The Unfortunate Fall of the Magazine Business

Allison De La Bastida

No one wants to be remembered as the editor in charge when a magazine finally loses to its waiting successor: technology. This September, four editors-in-chief from the top three biggest U.S. magazine publishers have announced their resignations: Robbie Myers from Elle, Cindi Leive from Glamour, Graydon Carter from Vanity Fair and Nancy Gibbs from Time.

“I want to leave while the magazine is on top,” Carter said. This comes as no surprise: Carter wants to jump out of the boat before the Titanic sinks, before the window of the so-called Golden Age of the magazine business closes indefinitely. However, no one can blame the editors for not wanting to stick around.

Accessibility and finance are key factors when analyzing the downfall of the magazine industry. With the rise of the Internet, information is not only everywhere, but it is mostly free. Instead of running to the grocery store to get the latest issue of a magazine, everyone can search the web and find what they are looking for within seconds. There is no urgency to devour the pages. By the time the publication hit the stands, the information is old. The only remaining allure of the magazine is the exclusive tell-all interview of the cover star. But even most, if not all, of that interview can be found online.

To contour the path the Internet opened, magazine executives aspired to rebrand. They implemented budget cuts, shrunk printing, downsized and brought guest celebrity editors to draw in more audience. Yet even with more dedication to print, web was still reigning, and these companies were still struggling.

“Facebook and Google have taken away so much of the ad revenue, editors-in-chief find most of their job today is firing colleagues they love and respect and doing three times as much with a third of the resources,” former Condé Nast Editor and founder of The Daily Beast Tina Brown said to Media Ink.

It is unfortunate to see the once strong magazine industry collapse because of technology. Generations were deeply marked by the contents of magazines, and the hype of the supermodel back in the 1980s heavily relied on magazine covers. While magazines have their downsides, as they were not accessible to everyone back in their golden days, there is nothing like the magic of flipping through the glossy pages of a magazine. Opening a publication tailored with carefully edited pictures and reading articles and interviews while holding them in my hands makes my day a good day, regardless of anything that may have happened.

Lucinda Chambers, former British Vogue fashion editor, reflected on the hardship of print media in an interview. Chambers, who held her job for 25 years, was recently fired because of these rebranding strategies.

“Fashion can chew you up and spit you out,” she wrote about the industry, a feeling that can’t be unknown to the other editors. “It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful.”

Ironically, three-fourths of the editors resigned from the fashion industry. They, however, seem to leave holding a key ideology: fashion always come back in style. After all, the fashion scene is getting more and more inspired by the style of the 1970s and 1990s. Leaving that legacy behind, we cannot help but wonder whether a new, updated form of magazines will rise in the future. I will be waiting in the magazine aisle at the grocery store to see how they turn it around.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Allison De La Bastida at [email protected]

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