It may be active in choosing its uses

It is undeniable that the Magazine Industry has undergone extensive changes within the past century, some which can be attributed to its success and some which can account for instances of failure. Whether it is loyalty to long-established magazine titles or its exploitation of popular culture, the industry is constantly evolving to meet the demands of its environment in order to stay afloat. Firstly, whilst the first magazines such as ‘The Spectator’ focused extensively on educational content for men, a drastic technological change has affected the format of all magazines on the market today.

Colour photography has been the catalyst for these essay-filled booklets to become the high-resolution glossies on the shelves today, which ultimately has transformed magazines to focus on image rather than content. The February 2008 issue of ‘Vogue’ features Sasha Piviovarova clad in a delicate silk dress, seeming to be aesthetically flawless. Katz suggests that the relationship between the audience and lifestyle magazines such as this is ‘complex and intimate’, offering a ranges of ‘Uses and Gratifications’ to the reader.

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To experience the beautiful – and to find models to imitate, are two prominent uses and gratifications the readers of Vogue may relate to especially. As one of the longest running women’s glamour and lifestyle magazine, Vogue must be achieving ample success through this extensive use of imagery – but how long for? It must also be considered that although the audience may be active in choosing its uses for its media, the subliminal effects magazines like this may be quite negative.

Recent awareness of size zero models featured within women’s magazines especially has caused uproar within today’s society, instigating various petitions on websites such as onlinepetition. com to attempt to stop ‘false’ imagery of magazine models. Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ has also brought attention to the fallacy of ‘Photoshopped’ models, broadcasting internet video adverts filming the process of the ‘real’ model’s transformation, and the end result.

Such public awareness may threaten this aspect of many magazines’ continued success in the future, especially as these models are used in both women’s and men’s titles, with the February 2008 issue of FHM featuring a scantily clad Alesha Keys. Sweeting’s explanation for this is simply that ‘sex sells’ and that ‘magazines such as Loaded are becoming increasingly pornographic in their content’ (MediaMagazine, September 2005). Furthermore, technological changes such as cable and satellite TV and broadband internet have allowed magazines to synergise their brand with other forms of media.

Stewart Williams suggests, when commenting on the success of Kerrang! magazine, that if one person is watching Kerrang! ‘s TV station, ‘three other people in the room will watch and like what they see’. He also refers to the exploitation of social networking websites such as MySpace. com, on which the magazine holds over forty thousand ‘friends’. To him, he states it is simple as posting ‘Hey guys, what shall we put into Kerrang! this week? ” Not only is this utilising new technology, but also popular culture, and at the same time building a synthetic relationship with the audience using colloquial language and direct address.

The use of the word ‘guys’ puts the audience at ease, positioning the reader into a sense of equality with the editor – which further supports Katz’s theory on the audience and magazine’s complex relationship. Christine Della-Fera, manager of Sugar magazine, has called attention to her own innovative use of modern technology. She tell us that after collecting over a thousand mobile phone numbers in an online survey, and that they ‘timed an SMS to arrive at midday on the day that a new issue of Sugar was on the shelves, so that readers could buy it in their lunch breaks’.

This also works to create synthetic personalisation between the magazine and the reader, and they may almost feel obligated to buy the magazine after this friendly approach, which further suggests the ‘hypodermic’ influence on readers. Additionally, many magazines that have synergised with other forms of media have utilised the technique of intertextuality. NME. com will always feature a “In the magazine this week” section to lure readers into the material available only in the magazine, and to mirror this, many issues (including January 2008’s) will have a small “on NME. com this week” section.

This furthers the NME brand as something ‘more than a magazine’, and as of November 2007, they have also launched their own digital TV channel, an expansion already pursued by Kerrang! They also host their own ‘Shockwave NME Awards’ which is another example of the brand becoming bigger and more successful, thus creating more revenue for the publisher, IPC. On the flipside, however, the apparent necessity for even leading magazines such as these to branch into other forms of media suggests that the Magazine Industry alone cannot find success simply through the magazine format.

Many titles offer an online version of their magazine, with articles and adverts, such as Glamour Magazine, at glamourmagazine. co. uk. They offer many features already present in the physical magazine, such as daily gossip, fashion tips, and competitions. The rapid migration of society’s younger generations onto more technological mediums like the Internet poses a possible risk to the glossy paper formats of current magazines. Garside states in The Sunday Herald (August 2000) that readership of many magazines are in ‘freefall’, particularly Sky Magazine with a loss of 40%.

Suspiciously, this dramatic fall in readership had come about around the time that the internet began to gain in popularity. Regardless of this lingering threat of the Internet, titles such as The People’s Friend (established 1869) have remained extremely successful regardless of the many social and technological changes appearing over the years, and as of January 2008 still do not have an accompanying website. This suggests that only titles targeting younger generations should be concerned with turning to other forms of media, while TPF remains safe through its target audience’s lack of interest in the Internet.

The counter argument though, is that future readers of TPF will already have a deep-rooted dependence on the Internet and possibly even new forms of media to be released in the future. It is up to the Magazine Industry to adapt to meet these changes – music magazine Smash Hits had to halt publication in February 2006 due to a failure to expand to the technological and also social changes surrounding it, as they were still aiming at a young audience that was quickly maturing.

A very prominent reason for the Magazine Industry’s success is its ability to cater for niche audiences, with IPC releasing obscure titles such as ‘Motor Boat & Yachting’, ‘Classic Boat’ and ‘Motor Boat Monthly’. This is an abundant amount of titles for such a small niche audience, and it is safe to say that IPC has reached a large level of saturation for the boating niche market. With IPC holding approximately 40% of the market, it is clear that monopolising niches such as this has helped to lead to their success.

The ‘New Man’ is a niche that is now also being catered for, and as Sharples has stated, ‘For years the term ‘Men’s Magazine’ referred to one of two things: pornography or sport’. Now, magazines such as Men’s Health are offering articles on feminine topics such as ‘How to make a low fat cream sauce’. This shows a distinct change within society, which the Magazine Industry has not allowed to go unnoticed. Finally, the use of advertising has contributed to the success of many magazines.

The November 2007 issue of Red actually lent over half of its content to advertising, all for products such as middle-ranged perfume products, clothing and other things that would appeal to its target audience. This abundant use of advertising ensures a large amount of revenue for the Magazine Industry, though the increasing amount of adverts is worrying in that it suggests that the amount of revenue gained from the magazine itself may be lessening, which further suggests that the popularity of such magazines is falling.

In conclusion, the Magazine Industry has remained successful throughout its emergence in the Nineteenth Century, and has strived to adapt to many social and technological changes over the years. Media such as the Internet and television have threatened to replace the Industry, which may eventually wipe it out completely if the magazines do not adapt to meet these changes – perhaps manifesting themselves as ‘subscription only’ e-zines.

Although this is entirely possible, the Magazine Industry may not be able to match its success that it has reached at its peak, as paying for such a service online is hardly as convenient as it is over the counter. Alternatively, magazines such as The People’s Friend have remained successful without the need to synergise with other forms of media, and give evidence towards the continuing success of the Industry.