There’s a growing stack of magazines and newspapers piles up next to my armchair, on top of the coffee table and on my desk – testament to my ongoing serach for interesting stuff to read and glorious stuff to look at. For space and the environment’s sake, I wish I could get it all in one perfect publication. Instead, I read Vogue, Esquire, Wired, Elle Deco, Fire & Knives, Grazia; plus the New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian and The Atlantic online; and blogs like Jezebel and The Hairpin to get a fix of all the things that interest me.
I was discussing it with a clever friend the other day, who decried the opportunities for intelligent and beautiful women’s magazines. Like me, she’d thought that The Gentlewoman would be the answer. And if you read the erudite editor’s description of it’s reader here, you’d think so too: “A woman who oversees traditional ambitions and expectations of her gender, has good taste, likes interesting reads, and has an expansive view of the world “. Doesn’t that sound perfect?
But it just ends up being another fash mag, this time focusing on industry insiders, rather than the celebs of its newsstand sisters. And with a lot more black-and-white. In frustration, she plumps for trash fash mag Elle, which doesn’t attempt to be anything cleverer than it is – a bunch of nice, glossy, silly fashion stuff. Marie Claire attempts wider issues, but it just ends up being dull. In contrast, Tyler Brule vanity project Monocle manages to combine design, travel, luxury, grooming, international issues, serious features, and even a comic in one beautiful binding.
But rather like the old trope of men being single-minded and women being multi-taskers, Men can get it all in one magazine like Monocle or Esquire, and women have to skim many. Perhaps the continuing power of the women’s magazine market is not due to ladies’ voracious appetite for celebrity gossip and make-up trends, but due to the fact that women are buying a bunch of different magazines that each address a different need.
But the women’s magazine market is dwindling, and as advertisers’ spend increasingly goes online, there’s not much money around to launch a beautiful, clever, funny and fascinating print magazine. The obvious answer seems to be iPad apps like Flipboard or Editions, which pull together elements from lots of different online publications according to your interests, and can even learn what you like. All very clever, but perhaps it’s old-fashioned of me to want a print magazine, with creative use of paper stocks, incredible typography, great writing, powerful photography and thought-provoking ideas. Or maybe i’m just too mainstream these days to plough through the shelves of RD Franks in search of the niche magazine that’s “just right”. If it’s out there, do tell…