The decline of mags... and the one I can't put down

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 15 September 2013 21:21
Last weekend I sat curled up on the sofa for two hours, devouring Red magazine from cover to cover. Including their Twitter section in which my tweet praising Rosie Green's column was included - and it's not the first time my comments have been featured.

I'm beginning to feel like a bit of a Red mag groupie, truth be told. Since reading my first issue I have tweeted through it, Instagrammed my favourite quotes and shoots and generally overshared my adoration for it to anyone who'll listen. But as a writer, and as a reader, I think it's good to share praise of what is the downward spiralling mag industry. Though the fact it's SO worth commenting on is perhaps most telling of all; before the Internet would we have been as complimentary when discovering a good read? I'd argue not.

The ABC figures recently revealed the stark truth of today's print media; most mags are plummeting, most surprisingly including the likes of Company who have had massive design and content overhauls. Though actually, I'm one of the readers who has abandoned them; an unread pile of subscription copies leading me to guiltily cancelling because their new web and blog-friendly content didn't feel like anything I would miss if I just, say, went on their site.

Red, if I can act as a groupie again, is different. I don't care much for their website; it doesn't grab me but to be honest, none of the mag sites do. But the magazine is packed full of writers I respect, whether I've read them before or not; it has well written, lengthy features on subjects I am interested in and have to mark with post-its to make sure I look up a site, a book, a writer when I'm done. It has interesting cover girls and plenty of humour; it doesn't assume you have babies but it also doesn't talk to you, Single Woman, in a way that suggests you are either madly career driven or desperate for a man. It assumes, without pretentiousness or patronisation, that we can and should have it all.

And it's for these reasons that I don't think the mag industry will disappear. Those two hours were the most calm I'd been all week; it felt indulgent but was also inspiring, I learned, I enjoyed it, and best of all it wasn't on a screen. Yes, other people will want different things from a mag - I know smart businesswomen who love their Grazia fix and I know journalists who will always look to Vogue as their bible - but that's why I think a lot of the mags out there can survive.

From the Internet, I want niche destinations - like the site I work for where health and beauty is our expertise - because if I'm going to read something short and fast I only want to read from the experts. Who has time to filter (Google) through them all? That's why mag sites have never really captured me; there's too much being covered and not in a particularly good way. There's often far more celeb content than is in print (I'm not a fan) and there's rarely thoughtful, inspiring content.

The numbers obviously disagree with me but though I think some will inevitably fail, the success stories, I hope, will be the likes of Red who understand their changing reader in the era of the internet, careers, feminism and general life today, but who don't change what ultimately they always stood for: good writing and engaging content. That's all we really want, no matter where we read. 

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