As popular publication In Style has recently announced its’ departure from the traditional print format, there is one very important question being asked: are our favourite print magazines truly suffering at the hands of their digital counterparts and what are we doing to save them?
Unfortunately, it is not breaking news that print magazines have had a rusty few years due to the ever-increasing use of digital platforms and social media. As students, I am sure we are all guilty of saving our coveted £2 for a much-needed coffee in the library, rather than treating ourselves to our favourite glossy mag.
Since the introduction of digital magazines in 2010, we now know that with a quick swipe on our phones, laptops or tablets we can view the latest fashion trends, celebrity gossip and current affairs in 2 seconds.
Most of the concern surrounding declining print magazine sales circulated through articles and social media a couple of years ago, however, looking at reports from the Association of Magazine Media, recurring patterns suggest this is also a contemporary issue. For example, between August 2015 and August 2016, Country Living (a popular home style magazine) saw an increase of 60.1% in their digital sales and only an increase of 0.4% in their print sales. This pattern is also underlined by all-round, all-time favourite fashion bible glossy, Vogue, who saw their digital sales increase by 38.4% but their print sales increase by only 7.1%.
However, this boost in digital sales should not be seen as all doom-and-gloom for print magazines. As Barbara Rowlands argues in the Guardian, “Declining sales do not mean the end for glossies.”, but rather, “More platforms mean better ways of connecting people with their passions.”
Many popular and high reaching magazines have had to adapt their content and brand to suit their audience’s changing needs in order to provide a sufficient model of the magazine that is available digitally. So with the majority of popular magazines having digital counterparts, what are these magazines now doing differently in order to ensure the purchase of their glossy, paper editions?
“More platforms mean better ways of connecting people with their passions.”
In 2015, Maria Rodale – CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc. publishing – suggested that one of the ways magazines should ensure a continuation of their print sales is by focusing on REAL people and REAL features within the magazine as a way to combat the insurgence of #nofilter and seemingly airbrushed pictures constantly floating around social media.
Perhaps Rodale’s words were finally heard because the November 2016 issue of Vogue, with cover star Emily Blunt, is titled Vogue’s REAL issue and a ‘Model-Free Zone’; it features a photo shoot of ‘real’ life women in designer attire, something that readers can relate to. This sounds like a dream of many of us, I’m sure! Does this issue of Vogue show to us as consumers that the magazine is truly trying to reconnect with its readers and encourage sales of their print editions?
”magazines are increasingly recognising the influence social media has”
Another question that has been the subject of recent debate is whether magazines are now relying on popular celebrities to grace their cover issues in order to sustain print sales? In November 2015, Cosmopolitan featured the Kardashian-Jenner clan on their 50th anniversary issue cover, which enabled them to gain 9 million views on their Snapchat story of an anniversary party of which the Kardashian’s and Jenner’s were of attendance. Yes that’s right, 9 million views. This shows how magazines are increasingly recognising the influence social media has with their target audiences and how editors can use this influence to their advantage.
The only downside to this is perhaps magazines are devaluing their brand and content in order to make their print issues attractive to readers. This has arguably led the way for the rise in niche, independent magazines in the past few years, that focus on their subject matter and content. These publications are suggested to be unique forms of art that are attracting a variety of audiences as finding outlets for their particular passions.
”Print magazines have the same sensory quality as books”
Even with these efforts by magazines to sustain print sales, will they stand the test of time in the face of the digital market? Looking to the future, the Huffington Post shows that sales of kindles and e-books, which were initially considered new and exciting, have levelled out at about 30% of sales in recent years, with people remembering why they loved paper-back books in the first place.
Print magazines have the same sensory quality as books: the feel of the silky pages, the sight of the visually alluring images, the smell of the new edition in your hands are all elements that could be the defining reason as to why print magazines will never disappear from our lives.