Another one bites the dust.
The recent announcement that More would cease publication was just the latest blow to loyal magazine fans who still enjoy flipping through their favorite glossies.
The women’s lifestyle magazine, which aimed at older, affluent “women of style and substance with articles on style, health, work, spirituality and relationships,” garnered both publicity and favor by featuring celebs ages 40 and up, including cover stars Diane Lane, Rachel Weiz and Jennifer Connelly.
In 2002, Jamie Lee Curtis made news by appearing on the cover in only a sports bra and underwear, minus makeup or photoshopping. The magazine aimed to go more upscale and a little younger in the past year – Katie Holmes, a mere 37, ditched her makeup for the February cover – but the move failed to nab advertisers. Publisher Meredith Corporation forced it into early retirement after nearly 19 years of publication, making it the first magazine casualty of 2016; the last issue will appear this April. And with up to 15 reported layoffs in November, some predict that the print edition of Self could be next.
More’s death and so many others like it – Fitness, Lucky and Details in 2015; USA Weekend in 2014; Newsweek and Spin in 2012; Metropolitan Home and Gourmet in 2009; and, yes, Playgirl in 2008 – leave those who remember the days before digital mourning for another era. While some brands continue online, too often as shells of their former selves, many do not. We all looked forward to the latest issues of our favorite magazines – especially the ritualistically fat fall fashion editions – arriving on newsstands, in our mailboxes, at hair salons and at Barnes & Noble, where we could spend hours perusing the racks.
Holding a magazine in your hands is a very different prospect from scanning stories in the digital age. Unlike online versions with their distracting “read me!” hyperlinks, the print page invites the reader to settle in for a spell and enjoy a feature, short or long, from start to finish. It’s like a friend sitting on the coffee table, next to the bed or even in the bathroom (!), waiting to be picked up.
I want to sing to friends whose children aspire to work in the field, “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be journalists…”
Whether we were lusting after the latest Paris fashions, the newest hot travel destination or knowledge about the world at large, magazines satisfied the craving.
My friend Julie Mihaly’s site Boom Underground is devoted to celebrating the days when magazines were huge, “not just in size, but because of how much we loved them…. They were lap-sized wonders filled with giant photos tucked beneath beautifully designed covers…. Life, Look… and yes, even Mad defined, informed and detailed our worlds in a way that may be gone forever.”
Meanwhile, it’s been pretty devastating watching as magazine after magazine folds with the ensuing major layoffs or waste away, as has been the case at two of my former employers, Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide. I enjoyed working at EW during the heady ‘90s, when blow-out parties, good pay and major benefits were the rule of the day. And then TV Guide, once the No. 1 magazine in the country, until we saw circulation decline abruptly as listings moved online and onto TV screens. Looking back, I should have seen the guillotine waiting with my name on it. Both publications continue on as much thinner versions of their former selves with skeleton staffs who are no doubt waiting for the other shoe to drop.
With each closing, I want to sing to friends whose children aspire to work in the field, “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be journalists…” As a former TV Guide coworker remarked, “It’s like being a hook-and-eye maker after they invented zippers.” We veterans can only sigh as we try to figure out our next moves in this wildly changing landscape. I’m doing my best to transform myself from a longtime editor to a writer, but it’s a tough climb. Generally speaking, sites pay far less than the heady days when I was doling out contracts at $2 a word, and some, like The Huffington Post, don’t even compensate for their content. Instead, they cite all the “exposure” they offer authors, but exposure doesn’t pay the rent.
Not all is lost. The fall previews of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle et al remain pleasingly plump. However, according to the Fashionista website – yes, the irony isn’t lost on me – in 2015, Condé Nast, Hearst and Time Inc. all refused to release the number of print ads sold for September, typically their biggest, most important issues of the year.
Because Fashionista believes that ad pages are still worth counting, that’s what they did – by hand, stating that “without access to actual revenue numbers, it’s the only metric that sheds light on advertiser demand for traditional print ads in each magazine.” After tallying ad pages in 10 big fall mags, the site found a steep drop of 30 percent in at least one publication, InStyle. Still, I don’t fear that any of them are on the brink of folding – though I could be proved wrong.
I can’t write this essay in good conscience without making a confession: I read online as well as in print. And, of course, there are many great sites, this one included. But that doesn’t take away from the nostalgia for a time when, as Boom Underground states, magazines ruled the world.
(Graphic: Adrianna Dufay/TueNight)