This morning I read Vix’s latest Exciting Email and was inspired in a way that I haven’t been for a long time. I’m a magazine junkie and, somewhat bizarrely, it was my love of print that ignited my passion for blogging over a decade ago. It gave me a platform for my own writing. And, as a Journalism graduate who specialised in print, I can’t resist a good ‘print is not dead’ debate.
Vix discussed the decline of print magazines and its relation to the rise of influencer content created, for the most part, by people without a journalistic background. It certainly got me thinking about the quality of the content we’re seeing and the relatability and integrity of those who are creating it, but I also pondered the age old question: Are magazines still relevant?
I’ve been a magazine junkie since I could read, starting with the likes of Bunty, Sugar and Smash Hits, before moving up to Bliss and Empire.
I first came across Empire in my early film geek days. At the age of 15 I was going to the cinema every week and browsing alternative cinema shelves in MVC when I stumbled across a magazine stand. I couldn’t believe there were magazines dedicated to film and I suddenly realised what I wanted to be when I grew up: a film journalist. It was the perfect way of combining my love of writing and film.
I went on to study English, Film and Media at college and got a place at the University of Winchester studying Film and Journalism. I never had any interest in filmmaking, simply growing my knowledge of film, and it was the only place where I could study film and Journalism together with no compulsory filmmaking modules.
A year later I moved back home and ended up doing a Foundation Degree in Newspaper and Magazine Journalism (back in 2007-2009 – can you imagine such a niche degree now?), where I got a distinction and went on to do the third year of Writing for the Media and graduated with a First. At all times I focused on print journalism and film history/theory but did have modules in online journalism and radio, which helped with blogging and the potential for podcasting.
At my peak (when I had more spare time and a disposable income), I was subscribing to about eight magazines, combining women’s lifestyle, film and more arty lifestyle mags. I cancelled most of these when I did my PGCE in 2011-2012 and lost my passion for film somewhat, although my love of a beautifully designed magazine and quality paper never went away (anyone else smell and/or stroke their magazines?).
With more content being made available for free online, and with the growing popularity of blogs, magazine sales soon started dropping and I often wondered about the relevance of my degree. Fortunately I also gained vital skills in media law, copywriting, editing and research, etc, which have served me well as I’ve grown my career in marketing.
Between 2011 and 2017, the magazine industry saw a general decline in sales, with figures dropping from 820.1 million to just over 422 million [Statista]. Yet most of these titles are still finding a readership thanks to the world wide web and non-print platforms. According to the National Readership Survey, 71% of people in the UK aged 15 and over consume a magazine brand either in print or digitally – mobile data adds a further 126% audience reach to individual magazine brand footprints.
I’ve been blogging in one way or another for nearly 14 years and my relationship with magazines has evolved in that time. I’m more particular about the titles I buy and would much rather invest in the odd arty magazine on occasion (Flow is a favourite) than pick up a cheap women’s glossy packed with ads. I choose to curate my own content via Bloglovin and see new fashion trends on ‘real’ women who I can actually relate to.
The way I consume content has certainly changed over the last five years but I strongly believe that there is still a place for magazines and newspapers. For me, digital content is more immediate and newsy. It’s also something I tend to scroll through rather than absorb fully. A magazine ties in a lot with self-care. It’s about taking the time to sit down and relax, being more conscious of what I’m consuming and being inspired. Maybe that’s why, these days, I tend to gravitate towards the likes of Breathe, In the Moment and The Happy Newspaper. The content doesn’t tend to date, so it’s ok if I don’t have time to pick up my subscriber’s copy for a couple of weeks. These publications also have other platforms, such as a website and social media accounts, so that I can still consume in bite-size chunks at my leisure.
I like to think there will always be a place for print magazines. Perhaps the future of the industry lies in independent and niche publishing. Who knows how things will change over the next five to ten years?