Magazine rant.

I have a love/hate relationship with magazines.  On the pro side, they’re a mindless way to pass the time, and the very best can indeed captivate as great literature.  They’re a (fairly) cheap way of indulging oneself.  They’re often chock full of helpful information, practical advice and useful tips.  And as someone who writes a food blog (that OTHER Daily Dish), they’re a treasure trove of recipes.

But part of the reason I hate magazines is because there are just so many of them.  Every niche market seems to have one or more magazines devoted to its audience, from cats and other pets, to gamer mags, muscle building, hot rods, motorcycles, gardening, photography, puzzle books, fashions, technology, travel, art, decorating, home repair — YOU NAME IT and there’s a magazine for it. I am not angry because we have so much choice!  On the contrary, I think it’s great for any person with an interest or hobby to be able to find another outlet for it.  But

Magazines are becoming very little other than a vehicle for marketing.  Open any magazine and spend ten minutes flipping through & counting pages of real content versus ads.

Free content is a great thing and that is why I LOVE the internet.  But magazines, March 25, 2011, are less about content than sales.  And by narrowing down interests further and further and further these highly identifiable niche markets fall into advertisers laps.  Nowadays magazines are as much about identifying “buyers” as they are about providing quality content.  And often, MORE.

As long time subscribers to This Old House magazine, my husband and I used to enjoy lengthy articles on DIY projects of substance.  How regular Joes and Janes could undertake work themselves, rolling up sleeves, swinging sledge hammers and getting it DONE.  Nowadays TOH seems more about decorating or how to impress people with renovations completed by paid professionals.  It’s become a facilitator – not in the way it used to be, by educating and empowering its readers to DO – but as a go-between for sellers and the public, a means of suggesting selection and purchase, rather than instruction.  No big deal, right?  But when you look to a magazine such as This Old House for assistance – not in buying something, but in DOING SOMETHING – it’s sad.

As a woman, it’s worse.  Fashion magazines can be fun and interesting, but all of them to some extent are geared to make women feel terrible about themselves.  Why?  B/c otherwise they lose their point.  Other than sex tips, fashion trends or style advice, truly they serve no purpose except to facilitate consumption of (you name it).  Clothes, shoes, cosmetics, accessories.  And readers by default become too fat, too pale, too dark, too ugly. Your clothes suck, you’re unfashionable, you have bad hair/skin/nails.  You have wrinkles.  Your boobs are too big or too small.  Your ass is either of the above – or worse yet, sagging.  Things you didn’t even know existed five minutes before become MUST-HAVE ESSENTIALS!  Not b/c they’re truly valuable or even effective, but b/c you NEED! to be better in whatever way you’ve been brainwashed to believe you’re lacking.  Ladies, do yourselves a favor.  Put down the magazine.  Step away.  Throw a match and run.

Even worse than fashion magazines are the bottom feeders.  AKA: TABLOIDS.  To the people who run these magazines, write (?) for these magazines, and worst yet _ TAKE PHOTOS for these magazines, I say GET A F*CKING LIFE.  I don’t care what celebrities are up to.  Apart from their careers, they’re people just like you & I.  They get up, take dumps, bathe, try to earn a living.  They feed themselves and their kids if they have them.  They drink, or not.  They shop, maybe more than some – but who gives a crap?  These people may have gone into show business, but it doesn’t mean their private lives are open for show.  This is what tabloids do.  Rather than marketing handbags or concrete, they market the private lives of celebrities.  People who, despite public careers, should have a RIGHT TO PRIVACY.  Can you imagine what it must be like, not being able to leave your home without fear?  Having people follow you, take pictures of you, intrude on your physical space?  I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

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36 thoughts on “Magazine rant.

  1. Oh my god, YES. Whenever I – inadvertently – would see a picture of Britney Spears looking like a hot mess, I would be so thankful that no one follows ME to Walmart at 1:00 in the morning.

    And the thing about the photographers is that, not only are they invading their personal privacy, they’re often actually invading their personal SPACE.

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    1. It’s scary to think about Hayden. The thing that bothers me re: tabloids is the sense of entitlement people feel about access to celebrities. As though once you become an actor or musician or (insert whatever public career), it gives others THE RIGHT to intrude in your private life. The physical thing is beyond creepy. Having people camp outside your home or hotel, just to spy on you, take photographs? I can’t believe it’s not illegal.

      I feel bad for Britney Spears. I don’t know her personally, or much about her life – but everyone should have the right to privacy. She’s had to live much of hers in the public eye and the strain of that alone is pretty unimaginable.

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  2. Magazines, actual books, newspapers…with the internet I really wonder how long these things will last? I buy my oldest daughter a subscription to Seventeen; I enjoyed it when I was her age and she loves getting mail. I get two motorcycle magazine subscriptions for Dan who is often difficult to shop for. And somehow I’ve been getting Travel & Leisure…didn’t sign up, haven’t been billed! I do agree with you though, they really are full of advertisements. I used to think some of the trash mags were funny to check out while in line at the grocery store…the 3 legged baby, the alien stories, etc…but now they are pretty much centered around celebs. Good post 🙂

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    1. Hah! Good ole Bat Boy! I bought one of those Weekly World News in the late 80s, it was SO FUNNY! My girlfriends and I sat reading through, about how a woman was smothered by her own enormous breasts, etc. Some of its so crazy you almost think it must be true!!

      I read Seventeen as a teenager too — and many more. I don’t buy fashion magazines, but we get a host of others. I like magazines, as I said, but the ads — too much.

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  3. Agreed, excellent fodder for the mind. Those younger readers of magazines may not realize the wonder of a magazine built the way us baby boomers ( and older generations) remember. It’s such a shame when quality has been replaced with quantity. One magazine I get (Iron Works Magazine) has left the days of ads that are the majority of the pages. They’ve returned to the roots…where selling magazines to a reader who enjoys the article is as important as the ad quality of the ad space they sell. So refreshing to have more reading material than ads! And so sad most editors “don’t get it”. I hate fashion mags…women mags…lord. It’s all one big sales pitch.

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    1. Iron Works sounds like a quality publication; it reminds me of motorcycle version of “Cooks Illustrated” which is all content, very few (if any) ads. Funny, I enjoy looking at old magazines more for the ads than the articles. Must be the kitsch factor.

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  4. You are so right! Even my once favorite O magazine, oversaw by (cue angels singing “ahhhhhhhaaa ) integrity mongrel Oprah Winfrey has sold out in the ad. department.

    As for the trash rags, while I confess I dont mind seeing a shirtless Jonny Depp (cue cat calls ) frolicking in the surf with his kids now and then, I could really care less about Reese Witherspoon drinking a starbucks.

    Great blog!

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  5. It’s so funny you bring this up, because just yesterday, I was walking home from my hair “salon” (which is a basement in the East Village full of stylists who charge literally 6 times less than any real salon in the city), and I knew my hair looked CUH-RAZY, and I thought, “Wow, what a great time it is to not be famous.” I know we’re all dying to be famous, and celebrities get paid a lot for their trouble, but it still has to suck a lot of the time. And I definitely do not care what any of them are up to.

    I still read a couple of magazines because of the in-depth articles they write about issues that are otherwise given one paragraph on their websites. But yeah, ads are overtaking us. If we won’t watch commercials thanks to our DVRs, they just inject the product placement right into the shows. It’s ridiculous.

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    1. Katie, I can’t believe your hair EVER looks bad!

      Celebrities pay in so many ways for their fame. I’m sure many of them would be happy to turn back the clock, while others scramble hard for recognition. It’s all about temperament, I’m sure, as well as the level of intrusion. I am very happy living under my proverbial rock! LOL

      As for the ads — how crazy is it that every time you get a magazine in the mail, you open it up and 5 or 6 cards fall out – then you have to go through and rip out all the other heavy paper ad crap. If you went page by page and tore out all the ads you’d likely be left with 10 pages.

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  6. I completely agree, Dishy! I would love it if photo magazines (for example) didn’t contain a full price list/catalog from ever manufacturer, supplier and reseller in the world and much more… stuff.

    AND it’s very sad how tabloid writers/reporters can tell you which quasi celebrity wore what to the beach yet have seemingly no interest in any newsworthy item, whatsoever. I was thrilled to learn that aliens have landed again, though. Now THAT’S news! Does my ass look big in this UFO? 🙂

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  7. So right! Fashion mags are the worst! I’d say Vogue and Harper’s Bizarre are the biggest advert mags out on the market.

    How many subscriptions do you have? I’ve got 6 I think. Husband’s got 4. That’s a lot of glossy former trees.

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    1. We used to collect National Geographics, so many we had two entire bookcases devoted to them all, but the move forced us to get rid of them. Now we just keep the past year or two’s worth of issues from our subscription. So freeing!

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  8. Oh boy yes, part of the reason that my last magazine is toast when the subscription runs out (Homemakers if you must know – it was a gift). I got so sick of the ads and crap telling me how ugly I was when I subscribed to ‘Elle’ that I let it go so easily. I am down to the last subscription and have no plans to ever subscribe again. The library has plenty of magazines I can browse through if I ever feel inclined to peruse the ads again.
    Of course you and I and the average person don’t care about celeb lives, but those magazines wouldn’t be out there if people didn’t buy them by the millions. Perez Hilton didn’t become famous because nobody wanted to read him, right? Some of those photos will sell in the 100 000s and it’s all about the money, right? Sad sad state of things for sure.

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    1. Oh I know; it’s that part of the equation – the demand – that’s as disturbing as the supply. People buy these things because “People WANT to know!” The last time I flipped through a People magazine (I kid you not) I put it down and felt physically sick, like I needed to take a shower.

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  9. I’m in total agreement! Particularly about Old House Journal, but more generally with everything you wrote. When you compare current magazines with many (not all) from the past, what you notice is that there is much more content and much better writing in the latter. More content, please!
    Thanks for the post! Donna (streetsofsalem.com)

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  10. I agree with your post. There’s only one thing magazines make me do. COVET! Covet someone’s body, hair, skin, style. The home/garden is another story. I would always feel completely inadequate after reading BH&G or MS’s Living. I love Martha, but she is the worst! Though, she is “Martha Stewart” and no one can be as perfect as she can, and so I leave it at that.
    There are too many advertisments these days, but ads and marketing are what makes the world go ’round.
    I dream of a world, not with peace, but with less advertising. LOL

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  11. I hate it when you have to flip through half the magazine just to get to the table of contents. I think part of the problem is that in today’s world it’s much harder for a publication to make money, so they end up taking on more and more advertisements. It seems almost everything is now geared to sell you something, and content has taken a back seat to selling.

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    1. Yes, Binky – that is the sad truth. And some online publishers are looking to make their content “subscription only” – my mom and I were talking about The New York Times, for instance, this weekend.

      No such thing as a free lunch.

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  12. I hear ya!
    We got “Parents, the Early Years” and “Family Circle” though a discount site (both for 3 years for $15? heck yeah!)… so on one hand, I’m hardly paying for the publications, so I don’t really mind all of the ads.
    It seems that everything is an ad though. Even when I was getting Bon Appetite, it seemed as though every article was pushing something; a OXO mandolin, a LaLane juicer, La Cruset, etc… Pretty sure I can make a cake with a manual juicer, but whatever.
    Even in the “fashion” articles… “Clothing by Carters”, “Makeup by Avon”… sure it’s great to know where to get that, and credit where credit is due, but gah… you know?!

    I sometimes DO like the ads though because they show me things that I didn’t know existed… like in All About Beer.

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    1. Oh I agree Steph – there is some value to ads, especially early on when a product is just launching. There is a need to get the word out there. But it’s the saturation I find disgusting. How many times must I hear THE SAME COMMERCIAL back to back to back on the radio??!! And that’s just one place.

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  13. My problem with magazines is that I can’t find one that I want to buy regularly. I like bits and pieces of some mags, but none of them do I want to commit to. It is, after all, a lifestyle choice and a seriously important accessory. Perhaps I should start my own.

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    1. Yeah, between newspapers going under and everyone moving to online content, it’s likely just a matter of time. I do think there will be a bigger push to make people pay for the big websites, like New York Times. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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  14. With so much information available on the internet I think magazines are rather outdated. Can’t even remember the last time I bought one. I agree with your point on advertising. I only read magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms & there’s hardly anything worth reading because it’s page after page of ads.

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