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Why the Mag Hag?

The Mag HagPosted by Barbara Fri, April 13, 2012 20:30:24

Like an astonishing number of people in this technologically-driven world, the glossy magazine is one of my weaknesses. I can’t really tell you why that is. I’m of the generation that still prefers the printed word to the screen, but that is obviously not the whole story. The journalism students I teach at Northumbria University rarely buy a newspaper – but many of them will still spend comparatively much more cash for a glossy mag, whether it’s a sports, music, celebrity or fashion publication. These are students who access most of their news and other information via their computer or their mobile, so this apparent addiction to the shiny page is something that’s quite hard to explain. They will, for example, still buy the printed copy of NME, even though they agree with me that its web page has much more to offer, such as audio/visual music material. They will still subscribe to Vogue, even though, again, the content on the web site is quite stunning and offers those with a keen interest in fashion something that is over and above that of the monthly magazine. “I just like to have it and I like to keep it,” they tend to shrug, when pressed for their reasons.

I was brought up on magazines. To give you an all-too-clear indication of my age, I started off with Twinkle Comic as a very little girl – and probably subliminally absorbed all those un-PC role models like Nurse Nancy and Mollie and her Dollies (aargh).

Bunty was the next stage, followed by the idiosyncratic Diana and eventually, of course, Jackie, which was like a paper version of a big sister during my 1970s teenage years.

So by the time I moved onto the likes of Cosmopolitan, I was a sucker for the glossy magazine, and rarely to be found without a selection of the latest monthlies.

Now, appropriately enough, I teach the Magazine Journalism module to undergraduate students, so for this reason alone I like to keep an eye on the state of the industry. It’s a fascinating one and it’s been very little researched, for reasons which are interesting enough on their own and probably have something to do with the traditionally female workforce and readership. This is changing, of course, with the top-selling (as opposed to free) men’s magazine being Men’s Health, which retains a circulation figure of 221,176. (Feb 2012; Source). That its content of sex, style and body sculpting has such an appeal to today’s young-ish male reader is surely scope for a thesis in itself.

In a world where printed newspaper circulations are in what appears to be their death throes, the magazine is still surprisingly enduring. That may be because readers of magazines feel a genuine sense of ownership of the publication, according to the excellent Magazine Journalism by Tim Holmes and Liz Nice, one of the few useful studies of the genre that I’ve found). And so magazines are “the most successful media form ever to have existed".* There is shrinkage in the market, in general – but that’s nothing to the ills of the newspaper sector.

Even in this difficult economic market, new glossies are still being launched with apparent confidence. Hearst has just launched the quarterly glossy Good Ideas, aimed at the 35 to 50 year old woman and with a £3.99 cover price, two months after its joint venture with Rodale, Women’s Health.

So on this blog, I’ll be keeping up to date with movements and trends in the magazine market and industry and commenting on them. If, like me, your days would be poorer without a good glossy, and you’re keen to know what’s going on in the strange and fast-moving industry, then this is the blog for you.

*Tim Holmes and Liz Nice (2012), Magazine Journalism (Sage Publications), Pg.1.

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