Lady mags got you down? If so, you’ve got something in common with notorious Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones. Ms. Jones, who recently caused a stir with her confessional forays into “anorexia journalism,” has recently moved on from eating disorders and is now focusing on a semi-related topic: fashion magazines, publications where she once thrived as a staffer, which she now calls “patronizing, fake and pointless.” So it seems I have something in common with Jones, too. I grew up loving fashion magazines and spent most of my career working for them. And it’s been awhile now since I’ve become relatively dissatisfied with their sketchy intentions. I guess you could call it a love/hate relationship. It’s no secret that they continue to use scare mongering as a selling tactic — the fear that you’ll get too fat if you don’t try the diet they’re featuring, you won’t look your best if you don’t buy the clothes and makeup they’re highlighting (as a thinly veiled attempt to support their advertisers and attract new ones at the same time) — and don’t even get me started on the recycled, dumbed-down articles and all that airbrushing. Of course, Jones hasn’t managed to say anything new in her rant. But it does make us consider how, when it comes to women’s content, if magazines want to stay relevant, they’re gonna have to get with the (web) program. And while some of us may retain nostalgic love for the feel of their glossy pages, could it be too late to save them because, let’s face it, we’re just too insulted at this point?
I think we can all agree on what fashion magazines are doing wrong. So, are they doing anything right? I find Jones’ statement regarding catering to advertisers incredibly jaded: “The reason all the magazines, no matter the demographic of their readers, feature expensive brands is simple: it is not about inspiration or aspiration, it’s about survival.” While this is true to an extent, I’ve also worked on many a photo shoot, and loved the collaborative process between highly skilled, creative individuals who care a great deal about crafting a beautiful story that really will inspire its readers. And how is the euphoria some of us get from devouring a narrative, visual fantasy on a glossy page that much different from watching a TV show you love? It’s escapism, pure and simple.
And on yet another hand, there are enough women who claim magazines make them feel bad about themselves to make me certain they do more harm than good.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised magazines are having such a hard time, both financially and reputation-wise, these days. In fact, I think a lot of these cheesy service magazines that speak to women in these incredibly outdated voices are rapidly becoming irrelevant. Women can get more up-to-the-minute information about fashion and beauty and health alongside their politics and news coverage online, and depending on their style, can easily locate the websites that speak more personally to their tastes and interests in a drastically more modern, accessible way. But I have yet to find an online destination where I can see really beautiful photography that sweeps me off my feet and inspires my own creative expression as well. (No doubt, as technology improves, this niche, for those who care anyway, will be filled.) Regardless, when it comes to fashion magazines and lady mags in general, I’m not necessarily confused, but I am conflicted. And most of all, I’m curious to know what other women are thinking. Do you buy many of these magazines anymore, or do you find that you have access to a lot more intelligent, interesting and yes, even inspiring, content online? [Daily Mail]