So people aren’t buying women’s magazines any more? Or at least, not so much. In the Telegraph, Jo Fairley called the latest circulation figures a ‘bloodbath’. She reckons we aren’t buying the glossies because, basically, we can get it all for free on the Internet. And she has a point. But really, it’s not just that.
Firstly we’re not buying them because they are stupidly expensive. £4? £4.20? Oh, get a grip!
But mainly we’re not buying them because they insult our intelligence. I’ve got one here with Helen Mirren on the cover. A little pink circle says: “Your special signed subscriber cover” and underneath that, ‘With love from Helen’ (Helen is in handwriting, Mirren’s presumably). Er, hello. This is supposed to make us feel warm and snugly? Helen loves us? Each and every one of us? With her printed signature. Per-lease. As if that weren’t enough, the only strapline says this: ‘A fresh start. How to get what you really want. More money, a healthier body. An extra shot of happiness.’
Dear magazines – we’re not entirely thick. We know you can’t deliver happiness on a plate. We are sick of your platitudes, your dumbed down X steps to happiness/career satisfaction/inner peace/the perfect orgasm. We don’t trust your ‘recommendations’ because we know that they tend to be predicated by who’s paying the advertising bill that month. We don’t believe your gushing travel features because we know they’ve been written by the intern on a freebie. Your features are anodyne, with every ounce of originality and interest sucked out. And yes, we can find better fashion and cookery in the web. Without paying through the nose.
Plus, in some cases, we’re appalled. Revolted. I’m looking at another (£4.20), the September issue. I flick through and reel at the ads. Actually, there are 126 pages of them before you even get to the first page of editorial. I mean…who buys this stuff? Who out there actually buys all the Dolce & Gabbana, the Fendi, the Longines, the Gucci?
And that first page?
The Object of Desire: Louis Vuitton Collar. £820.
Would any of you snap it up? Or (I’m flipping through the rest of the mag now) shell out £14K for a watch or £4,500 for a bangle or ‘about’ £1,020 for a python-skin clutch or…oh, you get the idea. And yes, I know it's about selling us the image, the 'desire for lifestyle' so we hand over twenty quid for a lipstick or whatever but really...
I kept flipping through that magazine, trying to find something to read, something of interest, something…anything…that might chime a chord. Now, I know I’m not their target audience (not a shopper, y’know) but still… It’s not just that it’s a paean to shopping porn, it’s vapid. There is no meat. Nothing of substance. It’s not even well-designed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like flicking through the glossies. Or I did. A good magazine should be a snapshot of the moment. I don’t endlessly trawl the web. I don't have time to check out all the various specialist sites. Plus I’m not interested enough in fashion or beauty or anything really to linger longingly. But it's quite nice to know what's new. Plus, I like the feel of paper.
What I want from a mag is a smart, sassy, informed edit of the best. I want to read and see the work of specialists with an eye on the ball, a finger on the pulse and…a gut feeling for what’s worth knowing about. Is there a really good book I should be reading? A cracker of a movie that isn’t a Hollywood blockbuster that I might miss? Some breakthrough technique that will really make me look ten years younger? Analysis of some trend or phenomenon – a deeper investigation – (Marie Claire used to do that really well). And yes, sure, beautiful pics of nice clothes and homes and beaches and food are fine – but they need to be ‘real’ as in vaguely obtainable. A good magazine should end up filled with turned down corners, with websites and numbers and bits of info ringed round in felt pen.
Do any of them still provide that? Red comes the nearest, to my mind (except they ruin it by being disgustingly ageist - what IS it with you magazines that you think that, once we hit 40 all we want is Spanx and cookery tips? But that's another rant). Anyhow, the rest are pretty much a waste of space.
Am I being unfair?