The debate over the supposed decline of traditional printed magazine and newspaper publications, in favour of news websites, has been raging on for the past several years. Websites like The Business of Fashion suggest that the rise in internet domination has been caused by economic crisis, however this is not simply the case. The success of fashion bloggers, and the immediacy of the internet in general, have threatened to topple the glossies as we currently know them.
In a bid to maintain audiences, printed publications have migrated some, if not all, of their content online. In a world of fast-fashion, it’s inevitable that the internet holds a great deal of power over its already established counterparts. The internet poses the threat of technological advancements. Smart devices such as tablets and mobile phones mean that news is available at an arms length at any given moment of the day. Consumers are opting to read easily attainable news from their electronic devices, rather than waiting for the next edition of their favourite printed magazine.
Where does this leave print magazines?
Who can really blame them? Quicker and more accessible, as well as interactive, online magazines offer greater reader engagement than print. Companies are able to see real time user interaction on their websites, allowing them to adapt their content to their audience. The figures speak for themselves. Sales of magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan have fallen by 20 per cent, while the usage of fashion websites has seen a steady rise of unique users. This sparks the question- where does this leave traditional print magazines?
Vogue has attempted to challenge their online opposition by launching Teen Vogue. By investing in a younger market they are able to tap into the new generation of fashion lovers. It is important to acknowledge that traditional print magazines are generally aimed at an older generation of readers. Self-aware, working women who would read magazines as a form of escapism after a busy day at work. Unfortunate as it is, it is a sign of the times that women no longer have the time to spend reading. Therefore magazines have had to change their marketing strategy to focus on the younger consumer market that have more time on their hands.
However changing marketing strategy doesn’t always go to plan. Take Company magazine for example. The magazine, aimed at young digitally savvy women, closed its pages last year and migrated online following a huge 30 per cent decrease in magazine sales . Despite producing content for a younger audience, it came a little too late to save its printed copies.
Speaking of its closure, former editor-in-chief Victoria White said: “We know you loved our matt paper, crazy fonts and creative fashion coming at you from every page. But the good news is that the website will carry on and keep the spirit of Company alive online.”
That said, despite the scaremongering revolving around the dire decline of magazines, it’s not all doom and gloom. Harper’s Bazaar reported a 0.8 per cent increase in magazine sales last year. Whilst this may seem minimal, in terms of circulation this equates to 120,000 copies. Yes, it is inevitable that print publications will transfer some of its content online, but there is still a demand for physical copies of our beloved fash mags.
This may be because magazines offer something that digital content seems to struggle to compete with. They are able to create something tangible and permanent. Digital news and features are almost like phatic conversation. Once read they are absorbed and forgotten. Unlike online articles that disappear into the murky depths of a website’s archives, magazines are permanent, cemented to their stands in newsagents, in our homes or even in our workplaces.
They have more scope than websites to create beautiful visual copy that is admired time and time again, not like a website which merely gets scrolled down. That said, magazines do not demand to be read. They do not guide you from place to place with imperatives to ‘read more’ or ‘read the latest.’ They quietly sit on your coffee table or nightstand; patiently waiting for the few moments you have to sit down and flick through.
Fashion needs an authoritative voice
Regardless of this the digital sphere does manage to create something of a community. The internet allows the consumer to become a content creator, or citizen journalist, where they can share and reflect on personal experiences. However, like all news, fashion needs an authoritative voice.
A magazine can provide informed factual information through the careful selection of the people it employs. Magazines allow for greater article length, meaning that a topic can be explored and investigated to a greater extent. Readers are able to engage with the content that is placed before them and more importantly learn from it. The simplicity of engaging with paper is what makes a printed magazine more alluring than its digital counterpart. Articles or pictures that inspire can be torn and placed on the wall or in a notebook, ready to spark your imagination.
Yes, the internet is big business. It IS easy to use, accessible, quick and interactive. But, magazines offer a sense of luxury. Perhaps it’s best not to pit the two against one another? There seems to be a great deal of emphasis on whether you belong to camp paper of camp digi, however has anyone though that a combination of the two might be the best compromise?
A multimedia approach, where the two can exist simultaneously and work together is a way of ensuring that whilst we adapt to a modern era and utilize the internet, there is nothing wrong with cherishing tradition- something that only a printed magazine can offer. So, instead of being branded ‘digital natives’ why don’t we opt to call ourselves something different? I think digital traditionalists has quite a nice ring to it.
What do you think? What is the future for fashion magazines? Have your say in the comments section below.