4 March 2015
In 1741, the first two magazines in North America were published by Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Bradford. Franklin competed with Bradford to see who could publish their magazine first. Bradford’s American Magazine, or Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies beat Franklin’s The General Magazine, and Historical Chronicle for all the British Plantations in America by just three days (American Magazine). Magazines have come a long way since the 1700s and target specific audiences in today’s society. As a medium, magazines are tangible, book-like bound packets of information on any possible topic. Magazines target specific audiences such as pre-teens/teenagers, young men, young women, expecting parents, middle age parents, and grandparents. By targeting a specific audience, the publishers of magazines are able to relate to a certain genre and topic.
The first “teenage magazine” created in the United States was Seventeen in 1944 (History). Pre-teen and Teenage directed magazines such as J-14, Girl’s Life, and Seventeen use vibrant colors to gain the attention of their desired audience. They typical portray a well-known celebrity on the cover with a flashy headline. Magazines for this age group express themselves as a medium by containing posters that you can tear out and hang up, surveys for the reader to take, and quizzes such as “What actress are you most like?” By using such tactics in the set-up of the magazine, the publishers are able to acquire and keep the attention of the reader. However, teenagers do not stay teenagers forever and grow up into young men and women with magazines directed specifically for them.
Men’s Health and Sports Illustrated are two of the most popular magazines that target young men, ages 18-35. These magazines relay information about recent Sports topics and also give tips for men to use on how to lose weight or stay fit. Built like any other magazine, Men’s Health grabs the eye of the reader by having a shirtless man with chiseled abs on the front. Sports Illustrated is known for either having a recently important athlete on the cover, or a woman in a bikini for sex appeal. Sports Illustrated is credited with the first photographs through the use of an object in sports for a better angle (for example, in the net at a hockey game or through the glass backboard during an NBA championship) in 1965 (Sports Illustrated). Contrary to these genres of magazines are magazines directed towards a young women audience.
Vogue and Cosmopolitan are two of the most famous magazines focused towards young women, roughly age 20-40. Vogue made its first appearance in American in 1892 and contained basic yet direct titles such as the 1916 September issue, “Forecast of Autumn Fashions”. Although modernized, Vogue is still directed towards the same audience as it was in the late 1800s and keeps women up to date on the latest fashion trends. Magazines as these typically portray a beautiful woman in appealing clothes on the cover to make the reader want to know how to have a body image like the model. Through the use of neutral colors with a pop of red or pink, magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan bring the reader in to what’s “hot” in the fashion world. Many times, these magazines will have multiple pages of perfume samples where the reader can lift a tab and smell a fragrance. This hands on experience is one of the many reasons women still love to get their magazines at the end-cap at the grocery store. For the women who are a little bit older and ready to start a family, a different category of magazine is specifically for them.
Fit Pregnancy and Babytalk are two of the most popular examples of magazines directed towards expecting parents (mothers in particular). By using big names such as Kourtney Kardashian on the cover, publishers are drawing in readers not only for the reason of parenting advice, but also to see what the celebrities are doing during their pregnancies. These magazines give expecting mothers an idea of what vitamins and supplements they should be taking, what vaccines are said to be controversial, what is fashionable to wear when pregnant, and what to expect when having their baby. They are also known for giving advice for the first year of parenting and have been referred to as the “Bible for new moms”. These magazines use pictures and description to let the reader know what is normal and when to seek help with a new baby in the house. Many new parents immediately think the worst when they hear their baby’s first cough, but with the help of magazines like Babytalk, they may learn at what point they should begin to worry. There are also references to designers when coming up with ideas for decorating the baby’s new room.
Magazines like People and Bon Appetit are directed toward the middle age parent. By providing entertainment for the reader, People keeps its audience up to date on all the drama in Hollywood. People is also a fairly new magazine as it started in 1974 featuring photos of the beautiful Mia Farrow, a major star of the era. A magazine like Bon Appetit is designed to enlighten the reader on cooking habits by providing recipes, how-to’s, photo’s, and responses of those with first-hand experience. These magazines are perfect for a reader who has some extra time on their hands to try some new things. The Bon Appetit website even has a link to its own archive, showing each monthly magazine and its main topic (Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, etc.).
Good Housekeeping and Grand are two examples of magazines designed for older individuals. These magazines relate to the life of a grandparent and provide the reader with activities and ideas to try when watching their grandchildren next. These magazines also include family friendly recipe’s and “self-improvement” articles. The information is portrayed in an organized manner, making the magazines easier to follow and seem more professional. There are also images that show real-life examples of the topic at hand.
By targeting certain audiences, magazines are made to relate to any individual. Each magazine is set up a little different, but has the same book like design. In Marshall McLuhan’s, The Medium is the Massage, he argues that the context is what we take away consciously, and the medium is what we take away subconsciously. This is seemingly perfect in terms of a magazine. McLuhan continues to share that the way information is portrayed is just as important, if not more important than the actual content of the information itself. Magazines of each genre portray themselves differently as stated before. Through posters for teens or perfume for women, each magazine does something a little different to relate to its target audience. Having a medium with such strong variety, the magazine industry is still thriving even with the advancements of technology.
Magazines are also used for companionship. In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle states, “We are lonely but fearful of intimacy…We are psychologically programmed not only to nurture what we love but to love what we nurture. So even simple artificial creatures can provoke heartfelt attachment” (1). This can relate to how some people thrive off of the information found in magazines. Readers can become so consumed in the lives of others and the drama portrayed to them that they seemingly find companionship in such an artificial item. Magazines can become a source of information and entertainment for many that essentially eliminates them from reality. They are in their own fairytale world simply by feeling involved in the lives of other people whom they have never met.
In the Archive of Feelings, Ann Cvetkovich states that an “archive of feelings” is, “an exploration of cultural texts as repositories of feelings and emotions, which are encoded not only in the content of the texts themselves, but in the practices that surround their production and reception” (7). If we view magazines as an archive of feelings, we are allowing ourselves to question the meaning behind magazines and also the messages being portrayed. This becomes much more apparent in terms of controversial tabloids. If the reader explores the cultural text and the feelings and emotions encoded, it becomes much more than just the latest drama. In terms of magazines such as Sports Illustrated, the reader may begin to look into much more detail than they would have originally. It begins to twist the interpretation of the reader.
The onset of technology and internet has made many forms of writing suffer. Almost all magazine articles are online now and can be viewed with the just the click of a mouse. This will lose the true affect that magazines have on readers. Readers will not be able to rip out posters or write in their answers to a survey, and they will not be able to lift a tab and smell the designer perfumes and colognes. Although the industry is suffering, magazines will never fully leave the paper-back world. Whether it’s in line at a grocery store or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, magazines are everywhere waiting to be picked up and enjoyed.
“”American Magazine” & “The General Magazine,” the First Magazines Published in North America: Both Very Short-Lived (January 1741).” : HistoryofInformation.com. Jeremy Norman & Co, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
Cvetokovich, Ann. Archive of Feelings. N.p., n.d. Print.
“History.” Teen Magazines -. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage. New York: Bantam, 1967. Print.
“Sports Illustrated.” Sports Illustrated. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.