On The Future Of Magazines

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

As more and more magazines begin to publish print issues less frequently, or even disappear altogether, it has made me wonder what the role of the fashion magazine is in today’s society. The world of the internet, full of quick snappy reads and ‘influencer’ fashion, has started to push the fashion magazine off its pedestal as being the style bible. But it cannot be said that ‘influencer’ culture is the only thing responsible for the change in attitudes towards magazines. The internet has allowed everyone a voice and everyone an opinion, and as a result, the world has become much more self-aware. With the growth of important topics such as ethics and sustainability in mainstream media, it has led to greater questions about the responsibility glossy magazines have, and whether they should be using their influence for the greater good.

Are magazines losing the dominance they once had? Evidence to suggest this lies simply in statistics. With Company closing its print publication in 2014, UK Marie Claire following suit last year, and British Glamour now publishing only two issues a year, it seems that readership is on the decrease. Nowadays, as blogs and YouTube channels are flourishing, the opinions of magazines are not the be all and end all of fashion, which has often caused a rivalry between the two forces.

However, it is possible that the publications’ desire to keep up by increasing their online presence has, in essence, shot themselves in the foot. This is portrayed in series The Bold Type, the successful drama currently in its fourth season, that is set in a magazine company. Their “dot com”, in their words, is at the forefront of importance, giving the print magazine a bit of a backseat. The most important articles are no longer always being saved for the print issue, and afterall, if we one can read practically the same content for free online, why would someone pay upwards of a fiver for a print copy? The consumer media has become dominated by convenience, and print issues of magazines don’t exactly fit this model when everything they could ever ask for is already accessible online.

So, how have magazines adapted to stand out to the average reader of today? Magazines have notably began to become more inclusive of crucial topics to today’s society. In 2018, Elle produced a ‘Sustainability’ issue, and last year, British Vogue’s ‘Forces For Change’ September issue, co-edited by Meghan Markle made ripples among mainstream media. Forces For Change celebrated fifteen different women on its cover with even more stories inside; stories of inspirational politicians, actresses, athletes, activists, but above all, advocates for change. Yet through celebrating these forces of good, the issue sparked debate and it seemed that In some ways, critics could not seem to make up their mind. It appeared to be the opinion of some critics that Vogue as an institution, should be focusing more on important topics because the sheer amount of clothing featured in every issue is unsustainable. Yet others believed that it is not the place of Vogue to promote activism, because at the end of the day, it’s a fashion magazine. Perhaps it seems magazines can do no right, or no wrong, on that front?

Going into 2020, the world of fashion seems to be separated into two fronts - a sustainable, ameliorative force for good, and a lucrative, fast-fashion, ‘influencer’ driven world, that sadly seems incapable of dying out. But my question concerns where magazines lie in this - a question that could be key to their future.

As I have considered my angle of writing this, I had to also consider my own opinion. Where do I want magazines to head in the future? Personally, I love having a printed issue to read, whether it be a book or a magazine. There is something I find important about being able to switch off from a screen, separate myself from everything and have that media to hold. I have a subscription to Vogue and I do believe that there is something about the makeup of the print magazine, the way the pages can be presented and organised together, that the online world does lack. It is absolutely my dream to work for a magazine one day. Which is, of course, why I always feel disheartened when another magazine closes its print publication. It is a form of media I don’t want to die out. But equally, I am a blogger, and believe in the importance of the online world. There should not need to be a clash between print and digital as for me, they both occupy an important part in my reading life.

How should magazines continue, as we are entering the decade of the twenties? As magazines such as Vogue pioneer a more inclusive approach, albeit sometimes slowly, it is clear that this has to be the way forward. There is a huge campaign for major brands and fashion houses to become more diverse, more ethical, and more transparent about their production, but those at the top of them aren’t listening to the small group from below demanding change. Perhaps these magazines could become ‘forces for change’ themselves. Maybe if magazines step forward and take a stance for good, the fashion industry will take notice. Maybe making a difference could be their future.

Do magazines need to transform their image in order to keep up with the times? Or can they carry on into the future as they are? I would love to hear how you consume magazine publications - whether you are still or have ever been a loyal subscriber, or prefer reading digitally now? Or perhaps, like myself, you enjoy both and hope to see both forms of media continuing to thrive into the future.

EG x

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