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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Pushing Through The Storm: How Some of Our Favorite Magazines Are Surviving in The Digital Era

Magazines are adapting to a shift in how media is consumed.

In recent years, the world of glossy print magazines has faced some hard blows. A November 2018 article in The New York Times reported that in 2017, Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind the likes of Vogue, Glamour, Allure, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, suffered a 120 million dollar loss. The same article states that by 2018, the company had put up three of its magazines, Brides, Golf Digest and W., for sale. As Condé Nast was going through these changes, leading women’s publication Cosmopolitan Australia announced in October 2018 that it will cease print publications. The CEO of Baur Media, the publishing company behind Cosmopolitan Australia, stated that the magazine was “no longer sustainable”. Glamour magazine followed suit in November of the same year, with Condé Nast disclosing that it would stop regular print publication of the staple.
Peter Osnos, Contributor to The Atlantic, best summarized the recent trend in magazines when he wrote in 2013, “alas, as everyone with the remotest interest in media developments can attest, the great era of magazines notable for their largesse to staffs, and replete with copious, handsome advertising and strong single-copy newsstand sales, is almost certainly in the past.”
These recent changes have been attributed to the emergence of other digital platforms such as social media sites, blogs, and YouTube videos. Data shows that more people would rather spend time in the digital world than through the pages of a publication. People have turned more to blogs and YouTube videos because through these media outlets, people are able to access the same content available in a print magazine at a cheaper price. Furthermore, these other platforms appear to provide information in a shorter, more convenient format than the long articles that characterize print magazines.
Despite the heavy blows from the digital era, magazines are not giving up. They are embracing new ways to remain relevant in the news provision arena and boost their revenues.
One such way is the movement of some of these publications into the digital sphere. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That is exactly the new strategy of some top magazines, with Glamour seeming to take the lead. In January of 2018, Condé Nast decided to hire Samantha Barry, the magazine’s new Editor in Chief and a digital journalist.
As magazines concentrate more on producing digital content, the use of paywalls and online subscriptions has become a major way of replacing the revenue that came from print subscriptions. But the use of paywalls and digital subscription begs the questions: why would people pay for digital content when they can get it free from other platforms?
The answer often discussed by media analysts is that magazines offer something other digital platforms cannot: reliable in-depth analysis of diverse topics. It is the belief of these magazines that their target audience will pay to get quality content.
"A big change is taking place in the market. There's now too much writing online, and in an era of fake news, where you get your analysis from has never been more important. As newspapers and magazines are finding out, if you can publish writing that is consistently and significantly better than what can be found online, people will pay," wrote Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, a weekly British magazine.
Besides joining the digital space, magazines are establishing significant presences on YouTube. Probably the most known example are the videos produced by Condé Nast for Glamour, Vogue and Allure. The Vogue series, 73 Questions With, which has featured the likes of Michael B. Jordan and Lady Gaga, has generated more than 300 million views since its inception in 2014. The iconic Time Inc., responsible for magazines such as Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, also recently rolled out a streaming network, PeopleTV. One of the shows on the channel is Paws & Claws, a channel for viral animal videos.
Beyond YouTube videos, magazines are establishing collaborations to remain relevant in the field. In 2017, a former U.S. American pop culture and fashion magazine Nylon announced that it was putting an end to print publications to focus on influencer relationships, online video content and its internal creative agency, Nylon Studios.
With these many adjustments occurring in the magazine industry, it seems that the world of print publications is long gone. Perhaps a flicker of hope may still remain for print publishing. The reason? More than just being stacks of papers that dictated trends in fashion, beauty and entertainment or sports, these glossy prints have shaped lifestyles and cultures. This is one function that may be hard for the digital age to erase.
Chisom Ezeifemeelu is a staff writer. Email her at
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