It’s been a pretty depressing outlook for the majority of print media over the last few years. Titles closing, jobs being consolidated and fewer and fewer outlets providing real quality journalism that doesn’t just re-hash the same sex tips every six months. With circulations rapidly in decline as young men and women in particular look for more instantaneous news and inspiration, more publishing houses are trying to change the way they operate in an attempt to stay afloat. What was once a pretty stable and cash rich industry (thanks to the constant support of big brands paying to be seen within their pages,) has become volatile, somewhat outdated and in jeopardy of disappearing altogether. Last week one of the UK’s biggest monthly women’s glossies, Glamour, announced they would no longer be publishing the magazine in the format we’d known and loved for so long; they’re now to be an ‘online beauty destination’ with a supporting glossy magazine published seasonally only twice a year.
Although this was greeted with thoughts of ‘another one bites the dust’ I was genuinely a little shocked, surprised and sad at this news. (Even more so when editor Jo Elvin announced she’d also be leaving the title.) I’ve been a Glamour reader since it was first launched in the UK and for years absorbed the magazine from cover to cover; although in recent years I felt somewhat distanced from it as a title, thanks to the cover price reducing to a single pound I started to pick it up again and rediscover my love for pouring over glossy pages with a cup of tea in hand. Yes the content was usually a re-hash of stuff I’d already read ten times, and the beauty pages looked like an edit of things that had landed in my inbox weeks before, but that hour sat on my sofa munching on biscuits with it in hand was one I was glad of. They may have failed to capture the attention of a visual and instantly-gratified younger generation, but over the years Glamour has made a lot of positive change – from championing charitable causes and women’s issues, to interviewing politicians and focusing on careers when every other woman’s title was still giving us tips on how to give the perfect b**w j*b. So how did this happen and what does the further demise of magazines mean for the print industry? And what does it mean for digital media too?
RE-HASHTING THE SAME CONTENT ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH
When I was a teenager I spent most of my mornings before school in the newsagent buying up every magazine there was and reading every single word. Every one of those titles (Top of the Pops, Smash Hits, TV Hits, Bliss, Sugar, J17, Live & Kicking…) offered me something different and a reason to hand over my pocked money. Over the years this concept has been totally lost and so many of the mags are just offering the same thing we’ve seen in five other titles at least five times before; it’s become even worse with the consolidation of roles and writing teams, where now one article or interview can be re-hashed in three or four different titles and even sent to international teams too. The result of this is that we’re just not getting anything new or anything worth parting with our money for; it’s no wonder that both the glossies and weeklies have been closing at such a rapid place. In order to stand out and build a loyal following, magazines (and papers) need to offer something refreshing, different and unique. They need to go back to great journalism, rather than lazy edits or click-baity titles that undermine what they’re about.
WE’RE GETTING BORED OF CELEBRITY CULTURE
In my opinion, we reached ‘peak celebrity’ about three years ago. We’d become so immersed in the lives of so many reality stars that it just started to get boring; who cares if so-and-so from TOWIE has had an argument with her boyfriend, or that Kim K is wearing next to nothing on the red carpet? We’d seen it all before and it really wasn’t worth buying a magazine to find out what we’d already seen on the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. Social media broke down barriers too, allowing us unequivocal access to our favourite faces without the need to spend money for the privilege; we could see what they were doing while they were doing it, and get our hit of fashion the moment they clicked ‘publish’. What’s the benefit of buying a magazine filled with paparazzi pictures when you’ve got a front row seat to what’s actually happening in their lives, if you care enough to pay attention? This change in access was also paired with the biggest economic and political changes we’d experienced in decades: Trump’s presidency, Brexit, endless terrorist attacks… They kind of put Cara Delivigne’s new haircut into perspective.
HAVING A BIG BRAND NAME ISN’T EVERYTHING
Glamour is one of the biggest magazine names globally, with local titles in over twenty countries. They’ve always had the support of the best names in the business, thanks to their annual Glamour Women Of The Year Awards, and have never struggled to get the hottest famous faces on their cover. They host events, have launched their own beauty and fashion lines, and even have a podcast hosted by editor Jo Elvin. If they couldn’t make it work, than can anyone? It just goes to prove that having a big brand name behind you doesn’t mean everything if it doesn’t translate into sales. They failed to give women a reason to pick up their magazine in the long-term (even after reducing their cover price to only a quid) and are unfortunately suffering the consequences.
YOU NEED TO EVOLVE & REFRESH CONSTANTLY
There’s no denying that we get bored very easily. Our attention spans are lower than they’ve ever been and we’ve become increasingly visual, getting our quick fix from a scroll on Instagram or click on our news app. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t absolutely a place for great quality journalism and beautifully written pieces – you just have to constantly evolve and refresh what you’re doing to stay relevant. An edit of winter skin tips has been done a million times before, as has ‘who wore it best’ and asking Blake Lively what her favourite lipstick is; we’re intelligent women (and men) who want more from that moment with a newspaper or magazine. We desire and deserve thought provoking content that teaches us something new, or provides information in a fresh and exciting way – think that scene from ’13 Going On 30′ (one of the best films ever) when Jenna totally flips what the magazine is about and turns it into a success. It’s not about adding in a feature or two, but it’s about creating something that’s relevant to the reader of 2017 and beyond. That’s what will separate those that can and will survive, and those that will flounder around before their inevitable closure too.
All of these issues are just as relevant to the digital media industry right now as they are the print. As bloggers, vloggers, instagrammers and influencers, we need to ensure we’re not just bashing out the same old content or blending into a sea of ‘same-y-ness’. We need to not rely on the brand name we’ve build up, instead trying always to push boundaries and use our platforms to inspire and motivate in whichever way is relevant to our audiences. Right now we’re experiencing a huge boom, but this will not last forever: just as the general public have become tiresome of magazines, they’ll inevitably become just as tiresome with the millions of blogs doing the same thing. We can learn from the print industry and attempt to protect ourselves from the same fate in five or ten years time, but the most important lesson to learn is that nobody is ever immune from failure. It’s more important than ever to stand out, find your niche, build up loyalty with your audience and give them a reason to coming back for more.
What that is is up to you.
What do you feel about the changes Glamour is making? Are you sad to see the back of so many magazines, or are you excited to see how the digital space will evolve in the next decade?
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