'TV Guide' was regarded the television viewer's bible. The digest-size (5 by 7¾ inches) was said "has a place in the heart" of 2 generations of Americans (the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964) back in the old world of TV when there were 3 networks and a few independent stations. Launched by publisher Walter Annenberg in April 1953 (the Baby Boomers peaked in 1957), the first issue of 'TV Guide' featured Lucille Ball's baby on the cover. By 1978, when the magazine celebrated its silver jubilee (25th anniversary), 'TV Guide' had a circulation of 19 million.
In August 1988, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp paid Walter Annenberg $3 billion to buy Triangle Publications. At the time of his purchase, "'TV Guide' dominated the magazine industry in circulation (17 million at the time) and advertising revenue (nearly $350 million)." It was understood, "'TV Guide' will provide Rupert Murdoch's media empire with an enormous data base for an electronic publishing company that he is now (back in 1988) forming."
The tried and true methods of 'TV Guide' were 25% articles about television including reviews, columns, crossword puzzle, horoscopes, news and TV personalities profiles and 75% TV listings and "a grid showing prime time viewing at a glance for each day." However according to former Washington D.C. bureau chief John Weisman who told 'The Washington Post' in July 1989, two days after Rupert Murdoch bought 'TV Guide' he walked into the magazine's headquarters in Radnor, Pennsylvania and told an editor 'TV Guide' was "far too cerebral (intellectualized). Since then he has gone about making it non-cerebral."
As part of the so-called "Murdochization" of 'TV Guide', the magazine would feature more "puff pieces, sensationalisms, astrology charts." In January 1989, former Los Angeles bureau chief Richard Turner was told to find an astrologer who could predict the fall of television. John Weisman argued, "Every story I wrote for 'TV Guide', I asked, 'What does this mean to the viewer?' That is not a question being asked at 'TV Guide' these days (back in 1989). They see the magazine as a vehicle for advertising, coupons, inserts and reinstituted food stories." One observer made the comment in 1982, "Investigative journalism doesn't necessarily pay off in increased newsstand sales. Running Elvis Presley stories pays off." Peter Funt, the editor of 'On Cable' magazine added, "Time, with its money and experience, will be moderately successful at anything it tries."
By 1991, the economic climate for magazines was said had changed significantly based on figures from the Publisher's Information Bureau and the Audit Bureau of Circulation. At that time 'TV Guide' was competing against the Sunday newspapers supplements which by then also published local, network and cable programming information. According to the Newspaper Advertising Bureau survey of 574 Sunday newspapers in 1990, some 521 of those newspapers at that time were providing television supplements to consumers at no additional costs.
In March 1991, 'TV Guide' launched its new size version, 7½ by 10 inches. However the price would increase to 89 cents from 75 cents. The president of 'TV Guide' maintained, "What we are testing here is essentially whether a bigger magazine at a higher price would be preferred by 'TV Guide's' existing base of readers and whether it will attract a new set of buyers." By 1998, 'TV Guide' reportedly sold more copies on newsstands every week in the U.S., with a circulation of 13 million, and the world's 2nd widely read consumer magazine after 'Reader's Digest'.
By 2005, in an age of the Intenet, 'TV Guide' would become "full-size, full-color format" with more stories about TV shows, lifestyle and entertainment than TV listings. 'TV Guide' chief explained at the time, "We didn't believe in its old form that the digest-size magazine was sustainable. Any brand has to evolve in a dynamic marketplace where consumer tastes are changing rapidly."
Back in 1973, TV critic John Crosby wrote, "'Patterns' was an original hour-long TV drama about life in the upper reaches of very big business that 'Kraft TV Theater' put on the air January 12 1955, conceivably TV's greatest vintage year. The next day the author, Rod Sterling, woke up famous – just like Lord Byron after 'Childe Harold'. Within 2 weeks Sterling, a struggling author up to then, got 23 offers of TV assignments, 3 movie offers and 14 requests for interviews from newspapers and magazines. Does TV generate that kind of excitement any more? Maybe over a quarterback. Or (swimmer) Mark Spitz. Certainly not over the author of a TV play. In the '50s everyone was interested in TV – the educated and the featherbrained alike. It was new and we were very innocent."