9

According to the front page, 2015's USA Today has three billion daily readers.

*Back to the Future* newspaper

Given that most readers of USA Today would live in America, that implies that there are billions of people in the U.S.

Right now, 4.4% of the world's population lives in America. Even if this percentage grew significantly in the film's world due to immigration, that would still mean that there were several 10's of billions of humans on Earth, far more than our current 7.5 billion.

Have any of the creators commented on the film's earth's population? Are signs of a high population shown in any of the spin-off material?

19
  • 7
    Your assumption about most readers in America could be wrong. The Wikia makes a different assumption: "USA Today must have an extensive worldwide circulation by 2015 in order for 3 billion readers to read it as population projections for the United States are put at about 325.7 million by 2015. Unless considerable efforts are made for the English language to be learned by 3 billion people by 2015, it could be assumed that USA Today is available in many languages."
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 1:14
  • 2
    @randal'thor That seems unlikely. The fact that it's called "USA Today" and that it's tagline is "The Nation's Newspaper" would imply that it's primarily American.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 1:16
  • 5
    @RogueJedi, why? Just as basic examples, the WSJ and the BBC are heavily consumed internationally. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 1:22
  • 1
    @BBlake If you subtract 4 million from 3 billion and you end up with 2.96 billion, that's a rounding error too.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 12:33
  • 3
    @RoyalCanadianBandit Or that the USA itself is larger than it was!
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 15:28

1 Answer 1

8

TL;DR: it's a humorous exaggeration.

But let's look at the effects which could, in theory, have brought about such a massive increase in the readership of USA Today.

  1. The influence of the USA is spreading.

Yes, it really is. American companies such as McDonald's and Facebook, and perhaps most of all the Hollywood film industry, have spread US culture across the globe. The English language has become the world's new 'lingua franca', thanks to the growth of Americanism. Youth culture throughout the world has been directly influenced by American ways of life, American companies, American culture.

More to the point, US media is among the most-read in the world. The New York Times is apparently the second most-read newspaper in the world, including online readership. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today both also have fairly large international readerships. Interestingly, the first international edition of USA Today was published on May 6, 1986, just a few years before BttF2 came out. The filmmakers may well have overestimated the increase in worldwide Americanisation over the next 30 years, probably deliberately so for humorous effect.

  1. The world's population is increasing.

The world's population has increased by about 2 billion, or roughly 40 percent, since the 1980s. The US population has increased by a similar proportion. This again could have been overestimated by the BttF filmmakers, again probably deliberately so.


In fact, USA Today circulation was 1.4 million in 1986, over 2.2 million in the early noughties, and has since declined again. If we imagine that it had somehow gained a near-monopoly among US newspapers to get a readership of most of the American population, AND the population increase had been much greater over the past 30 years than it actually has been, then any reasonable figure would still be under 500 million readers in the US (if the population had doubled between 1989 and 2015, and everyone in the US read USA Today, the figure would be around 500 million). So the spread of Americanism would have to be a factor.

In the version of 2015 seen in BttF2, perhaps the entire world is under the sway of the American empire, and the population is much greater than it is right now, and USA Today has gained bigger circulation than any other newspaper.


Or how about a simpler explanation? The filmmakers just put it in as a trap for particularly attentive viewers, to make them spend ages trying to work out how USA Today readership could possibly be so big. You and I just got nerd sniped good! :-)

3
  • Weird thing I just noticed: for whatever reason, in BTTF II, USA Today publishes a "Hill Valley Edition" i.usatoday.net/communitymanager/_photos/pop-candy/2010/10/18/…
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 16:24
  • 1
    I think the British Empire helped make English a lingua franca, to be fair. And any particular newspaper (American or otherwise) would have to be very much more dominant than it currently is to be able to command such a large fraction of the world's readership. There's also an obvious counter argument against any serious attempt to justify the figure: would the world at large be interested in the small dealings of a city's affairs? Maybe an easier justification is that the paper itself is being "creative" in its claim?
    – Zorawar
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 23:52
  • Yup, the high number is due to the prediction of population back then and humor. Back then and up till about 2005/2010 it was thought that our population would just keep growing exponentially, but today we predict that we'll get up to 12 to 14 billion and then bounce down and stabilize to about 10 billion and stay there unless some major event happens (like spreading to other planets)
    – Durakken
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 21:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.