MAGAZINES AND CONSUMER LIFESTYLE:
ESTEEM AND ENJOYMENT, INFLUENCE AND APPETITE
As published in The Routledge Handbook of Magazine Research: The Future of the Magazine Form
Yanick Rice Lamb
The U.S. edition of Vogue magazine is a bible of consumptive behavior. Its pages, which may range from as few as 130 to more than 900 per issue, are filled with the gospel of Anna Wintour on everything from fashion to politics. While many magazines place five or more cover lines to gain attention on newsstands, Vogue used only three on the cover of its annual Power Issue in March 2009. That is all the world’s leading fashion magazine needed with its iconic cover girl and a main cover line that boldly stated, “MICHELLE OBAMA: The First Lady the World’s Been Waiting For.” The other two cover lines read: “Spring Fashion Special: Every Look That Matters” and “Super Powers! Queen Rania of Jordan, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Melinda Gates.”
It is the perfect combination. Obama is wearing a sleeveless magenta silk dress by one of her favorite designers, Jason Wu, in a portrait that strategically showcases her much-debated toned arms, shot by one of Vogue’s principal photographers, Annie Leibovitz, at one of the nation’s landmark hotels, the Hay-Adams in Washington, D.C., for what Vogue describes as a “historic sitting” just before the first Inauguration of the first black president of the United States. As Sammye Johnson and Patricia Prijatel note in The Magazine from Cover to Cover, “Magazines are lively and engaging societal resources, affecting the world around them and, in turn, being affected themselves by that world.” A prime example of the interdependency Johnson and Prijatel describe is the U.S. edition of Vogue’s consumerist approach to its 2009 Power Issue, which was published at one of the 21st century’s most pivotal times in international politics and economics. This chapter examines such interdependency by examining scholarly research on consumerism and lifestyles as reflected in contemporary magazines that subscribe to a consumerist philosophy and are marketed to the general public.
Literature Review and Method
“Mass culture shapes habitual audiences, around common needs or interests, and it is made for profit,” Richard M. Ohmann wrote in Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets and Class at the Turn of the Century, which focused on two decades spanning 1890 to 1910. A key vehicle for shaping these audiences is the consumer magazine, which focuses on common needs or interests to make a profit. This chapter will examine consumer magazines through a research review and historical analysis. It explores research focusing on the interplay between magazines and consumer lifestyles — how magazines covered and often influenced consumer lifestyles as well as how consumer lifestyles influenced the content in magazines. A common thread in the literature is how readers increasingly came to be viewed and valued as consumers, particularly as potential buyers of the products and services advertised in magazines. In the process, magazines stimulated consumptive behavior by playing to the needs and wants of consumers. These consumer magazines help to create and feed reader appetites for esteem and enjoyment — whether readers aspired to the lifestyles featured in the publications and whether they could afford to obtain or maintain them.
Richard Campbell, Christopher R. Martin and Bettina Fabos have noted that, throughout their existence, magazines have served as agenda setters and change agents, dating back to London’s Review in 1704 and in the colonies, and Andrew Bradford’s American Magazine and Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine and Historical Chronicle in the early 1740s. With the growth of advertising in their pages during the Industrial Revolution and the evolving visual appeal of the editorial pages, magazines fueled desires for certain products, services and lifestyles, nurturing a culture of consumerism. Thus magazines began to take on a greater role in shaping who readers are, what readers do, where readers go, why readers take action, when readers do it (as in right now!) and how readers think.
By the twenty-first century, magazine scholar David E. Sumner could describe consumer magazines as “those that anyone can subscribe to or purchase at newsstands.” Similarly, Johnson and Prijatel wrote: “Consumer magazines are created primarily for popular consumption. They are sold on the newsstand or by subscription and are marketed like any other consumer product. They usually contain advertising; readers are important to advertisers because of their potential as consumers.” They are small as a category, but mighty in their individual reach as general or special-interest magazines, such as Vanity Fair or Vogue, respectively. They can be hybrids, such as Lucky, a fashion “magalog” that is part magazine and part catalog, offering “consumerism at its most raw.”
Consumerism can be so raw in fact that some have likened the relationship between women and advertisers to that of sheep to wolves. “Yet that is not exactly what happened,” Amy Beth Aronson writes in Taking Liberties: Early American Women’s Magazines and Their Readers. “Nevertheless,” Aronson says later, “the consensus remains that mass-market women’s magazines into the present day have betrayed and co-opted unsuspecting readers, and have done so with near-perfect efficiency — expertly, single-mindedly and without the slightest conflict, undertow, or fear of failure.”
Bourgeois or Low-Brow Artifacts
This section examines the symbolic aspect of magazines as artifacts and the evolution of their intellectual and literary content from the Antebellum period to the early 21st century. During this period, magazines have served as symbols of social mobility and literacy, as evidenced by Creating the College Man: American Mass Magazines and Middle-Class Manhood, 1890-1915 by Daniel A. Clark. Sharing and debating the information in a magazine is a time-honored tradition that has expanded with the growth of technology, morphing into new directions through social media, particularly among readers between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, according to a 2012 study by the Association for Magazine Media. In addition to sharing what they are reading, many people have treated magazines as artifacts, showing others what they are reading by displaying covers electronically or displaying new and old issues along with coffee-table books. Since Ebony’s debut in 1945, for example, living room displays of the magazine have takenon an air of racial pride over positive news about African Americans, for a change, or another first to tout. 
During the Antebellum period, variously defined as the period in the United States as falling between 1781 and 1860, U.S. residents were split on “whether the democratization of reading represented growth or decline,” write Isabelle Lehuu in Carnival on the Page: Popular Print Media in Antebellum America, an examination of ephemeral printed matter and reading habits. Lehuu describes a “circus atmosphere” of sensationalism, exuberance and burlesque that infiltrated the America’s print culture of magazines, newspapers and books.
“Cultural values embodied in newspapers and magazines appeared intertwined with or opposed to their market value,” Lehuu wrote. “Popularization was entangled in a process of commodification. The second quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed the coming together of commerce and culture.”
The public taste for lowbrow printed artifacts did not go unchallenged. Indeed, a highbrow critique attempted to curtail popular reading, which, unlike the traditional activity long encouraged by a Protestant and republican culture, had become controversial in the age of abundance and boundlessness. The reformer’s elitist call for fasting and discipline in the midst of carnival was matched only by the contempt of European travelers, who did not fail to critique the outpouring of print in nineteenth-century America.
Richard M. Ohmann describes Daniel Lerner’s modernization theory of mass culture as evolving from urbanization to literacy to media participation and then electoral participation. “Modernity is primarily a state or mind,” he quotes Lerner as saying in Selling Culture. Ohmann also refers to historian Richard Brown’s analysis of attitudes and how communication vehicles, such as magazines, came to be viewed as necessities.
During the twentieth century, some of the best writers in elite magazines of the era offered the thinking man or woman a mix of in-depth journalism, criticism, literature and humor, said Campbell, Martin and Fabos. The modern-day list of elite magazines maintaining such content includes the New Yorker, Harper’s, Vanity Fair and Atlantic Monthly. These magazines, however, are in the minority. In The Magazine Century: American Magazines Since 1900, David E. Sumner wrote:
The intellectual and literary content of magazines declined as they reached wider and wider audiences. Toward the end of the century, the content of mass market magazines had become increasingly focused on celebrities, sex, lifestyle and very individualized leisure pursuits.
This change resulted as magazines became cheaper to purchase, because of technological advances and the growing role of advertising as a revenue source — two factors that form what Sumner calls the popularization of content theory. “Between 1900 and 2000, magazines generally became a business enterprise instead of a literary enterprise,” Sumner wrote. “In the early 1900s, magazines looked like small versions of books. At the end of the century, magazines looked like television screens.” Ironically, key drivers of the magazine industry’s decline in intellectual and literary content were employed as strategies to breathe life into one of the leading news magazines, Newsweek. However, attempts to make the 80-year-old magazine trendier and more lifestyle oriented might have contributed to its demise as a print publication in 2012. Newsweek lacked the deep-pocketed and strong parent of its chief rival, Time, and circulation had fallen more than 50 percent from 3.3 million in 1991 to 1.5 million in 2012. In late 2013, Newsweek’s third owner in as many years announced that it would resume weekly publication with a subscription-based business model in 2014.
Shaping Gender, Cultural and Social Issues
The ebb and flow of the magazine’s role as change agent has often influenced public opinion. As a leading mass medium, magazine pages and covers have drawn attention to gender, race, ethnicity, politics and social issues. In the process, they have promoted the image of a well-rounded person as someone who is knowledgeable and potentially concerned about the world. “Change only happens when the messages magazines present find a receptive ear in society,” Johnson and Prijatel note. “Conversely, those messages may not be heard without the help of magazines.”
Some early consumer articles came in the form of muckraking, even at leading women’s magazines. Articles on corrupted food, for example, drew attention to matters of home and hearth. They helped to place Victorian ladies at the head of the “national household,” fighting for change. The push for the purity of household and food products led to the creation of the Good Housekeeping Testing Institute in 1901.
“Magazines set the public agenda by their emphasis on the major as well as the minor,” Johnson and Prijatel explained, ranging from Ladies Home Journal’s crusades against harmful additives in medicine (major) to Playboy’s Playmate picks (minor). The former could be considered a precursor to consumer tips in magazines such as Health or WebMD, while the latter likely spawned images of scantily clad women in Maxim or the rap magazine XXL — an area for potential research.
In shaping the public agenda, magazines have also shaped gender roles and expectations for women as well as men. For example, Daniel A. Clark argues that fiction and non-fiction articles, advertising and opinion pieces in magazines helped to foster the acceptance of college education for men during the early 1900s. “Mass magazines formed the principal cultural forum where the perception of college was re-crafted and worked into the cultural horizon of the plain middle-class businessman,” Clark said. “The college man often received the stereotype of a drinking and gambling sport—either the nouveau-riche brat or an elitist snob.” In either case, Clark said, the male college student was criticized as being lazy, arrogant, unsuitable for business and lower than a self-made man.
Clark shows that from 1902 to 1905, the image of the male college student began improving “with the rising interest in college life and its reinterpretation in the magazines and with businessmen warming to the idea of college education for their sons (future executives) as the years progressed.” In addition, Clark cites growing competition for some jobs from immigrants and women, making college another way in which to set men apart.
Carolyn Kitch also makes reference to the “extensive public discourse on the role of men in American society” during this era marked by rising immigration and advances for women amid the suffrage movement:
During the 1910s, Americans’ hopes for, and anxieties about, changing gender roles were frequently debated in magazine and newspaper articles. These concerns also provided a recurrent theme for visual communication. The specter of a world in which domineering and destructive women emasculated weak and powerless men inspired a distinctive motif that ran through various forms of popular culture: the pairing of large (though usually beautiful) women and little, often tiny, men. While this motif was always presented as a joke, it never was only a joke.
Many women’s magazines, however, focused on an image opposite to what Kitch described; that is, one of men holding power over women. Even some of the decision-makers of magazine content were men, Amy Beth Aronson wrote, with male editors at top magazines such as the Delineator, Woman’s Home Companion, Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping for most of the twentieth century. “A focus on women’s interests as housewives, mothers and consumers bolstered advertising potential and perhaps their own sense of themselves as professionals, as bosses—and indeed as men,” Aronson said.
The advertising potential of women’s interests has been a key driver of the magazine industry. Long before consumerism took off, women’s magazines dominated publishing. In 1825, roughly 100 magazines existed overall. By 1830, Philadelphia had 24 women’s magazines and New England had 38. In Britain and in the United States, Kathryn Fraser noted, “the gendering of magazine audiences had been present since the late 18th century; the gendering of consumption had not.” This meant a heavier focus on home, beauty, fashion, parenting, shopping and, for a time, sewing patterns. In addition to catering to women’s needs — perceived or not — national advertisers provided revenue to help bring down the cost of buying magazines, which in turn fueled the growth of the audience. “Simply put,” Fraser wrote, “the history of the woman’s magazine is also the history of the construction of the woman as a consumer.” This history includes The Big Six: the Delineator, Woman’s Home Companion, Pictorial Review, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and McCall’s.
The Big Six eventually became known as the Seven Sisters, including the latter three magazines plus Redbook, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle and Woman’s Day. Their name was a reference to the alma maters of many editors, which included Seven Sister colleges such as Radcliffe and Vassar. These leading women’s magazines eventually reinvented themselves “as feminists and others questioned their relevance and historical focus on homemaking especially during the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s.” In June 1980, Savvy, a career-oriented women’s magazine, made its debut. Its cover lines included, “False Grit. You Don’t Have to Be Macho to Get Ahead” and “How to Get the Title You Deserve.” Jerry Oppenheimer wrote,
This new breed of magazine was targeting a seemingly untapped and lucrative market: ambitious Reagan-era women armed with MBAs who were entering the worlds of business, finance and government and needed straight talk on everything from buying the best spreadsheet software to choosing the most appropriate wide-shouldered pinstripe pantsuit, then in fashion, to wear to an important meeting.
Christine E. Crouse-Dick has noted that newer magazines, such as Real Simple, founded in 2000, are reframing domestic themes and the conventional notion that the home is a man’s castle. Although writers emphasize the home as a woman’s personal sanctuary, they still relegate her to a separate sphere and limit her domain to the home.
Just as women’s rights influenced magazines, so did civil rights. Peggy A. Lewis, Ph.D., argues that leaders of the Civil Rights Movement counted on society’s growing sense of social consciousness and morality as they strategized on media coverage to support their cause. Lewis noted that a 1963 cover of Life featured the grieving family of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The same year, Newsweek ran a special issue of “The Negro in America.” A decade earlier, Jet magazine published what has been described as one of the most dramatic photos in 1955, after Mamie Till insisted on an open casket for her son, Emmett. Till wanted could the world to see how his body was mangled for allegedly whistling at a white woman, both Lewis and Craig Flournoy noted.
In addition to covering discrimination, audience-targeted magazines, such as Essence, Ebony and Latina, help readers celebrate who they are and what makes them unique. Their positive messages are often similar to the tagline of Asian Woman: The Magazine for the Woman Who Wants the World. The late John H. Johnson, in his autobiography described his philosophy for Ebony, the magazine he created as his answer to Life and Look magazines. “We wanted to emphasize the positive aspects of black life,” Johnson wrote. “We wanted to highlight achievements and make blacks proud of themselves. We wanted to create a windbreak that would let them get away from ‘the problem’ for a few moments and say, ‘Here are some blacks who are making it. And if they can make it, I can make it, too.” Johnson also explained how he showcased aspirational lifestyles. “We were going places we had never been before and doing things we’d never done before, and we wanted to see that.”
By presenting lifestyles of the rich and famous as well as the common man and woman, magazines like Ebony attempt to counter stereotypes and offset the under-representation of their target audiences in general-market publications. Ki-Young Lee and Sung-Hee Joo found that portrayals of minority groups in the media affect beliefs and attitudes toward them, as well as the treatment they receive. From their analysis of the content of 1,843 magazine ads, they concluded that seemingly positive portrayals of, for example, Asian Americans as the industrious “model minority,” can be detrimental in terms of over-generalizing, setting a hard-to-reach bar and creating stereotypes of being anti-social workaholics. In the content analysis, they found that 2.6% of the ads contained at least one Hispanic person; 8.3%, one Asian American; and 17.5%, one African American.
Before the 1930s, magazine staffs saw audiences as a “faceless blob.” By the 1970s, they recognized readers as individuals and paid more attention to theuses readers made of their magazines and the gratifications they sought. Johnson and Prijatel have identified five consumer needs met by magazines, based on “Facets for the Classification of Need” in a journal article by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:
- Cognitive — “They tell us what’s going on in our world and the world what that means to us.”
- Affective — “Magazines are great dream machines, and readers know that, using magazines for vicarious experiences.”
- Personal — “They reinforce our values, provide us with psychological reassurance and self-understanding, and give us a chance to explore reality.”
- Social — “We use the media to help us fit in with society.”
- Tension release — “Readers often head for magazines for escape and diversion.” 
Vogue exemplifies the Yin Yang of consumer magazines and their audiences. In its 2009 Power Issue, for example, Vogue demonstrates how it is influenced by politics and how it uses politics to influence the fashion sense of its readers, along the lines of Quint Randle’s findings on gratifications. Randle found that roughly half of respondents in a survey on magazines and their websites cited the following, among others, as gratifications:
- To find products through ads
- To make buying decisions
- To improve the quality of my lifestyle
- To live out a fantasy
- To feel important
- To relax
- To feel good.
In the Letter From the Editor, titled “Vision Quests,” Wintour begins:
There’s no doubt that we live in the toughest and most trying of times: wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza; a global economic recession of historic proportion; and a planet whose physical and biological health grows more imperiled by the day. Those are the facts, and we are forced to face them whether we like it or not.
In her “however” mode, Wintour cautions that “it is critical that we not exchange one bubble—that of euphoric consumerism—for another, that of funeral pessimism.” She counts the collective blessings of “drive and talent” and dedicates the Power Issue to the “spirit of clearheaded, forward-looking realism.” The opening of the second paragraph sums up the raison d’etre of the Power Issue and perhaps even Vogue itself, while capturing the essence of how deeply magazines have shaped consumptive behavior and consumer lifestyles throughout history:
Before we come to the world leaders, let’s talk about the clothes. A word in defense of the fashion industry, if I may: When people stop shopping, other people lose their jobs. So there is no moral high ground to be gained by abstaining from felicity. That said, shopping differently is a wise response to the current landscape. Our editors have been thinking about the one or two (or three) items that a woman can buy and wear multiple times a week and for years to come. This is the season to buy a single, perfect pair of shoes, or a khaki jacket that sneaks you through to next fall. It’s a time to sharpen your personal aesthetic and discover your innermost notions about your style, and a perfect moment to dwell on value and values: how garments are made, where they are made, and why they cost what they cost. A Fendi python bag in a classic shape made in Italy? The high price tag makes sense. An organic seersucker suit from a company based in upstate New York? Worth every penny.
The Fendi bag in question “makes sense” at $5,740. The aspirational reader, who is more likely to look for a lower-priced knockoff, can still find something affordable in Vogue’s “Index Checklist: 100+ Under $100.” She can mark khaki’s comeback and sneak “through to next fall” in a Gap blazer for $58.
Magazines as Meta-Commodities
Magazines have multiple roles. They serve as sources of enjoyment, providing images and information to intrigue readers from cover to cover. In addition, magazines serve as things to be enjoyed in and of themselves. Helen Kopnina discusses these varied roles in in Dialectical Anthropology. “Beyond the surface level of brand advertisements and industry information, [magazines] are cultural objects that reflect the cultural zeitgeist both visually and textually,” Kopnina wrote. “As cultural media objects, they narrate dominant cultural trends.” At the same time, magazines are commodities that convey not only products through advertising, but also on the editorial pages in many cases. Advertising largely pays the bill to keep magazines afloat, and this growing dependency has downsides, according to Campbell, Martin and Fabos.
The researchers describe a contradiction in this relationship. “Contemporary commercial magazines provide essential information about politics, society and culture, thus helping us think about ourselves as participants in a democracy. Unfortunately, however, these magazines have often identified their readers as consumers first and citizens second.” In their analysis of media and culture, the authors point out: “Controversial content sometimes has difficulty finding its way into print. More and more, magazines define their readers merely as viewers of displayed products and purchasers of material goods.” The American Society of Magazine Editors through its code of ethics, tries to prevent its members from going too far. ASME advises members to avoid compromising the reader experience. The code states, in part: “Editors and publishers should avoid positioning advertisements near editorial pages that discuss or show the same or similar products sold by the advertiser (a rule of thumb used by many magazines is, the reader must turn the page at least twice between related ad and edit).”
While some readers complain about wading through advertisements, other readers view ads as part of the magazine experience. This is an opportunity for more research, especially with the growth in native advertising, which blurs the lines even more than traditional advertorials — or ads that look similar to editorial content but are commonly labeled as being promotional items.
In Vogue’s March 2009 Power Issue, readers must flip through nearly 60 pages of ads to find the magazine’s table of contents. These front-of-the-book advertisements might be called prime real estate for advertisers such as Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga, Alberta Ferretti, Chanel, Miu Miu, Oscar de la Renta, Escada, Moschino, Sephora and Juicy Couture, to name a few. The second contents page is on page 110, opposite a pricey, six-panel gatefold Prada ad that is printed on heavier card stock. Two dozen more ad pages and the reader finally reaches the third and last pageof the table of contents, on page 136. This page marks the beginning of the issue’s editorial well. However, for less fortunate and less prosperous magazines, it would have been the end of the entire issue. These gaps are even more pronounced in the 2013 Power Issue, which features Beyonce on the cover and is a record-setting 610 pages. With its focus on politics and timing during a historic period, the 2009 Power Issue provided more striking examples of consumerism than the 2013 issue featuring a mega-celebrity like Beyonce who is already strongly associated with consumerism as well as her own product lines.
Magazines and Self-Making
Consumers often seek reinvention through magazines. That’s where some learn how to be — how to be better versions of themselves or how to be like the people who run or make magazines or appear on the pages. The cult of personality is legendary with eponymous magazines such as Lear’s, Jane, Rosie or O the Oprah Magazine. Add to this list Ruth Whitney of Glamour, Hugh Hefner of Playboy, Susan Taylor of Essence, Tina Brown of Vanity Fair and, most notably,Anna Wintour of Vogue, who is said to have also inspired The Devil Wears Prada, a film thatgrossed $326.5 million worldwide, as reported in Box Office Mojo.
Magazines such as Seventeen plant the seeds of consumerism in their readers at an early age:
Teena writes her favorite magazine for the tip-off on the clothes she wears, the food she eats, the lipstick she wields, the room she bunks in, the budget she keeps, the boy she has a crush on. Seventeen seems to have all the answers — that’s why like Teena, smart advertisers use Seventeen.
Concern about body image transcends the teenage years. Much has been written about how extreme concern can lead to eating disorders among girls and women in Western cultures. Less, but some attention has also been paid to the effects on men of media images of lean, muscular men who have the ideal V-shaped torso “featuring a broad chest tapering to a narrow waist.” In a their three-decade review of magazines such as Sports Illustrated, GQ and Rolling Stone, researchers Cheryl Law and Magdala Peixoto Labre found these images to be more prevalent in the years between 1967 to 1997.
“Social comparison theory suggests that a discrepancy between desired and perceived muscularity could lead men to engage in behaviors designed to increase muscle mass,” Law and Lebra wrote. Attempts to achieve such a cultural ideal contribute to body dissatisfaction, obsessive bodybuilding and weight control, anabolic steroid use and consumption of untested supplements. Eating disorders have increased among men, who are outnumbered by women, 1 million to 7 million, respectively.
Consumptive behavior and the appeal of consumptive lifestyles are stronger than ever. The question is where and how consumers will feed their passions. Print-based media — magazines, newspapers and books — have been criticized for allowing others to circulate and promote their eulogies so extensively. Is print really dead? Will claims of its demise become a self-fulfilling prophecy? The magazine industry maintains that print is not dead; it is different. This difference is reflected in the renaming of magazine associations. For example, the MPA is no longer the Magazine Publishers of America. It is the Association of Magazine Media. Its new name reflects today’s difference. MPA, as it is still known, continues to proclaim the power of print, in print campaigns, promotional videos with magazine executives and even a Valentine’s Day graphic distributed on Twitter in 2014. The latter campaign goes beyond print to incorporate smartphones, tablets, the Internet, Cupid and a heart. It asks: “What are 91% of adults doing? They’re reading magazine media!”
“The rise in readership and advertiser investment in our brands from print to tablets and beyond proves that Magazine Media is an industry rife with opportunities for growth in the new media age,” Mary G. Berner, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media,said in a statement. “I’m optimistic that publishers’ experimentation and innovations for their print and digital products will continue to be rewarded.” From spring 2012 to spring 2013, print readership rose 2%. The increase for tablet audiences was 73%.
The magazine is now a meta-commodity in various mobile forms, from tablets to smartphones. As a consumptive devices in tablet form, many digital magazines are taking advantage of the sharp resolution, multimedia features and appeal of tapping, pinching, swiping and zooming, as noted by Lamb in “All the News That Fits on Tablets: An Analysis of News Consumption and Best Practices.” As with printed magazines, consumers are now reading tablet editions on planes, in bed or at the beach. A third of Americans now own tablets—a great source of hope for publishers. And MPA claims that advertisers are following tablet readers. iPad advertising units rose 24.5% between 2012 and 2013. The increase was 7% among magazines that measure iPad and print advertising, Berner said. The Publishers Information Bureau (PIB), which is maintained by MPA, reported that overall print advertising was 0.4% to 0.5% higher for the first two quarters of 2013.
Consumers who want to bypass advertising are less able to avoid it with more GPS technology and other interactive methods to tailor messages to reader habits. Those who are receptive to advertising will likely become more engaged, because ads are increasingly more interactive with greater immersive experiences.
Consumptive behavior and lifestyle engagement are poised to grow with more magazine content on mobile devices as well as greater opportunities for e-commerce, allowing impulse buyers to purchase goods and services on the spot. Instead of simply poring over recipes, readers can watch food demonstrations. They can view mini-Westerns and other scenic videos with fashion shoots. They can upload photos to preview makeup and hairstyles. They can work out with trainers, watch flowers bloom, go behind the scenes, or see a celebrity wink at them on a cover or two or three alternate versions from the same cover photo shoot. Much of what they see on the screen they can immediately purchase. Magazines such as Esquire and the Atlantic are experimenting with tablet editions that come out more frequently than the replica version for the print issue, but less often then what they offer on the Web.
With more applications, or apps, specialization is likely to increase. Magazines have a greater ability to create customized content, special issues or projects, digital storytelling, an article at a time, and tailored consumer offerings, depending on their budgets and readers’ willingness to pay. Wired magazine is creating a feature called Vision Quest, “an immersive digital experience that mashes up text, imagery, animation and video to retell a print magazine story.” The shelter magazine Domino, described as Lucky for the home, has been resurrected as a quarterly under an e-commerce arrangement. Unfazed by Domino’s history and the deaths of Metropolitan Home and House & Garden, a Houston interior designer set a fall 2013 launch for a quarterly home furnishings magazine called Milieu. As Sumner noted, magazines are increasingly focused on celebrities, sex, lifestyle and very individualized leisure pursuits. Although celebrity magazines account for 25% of consumer magazine sales, the category is threatened by the ability of social media to spread celebrity news long before publications can go to press.
Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, points out that magazines exist for every interest and age group, in all sizes and formats. Ten thousand print magazines exist today, compared to 2,000 in 1980, and 870 new titles filled retail newsstands in 2012, Husni said, adding, “I’m seeing no signs of a slowdown.”
It’s a new digital world; there’s always something new to explore and research.
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