneducated and less well to-do classes. Rizzoli, Mondadori, and Vitagliano abandoned this static view and the hierarchy of cultural systems and adopted a different, more modern, more flexible, and more dynamic approach. In their case, rather than being associated with a distinct sector of the audience, the popular cultural product looked towards an undifferentiated group of readers: it was ‘for everyone’. In this meaning, ‘popular’ no longer had a qualitative significance — ‘for the people’ — but a quantitative one: ‘as widespread as possible’. By the same token, they did not limit themselves to pleasing an audience that already existed, but tended to ‘build’ their own, winning over those who were not yet part of it.