Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Five Reasons Why Women's Magazine Sales Are Plummeting

While not on my daily reading list, Jezebel is always acute with their criticism of the women's and fashion magazine industry. Today, senior editor Dodai Stewart summed the whole thing up with a list of why circulation is down, down, down:

1. The covers suck.
If you love fashion, why would you pick up a magazine that had a Photoshopped roboGwyneth on it? Or an animalistic-looking basketball player? Or Sarah Jessica Parker wedged between a decapitated man's legs? French Vogue's covers are daring and provocative; American Vogue relies on Kate Bosworth's "superstar style." YAWN.

2. Photoshop is out of hand.
Art directors rendered Drew Barrymore and Tina Fey almost unrecognizable. ScarJo's waist was whittled. Not even "healthy" magazines like Self and Fitness are immune. Maybe readers are sick of the artifice?

3. Expensive Shit.
Even if you adore the fall collections and think of Galliano as God, you probably can't afford a $13,000 dress. So when you have to look at said $13,000 dress posed in the middle of a desert like it ain't no thing, you can get miffed. No? How about a $270 Bible? Or a $246 Louis Vuitton headband?

4. "News" you can't use.
Once you get past the cover and expensive shit, some mags are filled with mind-numbing, trite or just plain evil content. The illustrated "How To Take A Shower" piece in Allure comes to mind. As does the quote from Vera Wang in Vogue: "The armpit is nasty, nasty. Even young girls can have this problem."

5. The Internet.
When in doubt, blame this Web 2.0 thing everyone's talking about!

I agree on all counts, in varying degrees. While many of these are exactly the reasons people DO read these magazines -- after all, readers aren't stupid -- I think the lack of inventiveness on the whole is really starting to bring them down.

Just the other day I was remarking to someone how good Harper's Bazaar looked compared to Vogue, while musing that Harper's has always had trouble keeping up with Vogue in ad pages. Vogue has been so...stale lately (the Kate Moss scoop on Page Six Magazine as an exception), visually as well as textually. Same goes for many of the others.

They just look...tired. Uninspired. And many of them read that way, too.

In fact, the most surprising thing I've seen lately is the reinvented O, The Oprah Magazine covers...all the white space is shocking when compared to the coverline-heavy, big image, poorly photographed (Annie Liebovitz and Mario Testino or not), manufactured covers that surround it on the newsstand.

It's like staring at a production line.

Which is the point, right? Newsstand attraction and sales? After all, none of these magazines (maybe Harper's) really rely on subscriptions the way, say, The New Yorker does. They're mostly "on a whim" purchases.

One more point: the value of Dodai's Jezebel list is in fact the comments that follow it. Sometimes Jezebel comments get overly sarcastic, but I think there's a lot of value in what's being said below. For example:

I would say prices. The cheapest magazine I could find was $3.50. I do feel bad for the women journalists that work for them. I would hate to see people laid off because of this. I think people ignore that some women magazines do have good articles in them about some amazing women. -tranquilmademoiselle


1 comment:

Chase Squires said...

Wow, no comment on all the advice/ideas offered on your Romanesko-snagged post?

You're going to ignore the issue?

C'mon, jump in.

Seriously, fashion mags?

I'm not being a pain, here. I was honestly interested in how the next generation is moving forward in the "new era" of journalism, I honestly want to hear what you and the next gen are thinking about the state of the market, are you interested in new media? online products such as the "independent" chain (here's one ... it's part of a group)

As a former newser turned pr, I'm interested in learning where the new reporters are, where to we turn for relationships with the next generation of reporters.

You started a good conversation, don't let it drop, keep it fresh.

go get'em