Updated: 05/07/2013

Print Media 10




Magazines -

Historical Background

Part II





>>With the approach of international conflict in Europe and the beginning of World War I, magazines started featuring articles on international issues.

Facing threats from Germany, the British conducted an open campaign to lure the United States into the looming war -- going so far as to plant stories of German atrocities in magazines (that they knew that U.S. magazines had a habit of copying). Many of the stories were false, but they still had the effect of starting to inflame U.S. attitudes against Germany.

Even so, there was considerable opposition in the United States to becoming embroiled in a world war. President Woodrow Wilson, who reportedly regularly read English magazines, was convinced that the United States should enter the war.

Eventually he was able to won over a major part of the U.S. population. As the implications of the situation become more evident, people in the United States started relying more and more on newspapers and magazines for information on the worsening conditions.

>>With the heightened interest in world events, another opportunity presented itself -- an entire magazine devoted to news.

In 1923, Henry Luce, who had just graduated from Yale, begged and borrowed $86,000 from friends and relatives to start Time magazine. The first edition is shown here.

It was four years before Time saw a profit, but it went on to make magazine history.

Among other things, Time established a distinct style of reporting and writing. The term "timespeak" was coined to cover the magazine's "cut-to-the-chase," sometimes irreverent, but always authoritative approach.

>>A decade or so later, two other newsmagazines appeared: U.S. News (later to be known as U.S. News and World Report) and Newsweek.

By 2002, a trend was seen in newsmagazines to move away from hard news and shift their focus toward more feature (soft news) articles. By the time people get these magazines they are already familiar with news events from watching cable news channels. Although the news channels may be able to provide more up-to-the-minute information, they do not provide the depth and perspective associated with newsmagazines.


The Reader's Digest

>>Although most general interest magazines have ceased publication, a noteworthy exception is the Reader's Digest.

Founded in 1922 by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, the Digest has tried throughout the years to offer something to everyone by condensing (digesting) articles from a wide variety of publications.

The Digest publishes several foreign language editions. The version represented on the left above is in Tai and one on the right is in Russian.

A large part of this magazine's subscription success in the United States is based on extensive use of contests and targeted mail.


Women's Magazines

>>Women's magazines represent the largest and most financially successful magazine category. Advertisers are fond of these publications because they target  the segment of the population that buys the most consumer products.

One of the most successful groups of women's magazines was tagged the Seven Sisters  -- Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Redbook, and Woman's' Day.

Reaching much younger female demographics are magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and YM. Cosmopolitan started out as a general interest magazine, even featuring many noteworthy muckraking investigative pieces. However, when TV came along and spelled the demise of most of the general interest magazines, "Cosmo" had a new birth as a magazine for young woman with an interest in men, sex, and personal success.


Men's Magazines

>>And, speaking of sex, that's a topic that has long been a staple of men's magazines. The first major "glossy" men's magazine was Esquire, which was founded in 1933. Esquire featured pinups and impressive literary features.

In 1953, Hugh Hefner, who was originally on the staff of Esquire, founded Playboy. The first edition contained nude photos of Marilyn Monroe -- before she became something of a film star. Hefner didn't put a date on the magazine because he didn't know if there would ever be a second edition. However, it sold out as soon as it hit the newsstands. Subscriptions to Playboy soon surpassed those of Esquire.

Playboy sales suffered for a time when moralists such as Attorney General Edward Meese branded the publication "pornographic," and was able to get it banned (a least for a time) in stores such as the 7-Eleven.

Meese, who's anti-pornography views were well known, was put in charge of a government commission to determine if pornography was harmful. The previous government studies had found that there was no proof that non-violent pornography was harmful -- except possibly to traditional sexual views.

It was the latter that motivated the conservative Republican administration to try to prove that explicit sexual content was harmful, and so another study was commissioned. But, as – noted in this previously cited research review, even this new study was something of a disappointment to the administration.

>>Other popular magazines include Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Field & Stream. And there are numerous magazines devoted to cars, motorcycles and computers that have large male readerships.


Highbrow Magazines

>>Magazines such as Harper's, The New Yorker, and Atlantic appeal to the so-called intelligentsia.

These magazines, which date back to the 1850s, typically go into depth on cultural and political issues. But, they have a limited audience, and, as a result, they have had a hard time surviving.

At the same time, their influence among selected audiences can be significant. The New Republic, Nation, and Progressive have liberal traditions.

Others, such as William Buckley's National Review appeal to conservatives. The latter publication, which in some ways, is much more impressive than it's liberal counterparts, loses more than $100,000 a year. It is kept afloat largely by donations from conservative factions.

Television TV news channels such as MSNBC and Fox News have in large measure taken over as sources of information for the liberal and conservative viewpoints.


Trade Publications

>>The "trades," as we've mentioned, are limited circulation magazines designed to serve professionals working in specialized areas.

Some, especially those that derive most of their income from paid subscriptions, serve their professions with timely, accurate, and unbiased articles.

Along with the Internet and professional conferences, these publications are relied upon by a wide variety of professionals to say current with developments in their fields.

In particular, the trade publications of McGraw-Hill and Crain are noted for their honest, hard-hitting reporting of the industries they cover.

>>Other trades -- primarily those that depend heavily on advertising for their survival -- feature "reviews" of products and services that are simply puff pieces designed to support the views of advertisers.

Rather than present objective articles, these publications carefully avoid anything that would hurt their advertisers and do little more than expand on the concepts put forth in their paid advertising.

It's often a tip-off, if you note that a trade publication with large ad for a product also features a positive article on the same product.

>>In the next chapter we'll finish this topic, and then turn to economics and careers. 

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