Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Demise of the Magazine

When I was young, I was an avid magazine reader.

My father subscribed, when I was very young, to Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Sports Afield, Wyoming Wildlife and probably a few other journals. Seems like a lot?  Yes, it was, but it was partially a lot because he kept them for his office.  I don't think the National Geographic's ever made it to the office, but the others did. Anyhow, even as a young kid I read through quite a few of these, with Sports Illustrated being the least likely for me to read.

Even by the time I was a teen one of these magazines, Look, had disappeared and Life was on life support.  The others kept on keeping on, however.  As a teenager I regularly read Time and Newsweek, as well as Wyoming Wildlife and the National Geographic. When I went away to college my magazine reading dropped off quite a bit, but a girlfriend I had at the time bought me a subscription to The New Republic, which I still get.

Around here, we have subscribed to a variety of magazines of various interests, and indeed, I still get them.  I quit reading Time quite some time ago, however, and of course Newsweek as a print journal is no more.  I'm inclined to discontinue my subscription to The New Republic, which seems to me to be in a long slow period of decline which going from a weekly, to a monthly, and a change in ownership, has not arrested.

And now this past couple of weeks comes news about two well known journals that appear to be in, indeed are experiencing, trouble.

The one that sparks this entry is The National Geographic.  Once a standard of American scientific and cultural magazines, the magazines subscription based has massively declined over the past few years.  A while back the society that owned it sold its television rights to Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, which may explain why shows on The National Geographic channel seem to fall so far below the standards of the magazine.  About a year and a half ago the Society actually sold the controlling interest in the magazine to a Murdoch entity, which was news but not as big of news as a person might suspect.  I managed to miss it.

Since then there's been fears that Murdoch's control of the magazine would lead to a decline in its standards.  I haven't seen that, if its true.  There's also been fears that Murdoch's organization would start firing some of the staff, which has traditionally been lower paid than comparative journalists.  Now that's sort of come true, a bit.

National Geographic is now laying people off. That story has hit the news, but what's missed in it is that the people being laid off are support staff, in departments like legal, which the giant Murdoch organization otherwise has. Frankly, layoffs like that are justified.  I doubt the Lincoln Mercury division of Ford Motors, for example, has a separate legal department from Ford Motors.  But the entire story does shine the light on the sad decline of the magazine. The National Geogrpahic Society actually sold its flagship in order to raise money for the Society's endowment.  I get it, but that doesn't bode well for the future of the magazine or the Society.  I doubt it will survive long term.

Another magazine that's been in trouble for years and which I also doubt will survive has been in the news as well, that being the trash put out by an ossified freak whose main achievement is to help objectify women since the early 1950s.  I'm glad its in trouble, but  the reason that it is, is the same that the National Geographic is, the Internet.  Here the story is more grim.  The National Geographic has not declined and is simply the victim of free information.  The other magazine, on the other hand, helped take debasement out of the gutter and into everyone's homes and now it can't make a go of it, as the Internet allows trash to be circulated for free.  In other words, having helped pollute the culture, there's too much pollution everywhere in order for it to make a go of selling it.  

It's reaction has been a decision to take its models and send them back to the dressing room, apparently.  In doing that, it's would appear to be trying to occupy the space now occupied by a couple of other magazines directed towards men which will feature women, but not in the same purely objectified way, as they want to appear more gentlemanly and serious.  Ironically, that's the same way that the filth put out by this ossified freak became successful in the first place, as it took gutter trash literature and tried to dress it up, a marketing strategy that worked for about a decade before it was engaged in a race towards the bottom which it appears to now be loosing.  It's readership is also way, way off, and it appears doomed.  Indeed, I'm sure it is, and good riddance too, as while its not too late for the purveyors of such filth to reform, it's too late for the rag itself to do so.

Quite a change in a long period of time.  Magazines have an honored place in the American written landscape, and as far back as the mid 19th Century they were important means of conveying information.  We appear to see that era ending, except for specialty journals.

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