Glossy Magazines—“Pick Me Up and Buy Me!”
THERE they sit, colorful and bright, all vying for your attention. You didn’t even mean to stop to look, but now you are attracted by their colorful display. The glossy magazines on the newsstand all seem to be saying, “Pick me up and buy me!” And while it may generally be true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, it must be admitted that cover pictures on glossy magazines do have a special impact on prospective buyers. In many countries these magazines, often referred to as glossies, flood the market, and competition for sales is intense.
Magazines can be divided into two main categories: specialized magazines—also called trade and technical magazines—and consumer magazines. The latter seem to cover just about any subject, but publishers do target certain groups. Magazines that publish regularly are usually called periodicals, and those with a more academic content are known as journals. Magazines differ from newspapers in form and content, being more compact and printed on better quality paper, which usually gives that glossy finish, so attractive to the buyer. In content, magazines generally have less concern for rapidly changing events and news items than do newspapers. They represent a variety of writers and cover a wide range of information and opinions. They also employ different writing styles, ranging from factual reporting to a more personal or emotional style.
As you stand gazing at the newsstand display, several things will no doubt govern your choice or even help you decide whether to buy or not. Your gender will have a strong bearing, of course, as will your personal interests and perhaps, above all, the cost of the magazine. Yes, glossies can be quite expensive, perhaps three or four times the price of a newspaper. Still, today’s newspaper will soon be discarded for tomorrow’s, whereas a magazine may have a longer life. The one you select can be read in a leisurely manner, and you may keep it for weeks or months and perhaps pass it on to others. Libraries are sometimes interested in older copies of magazines, and some magazines become collector’s items.
A Good Value?
Whether you think glossies are worth the cost will, of course, be a personal decision. The main reason for their relatively high price tag is that they are quite expensive to produce. A publisher must do extensive market research before launching a new magazine onto an already crowded market. These days, consolidated companies undertake the publishing and printing of up to 30 or more different magazines and use their own printery. Even so, their outlay is heavy, as each publication requires its own staff.
If you look inside the cover of a consumer magazine, you will be surprised to see how many editors and managers are needed. Each one cares for a different feature included in the contents, and each has his or her own staff. The larger magazines generally employ their own writers and photographers, although many writers and photographers work independently or free-lance through an agency, which means they must be hired on a regular or part-time basis.
All material submitted by writers is checked by proofreaders. Much of it is largely rewritten or at least adjusted to some extent by copy editors. Pictures form a major part of glossy magazines, so graphic designers are needed. Compilers start the work on the general layout, deciding what will appear on each page. The text and illustrations must be presented in a way that will attract the reader and lead the eye to each part in turn. Most publishing firms use a stylebook—a manual that outlines what terms and styles are to be used in their publications. The final responsibility lies with the chief editor. He or she will have to make on-the-spot decisions, so as not to delay publication. A preproduction copy will be prepared for examination by the senior staff before the magazine goes to print.
Costs include printing and distributing as well as staff salaries. Because not all copies printed will be sold, retailers usually accept bulk supplies on a sale-or-return basis. You would be correct in thinking that the retail price does not cover the cost of production. In fact, the average consumer magazine could not remain on the market if it did not devote a large proportion of its content to advertising. A recent international glossy of 200 pages had over 80 full pages of advertising. Advertisers realize that quality glossy paper and four-color printing will show their products to good advantage.
In Australia it is estimated that each individual, on average, will spend 1.2 minutes a day reading a magazine. This compares with an estimated 1.1 minutes a day going to the movies or 0.7 minutes a day listening to music tapes. No doubt this is one reason why magazines provide a lucrative medium for advertising.
While we cannot examine every magazine published, we might take a brief look at magazines for women. The content of women’s glossies has come under review lately, for while some people consider them harmless, others feel they are exploitive of women. Certainly they generate excitement and glamour, and this contributes to their sales. However, women’s magazines have undergone a change in the last few years. Some of the journals that used to feature only home management now feature more celebrity articles. Articles on health have also become popular. Women used to enjoy the short stories, and it was the running serials that often boosted sales. But now only a few glossies carry short stories and serials.
What sells glossies today? It is what appears on the cover that seems to call out, “Pick me up and buy me!” If a woman is shown on the cover, she must be famous or beautiful. The cover model must also be young and slim, and digital photo retouching brings out the best in the photograph. What about the wording on the cover? This, of course, must vary according to the age groups and life-styles that are being targeted. Some magazine covers highlight fashion; others offer prizes to be won. The cover is often a guide to what is inside the magazine.
Can Glossies Influence Us?
Magazine publishers claim that they know what women want. And it is true that they do extensive market research in order to find out what women in general want. But it may well be asked, Are they meeting a need that really exists, or have they themselves created a need in order to feed it? Let us consider ways in which many women’s glossies mold people’s thinking. First, the continual coverage of the life-styles and opinions of celebrities. This may be what people want to read about, but could there be hidden dangers? In his study About Face, Jonathan Cole, a clinical neurophysiologist at the University of Southampton, England, warns that knowing a face without having met its owner or heard its voice can bring about an artificial intimacy. Add to this the volume of information written about celebrities, which perhaps explains the modern phenomenon of the public’s deep grief over the death of people they did not know but whose photographs they had frequently seen appearing in glossy magazines. Of course, television and newspaper reports can also add to this illusion of intimacy.
Another matter under current review is the potential of magazines to influence women’s attitudes toward what is considered an acceptable body image. While standards vary in different lands, the general message coming through current women’s magazines in developed countries is that thin is in. Censure has come from some educators, parents, and even models themselves who say that the images constantly displayed in women’s glossies must take some of the blame for the rise in eating disorders and the constant dieting fads of women—in particular, young women.
To test the validity of such allegations, an Australian edition of an international magazine conducted a survey among its readers and invited a panel of experts to comment on the results. Over 2,000 women took part, with 82 percent of them between 16 and 29 years of age. A recommended weight chart was consulted—that is, weight according to height, age, and so forth. About 60 percent of the women thought that they were overweight, although only 22.6 percent were heavier than recommended. While 59 percent of those who weighed less than recommended thought they were within the normal weight range, 58 percent who were described as being in the normal range thought that they were overweight. Only 12 percent were satisfied with their weight. Some criticized the chart supplied by Australia’s Commonwealth Department of Health, claiming that the weight range given on the chart for each height was too great. In addition, 67 percent admitted that they envied other women’s bodies constantly, and 1 in 8 admitted that she currently has or previously had a compulsive eating disorder.
Fiona Pelly, the nutritionist on the panel, said: “It’s obvious that weight is taking over as a major priority in women’s lives.” And Dr. Janice Russell, director of an eating disorder clinic in Sydney, commented: “What’s even more damaging is that feelings like guilt and envy are prominent [in the survey]. It’s not healthy to be subject to those sort[s] of feelings all the time.”
The most significant finding, however, was that although some of the respondents admitted that they copied movie stars, 72 percent said that models appearing in magazines influenced them the most. One young woman, who was helped by a diet clinic, said she felt proud to weigh 120 pounds [55 kg] but admitted: “I still feel the pressure, from the media, magazines and celebrities.” Other surveys carried out elsewhere have come up with similar results.
Two Magazines of a Different Sort
One of the most wholesome and informative magazines available is the one you hold in your hand, Awake! You did not purchase it from a newsstand—a passerby may have offered it to you, or perhaps someone brought it to your home. Published, printed, and distributed internationally by volunteers, this magazine is offered at no cost. Writers for Awake! send articles from all over the world, and they too are volunteers, as are all its artists and translators. The Awake! magazine first appeared in 1946. Its predecessors were Consolation and The Golden Age, which began publishing in 1919. These journals have always been published without paid advertising of any kind. Awake! is currently printed in 87 languages, many of them twice monthly, and has a worldwide circulation of over 22 million copies.
The Watchtower, which is the companion magazine of Awake! has an even more impressive record, now being printed in 148 languages. The Watchtower comes off the press at over 25 million copies per issue and has been in circulation since 1879. Between them these two journals have made a fine contribution toward informing people regarding important issues in their lives, and they are of interest to men, women, and young people the world over.
All of us need to reflect on the fact that we are not born with knowledge. Wisdom and knowledge are accrued as we grow and develop, and often our opinions are formed and our life-style developed as a result of what we read. That is why it is so important to select worthwhile and upbuilding reading matter.
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Magazines can influence attitudes about body image
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Although they are not glossies, The Watchtower has a circulation of over 25 million copies in 148 languages and the Awake! a circulation of over 22 million copies in 87 languages