In a digitalized fashion world that is constantly reinventing itself online, it is no secret that print magazines’ sales are suffering. It is estimated that the overall time individuals spend with magazines has fallen 19% since 2010, and their respective financial reportings show unstable earnings throughout recent years. However, this is also a key moment for magazines to thrive; fashion and beauty are the categories that hold the strongest appeal to millennials in printed media, and they are attracting 50% more young readers than in the past. So why aren’t sales as high as they used to be?
Studies demonstrate that millennials would rather consume magazines in hardcopy format, but one of the reasons that traditional print media continues to suffer, is because it does not engage personally with its readers. Especially considering the democratic, increasingly niche characteristics of social media communities and online brands, magazines may be behind the times in terms of how they approach content as well.
Condé Nast has made headlines continuously this past year for cutting print publications from their roster. These changes also implicate a reduction of staff members and budgets; last year, Condé Nast closed Details, resulting in a loss of 55 jobs. TeenVogue’s issues have also been lessened from the usual ten per year, to four annual instalments. Additionally, sales have not been consistent. As of June 2016, Glamour suffered a decline for audience in viewing for combined print and digital editions of 10.5%, as well as InStyle, facing a loss of 3.8%. Nevertheless, it was good news for Vogue, whose increase was 7.1%. These variations depend on content, and today's ever relevant question of who - who is being featured on the cover, who is being talked about, and who is the new young fashion icon, to name a few examples.
Much of said decline obviously has to do with the arrival of digital space, which is infinite, cheaper to exploit, and mastered by millennials. But maintaining magazines as dual platforms – print and digital – is not easy. Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicted an increase last year in consumer spending for general media like newspapers and books, except not for magazines. They explained that magazines “offer longer-form thought comment,” which make it harder for their content to fit into a bidirectional media landscape. Specialized content also requires much more time for planning and production and so it cannot satisfy today’s desired immediacy.
Although print magazines have experienced a decline in readership, studies show that millennials are actually still interested in them. In a 2012 study, former Senior Vice President of Market Research at Condé Nast Scott McDonald found that in certain categories, 18-24-year-olds are actually reading more magazines than ever before. Fashion and beauty comes up as the leading subject area, and millennials are more attracted to it than previous generations have been when they were the same age 10 to 20 years ago. “Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically 'grew out' of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s,” McDonald told AdWeek.
The Association of Magazine Media (MPA), a nonprofit trade association for the magazine industry, showed optimism with their 2016/17 report, citing an audience growth in 2015 for both men’s and women’s fashion publications. From its average in 2014 compared to 2015, the growth in men’s resulted in a 46.5% increase, and 17.4% for the women’s category.
Even so, traditional print magazines have faced tough times. This situation is certainly multifactorial, but I believe that a lot of it has to do with magazines producing content that speaks less to their readers, instead of strictly online competition as it is often assumed. For one, independent fashion magazines are going against the grain of mainstream fashion publications, making newsstands inviting and interesting with a bevy of new titles that are, in essence, different and less commercial than their orthodox counterparts. A variety of vivid colors, striking images, and dynamic stories, and often printed on higher quality paper unquestionably makes them stand out. By simply looking at the printed contingencies of Dazed or i-D, one can feel a more genuine approach towards fashion. Similarily, zines are more like personal projects, which explore a wide variety of topics. They focus on important conversations, like diversity, which is not always represented by traditional print media.
Being a loyal Vogue reader, I can say that reading print is simply out of this world. Neuroscience explains this well, as reading in paper stimulates emotions and desires, and drives sensory involvement that contributes to an impact on its readers. The whole experience is luxurious, satisfying, and entirely personal – something that, for me, cannot ever be replaced by a bright screen. However, the approach taken by independent fashion magazines feels totally distinct. There’s something about them that makes everything more realistic. Traditional print media has always been known for selling dreams and upscale lifestyles that – frankly – we all desire, but the achievable and unique way of living featured in zines feels more identifiable, and hence, attractive. They speak to youth culture and attract underrepresented voice from younger generations, like millennials, encouraging them to opt for an alternative approach to historic media sources.
Today, it’s all about being different, standing out, and being individualistic but inclusive at the same time. And that is something that is thoroughly found at independent magazines. They offer an alternative view to the fashion world, something rarely found in traditional print. Millennials now know where to go, and we hope they take the industry with them.
Main Image by Tia Elisabeth Glista