When avid glossy consumer Alison Kennedy (pictured: she reminds me a little of Maggie Alderson with her dimples and all) emailed me last week, we got to chatting about glossies (naturally).
She listed off a ream of her preferred titles (Paris Vogue; Dumbo Feather, Pass It On; The Monthly; Monocle; Frankie; Vanity Fair) before lamenting that some of her former glossy loves – U.S. Vogue, Vogue Australia, marie claire and madison – no longer cut the magazine mustard. I asked her why. So she wrote this...
Glossy magazines: why we are no longer friends
I have a guilty secret. I love magazines. The glossier the better. Extreme unwearable fashion: yes! Quirky accessories: bring it on! General air of fabulousness: yes, yes, yes! Yet something has happened over the last six months to curb my magazine enthusiasm. My friends and I have stopped buying all but a few glossies. And not for fiscal reasons. This is why:
1. The amount of blatant advertising. Magazine consumers are not stupid. We see the seepage of advertising into editorial, comment, puff pieces and profiles with great cynicism. We are savvy to product placement. We have noticed. Oh, yes, we have. And we don’t like it.
2. The narrowness of the viewpoint. In short, you are nepotistic and self-absorbed. We generally see fashion insiders and media people in the social pages; and advertisers, retailers and PR people in the features. It is rare to see women who have style, intelligence and great clothes who happen to work outside these areas. Sometimes they wander in, but generally as a one-off profile. And generally they are wearing advertisers’ clothes.
3. The mag customer has changed. We are really savvy... Customers who pay a premium for an item in any area expect differentiation. Yet some of our glossies rely on recycled articles and images readily seen online or in imported glossies available on the same newsstand.
We can cope with a rich element of fantasy in editorial, just don’t try to sell us some new beauty product we know won’t work. We also may no longer aspire to buy items priced in the vicinity of four figures. In fact, this now looks hopelessly naff and smacks of insecurity.
4. The medium has changed. Competition is fierce. Our newsagents are saturated with international and local glossies. And the internet is great! It has inspiring images and text and importantly offers independent and thought provoking points of view. And it offers this all quickly. Blogs such as this one cherry pick the most interesting and au courant elements for us – the magazine customer. Inspiring, fabulous images are coming from the street. There is an interest in diversity and self expression and some glossy magazines can appear outdated – at the very least as a result of lagging publication lead times.
So what's a glossy mag to do?
We still love you. Women will be reluctant to leave behind the luxurious, escapist bubble that you create for us to live in, even momentarily.
Yet something is not working. We need more independent voices and images. Less tokenism. Less reliance on international sources. More idiosyncratic content. Less thinly disguised advertising. More inspirational personal style. And, most of all, we need authenticity.
Alison/Girl With a Satchel