Date of Award

1995

Degree Type

Major Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a study analyzing the editorial content of consumer power boating magazines for messages of environmental responsibility. It presents evidence of a cause and effect relationship between recreational power boating and damage to the marine environment, and cites arguments that power boating in its currently popular form, involving high speeds and heavy fuel consumption, is inherently "unfriendly" to the environment. The paper describes a "chain of influence" through which boat manufacturers, in their role as advertisers, influence the editorial content of consumer boating magazines through the tactics of marketing public relations. A hypothesis is developed which states that publishers' commercial interests behoove them to publish editorial material generally supportive of their advertisers, hence promoting consumer behaviors that damage the environment through profligacy of fuel consumption leading to excessive engine emissions. Three magazines are selected for analysis, based on their high levels of influence and visibility within the consumer boating market: Boating, Motor Boating & Sailing, and Power & Motoryacht. These magazines maintain the largest circulation figures of all North American consumer power boating magazines, with a combine monthly circulation totaling more than one half million issues and a substantial "pass-along" readership. The hypotheses is tested using methods of content analysis. Separate tests are employed to analyze five different types of editorial content: textual content of boat test feature articles; photographic content of boat test feature articles; topical content of "how to" articles on two specific subjects (boat handling, and maintenance); topical content and "slant" of opinion columns; and topical content of feature articles explicitly addressing environmental issues. Test results fail to support the hypothesis, suggesting that special-interest consumer publishing in the recreational power boating niche maintains a degree of editorial independence from advertisers, and that environmental topics are treated in a reasonably balanced manner.