Understanding Women's Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships

Understanding Women's Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships

Understanding Women's Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships

Understanding Women's Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships

Synopsis

Understanding Women's Magazines investigates the changing landscape of women's magazines. Anna Gough-Yates focuses on the successes, failures and shifting fortunes of a number of magazines including Elle , Marie Claire , Cosmopolitan , Frank , New Woman and Red and considers the dramatic developments that have taken place in women's magazine publishing in the last two decades. Understanding Women's Magazines examines the transformation in the production, advertising and marketing practices of women's magazines. Arguing that these changes were driven by political and economic shifts, commercial cultures and the need to get closer to the reader, the book shows how this has led to an increased focus on consumer lifestyles and attempts by publishers to identify and target a 'new woman'.

Excerpt

In May 1988, a picture of a women's magazine called The New Woman appeared in The Times. Like many other women's magazines of the period, a well-groomed, female model beamed cheerily out from its cover. Yet the rest of the magazine did not bear the hallmarks of a typical women's title. To begin with, the woman on the cover was wearing a business suit, and in her hand she held her credit card. Over her shoulder was slung - somewhat incongruously - a bulging sports bag. In the woman's arms was an over-sized, slightly grumpy, wriggling toddler. The cover lines were also unusual. 'Does she want to gain ££££££s?', they asked, and 'Is she seriously glamorous or glamorously serious?' 'Does she think a nanny less expensive than a nervous breakdown?', they wondered, or 'Can she housetrain her high-flying husband?' 'When she gives a dinner party does she cook?' 'Is she fit (or fit to drop)?' (Slaughter, 1988:21).

The New Woman, of course, never actually appeared on newsagents' shelves. It was a spoof, existing only as an amusing illustration to accompany an article on the changing business of women's magazines. Nevertheless, although the magazine itself was a fiction, the image and sell-lines on the cover can be seen as bringing together many elements of the story of women's magazines in the late twentieth century that this book sets out to tell. As the accompanying article by ex-magazine editor Audrey Slaughter (1988:21) observed, the women's magazine industry was trying to construct new readerships of women, but there was little agreement about how a 'New Woman' would want to be addressed. According to Slaughter, one new magazine imagined the 'New Woman' as '[s]harp, avid and with a short attention span', wanting a magazine that could provide her with 'information doled out like hormone implants', whilst 'keeping her fit and young while she copes efficiently with her career and her marriage' (Slaughter, 1988:21). Another believed her to be 'a worrier', 'agonizing over whether she is being selfish if her preference, her television programmes, her wishes have priority, requiring reassurance that her needs are valid and important' (Slaughter, 1988:21). A third magazine fancied the 'New Woman' as 'stylish, curious and anxious to understand what is going on beyond her immediate ken'

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