A magazine can easily be defined as a publication that contains a various mix of articles, stories, recipes (if food-related), gossips and lots of pictures, intended for general public and their likes. Magazines are divided into diverse types, that is, they can be consumer magazines, trade journals, periodicals or specialist publications. This is because different people have different likes and not every magazine can satisfy the needs of readers with varied interests. (McKay, 2000)
The reason for magazine popularity is that people read them for information and entertainment. The most popular illustrated general magazines for instance “Picture Post” has long stopped being published but in Europe people still follow the weekend-magazine-reading trend, thereby Reader’s Digest being the most popular in U.K, selling around 27 million worldwide.
Likewise, popularity of a magazine is the key factor for its success while another is that magazines act as an emblem of commitment of the reader towards his likes. This means that if a person is into sports and belongs to a higher social class, he may as well want to have his own subscription of the “Sports Illustrated “. Similarly, a housewife belonging to an elite class, who likes cooking and trying out new recipes, will be keen on reading and subscribing to magazines such as “Food and Wine”.
Nonetheless, the relationship between the magazine publisher and the readers is to be given its due share of importance because eventually it is something of which the success of the magazine is dependent upon. Both the publisher and the reader are linked, this means that the publisher is dependent on the reader for purchasing, while the reader is dependent on the publisher for appropriate content because when the reader is paying for a certain thing, he/she wants it to suit and satisfy his/her needs.
However in terms of power, it becomes very much obvious that it lies mostly with the reader. But again, different people hold different opinions on the same. If the subject is interesting enough, it catches the attention and mind of the reader who then plans to buy it in the near future or make an impulsive purchase (provided the feasible circumstances) (Gough-Yates 2003).
Creating interest in the reader is the responsibility of the copywriter or the journalist for that matter, but this does not mean that it does not involve the magazine producer; in fact, the magazine producer has to be fully aware as to where the material (that goes into the magazine) comes from and what message it portrays.
Also, the visuals used are of much significance, mainly with respect to the front page as it is the one that can be seen as soon as the customer steps in the shop. Therefore, it has to appealing enough to the eyes of the customer so that he/she comes forward to take a look and eventually end up buying it. But the visuals used through out the magazine should not be those regarded as offensive to any social class or prove to be against the ethics of advertising as they can create a negative impact on the reader and then effect his/her relationship with the magazine itself.
Besides, the types of advertisements and sponsors that a magazine publishes and is associated with, account for the credibility of the magazine and hence the publisher should be very vigilant as to what material it should not publish that can harm its position in the global market which is a very critical one and can be brought down almost immediately owing to the slightest of negligence. The publisher’s power lies in maintaining the position of his magazine by providing quality satisfaction to the reader who is certainly more in power (as compared to the publisher).
Credibility of a magazine can also be affected by the using low quality paper (by the publisher) in order to gain greater profits because it may result in not only customer loss but in losing customer trust as well. It may also be interesting to add that gaining a customer’s trust takes a lot than losing one. It may take years of good work and creative efforts for a magazine to achieve customer loyalty but it does not take long for the same trust to break by a single mistake on part of the publisher(O’Guinn, Allen ; Semenik 2008).
Another aspect that I would like to point out is the fact that magazine producers should first and foremost be able to recognize a niche market in order to capture them. Proper market research should be carried out in order to better understand the needs and wants of this segment. In this regard, gender and culture have to be viewed in the limelight. This is because culture and gender are co-related and the differences pave way to great hindrances in the publication of magazines.
Hence, it can also be said that the publisher should be responsive towards these issues as well, which means that he should have an ample understanding of gender as a medium of classification and a milieu of transformation, without intending to lay a critical analysis on the interests of power or class. (Cronin, 2003)
Among the reader and the publisher, it is the latter upon whom the responsibility lays. The publisher is responsible for arousing interest, desire and action (of buying) in the reader and of course the reader gains greater power as he knows that it is he who is the king. This is because eventually he will be paying for the publisher’s effort. The publisher too, gets his reward if he is able to sell a greater number and ultimately gain a larger profit than what he had invested in the beginning, plus he also gets an acknowledgement as his name appears on the magazine.
While referring to the function of advertising and the issues of gender in magazines, it can be said that there are certain preferences that are considered. For instance, the publisher of a newly introduced sports-related magazine will preferably consider men for its promotion and not women because men (when compared) are more likely to be into sports.
Moreover, a magazine that focuses women would probably prefer the latest trends in fashion, be it dresses, handbags, hair styling techniques, jewelry, or nail art. However in today’s modernized world, fashion is no longer restricted to the women zone, in fact men too, have their own designers. Still, some magazines like “Marie Claire” and “Cosmopolitan” fall for the female gender to pose for their front covers, as they claim it to be more attractive and appealing to their target audience and many a times, these appeals go to the extent of offensive posing as well which makes it a hindrance for the magazine to sell in countries that have closed cultures.
On the other hand, in countries such as Scandinavia, Norway and Holland etc, the media is very open-minded and so is the target audience for magazines that cater to the likes of glamour and fashion. There, the use of both male and female bodies in seductive theme, explicit language and nudity is socially and culturally acceptable. It is interesting to note that in countries like Japan, where the culture itself is very rigid, there are also subcultures that want glamour and fashion to be exposed in seductive tones.
Now, it is the task of the publisher to be aware of which focus group to target and how. Again, the power lies with the readers; they can either raise the sales of a magazine or eradicate the credibility of the magazine by not willing to buy it or by boycotting it for a reason that harms their interests. So, one can easily say that greater responsibility lies with the publisher. He has to cater to the needs and wants of the reader by manipulating things and products in the manner that is much tempting to the reader/customer.
Furthermore, it is also noticed that magazines that focus on men tend to have a number of female figures (endorsing products for men) but magazines for women are basically more towards glamorous and beautiful females as those who read these magazines, idolize these supermodels and want to look like them(Cronin 2003). Magazine publishers in this case need to figure out what products to advertise in men’s magazines (that are endorsed by women and are still relevant to be placed in that magazine). An excellent example is that of “Sports Illustrated” as it is one of the highest selling magazines, of the world.
Also, there are magazines that are not gender specific, for instance, “The American Gardener” and “Goldmine”. Here, the function of advertising is simplified in terms of gender but the issue of finding the relevant kind of product to advertise is greatly enhanced. Take into consideration the fact that in a magazine that is based on music only, one can not place an ad for gardening equipments on sale. Hence, relevancy is one issue that has to be looked upon very closely by the publisher.
By repeatedly stating the responsibilities of the publisher, I want to make it clear that the publisher is one who has to work a lot on the magazine in order for it to gain market recognition and also for customer loyalty while it is the reader who is to be pleased.
This brings us to the same question from where we started: “who is more important of the two?” the reader, of course. This is because in the end, the ball is still in the reader’s court. The publisher knows that his magazine needs credibility and it can only be achieved through a positive word-of-mouth, which will undoubtedly come from the reader. If the reader gets delight out of reading a certain magazine, he/she will talk about it in his/her social gatherings and the magazine will gain appreciation and will be able to generate greater sales as other people will also want to read or subscribe to the recommended magazine.
Different people hold different opinions as to what magazines that cater to specific interests are all about. Jenny McKay, author of “The Magazine’s Handbook” views these magazines as an extension of the reader’s own social circle of like-minded people. I agree to the same, and it is the publisher’s creativity to provide the reader with his desired read.
A magazine reader wants to be entertained. It is how he/she is entertained that varies from magazine to magazine. This increases the level of competition. The better the ability of the magazine to appeal people, the greater the chances of it success, owing to the relationship that magazine builds with its readers.
The publisher should therefore be one who has considerable information as to what standards to meet while placing the content in the magazine. Unless he knows what should be a part of his magazine, he can not produce a magazine that can arouse the interests of the masses.
Similarly, the function of advertising can also be damaged when the publisher gets too involved in gender issues and gets deviated from what his magazine is all about. A publisher therefore, needs to be extremely responsive and alert towards his subject and understand what his magazine’s prime purpose is rather than focusing on various types of advertisements to make money from. It is by focusing that he understands the power of the readers for the success of his magazine. Through proper implementation of his learned techniques and by applying them into advertising, he can also over come the issue of gender-biasness (Belch ; Belch 2006).
Some of the possible ways are:
a) Advertising unisex products, for e.g. eatables.
b) Advertising for brands that have developed a product line that caters to both genders.
However, the points mentioned above do not talk about the front-page advertising; instead they talk about product endorsements which are an altogether different realm of advertising.
To sum up the comprehensive discussion as to who is more powerful in the relationship between magazine publishers and readers, and how this affects the function of advertising and gender issues, it is very appropriate to conclude that despite being more powerful, the reader’s likes are somehow or the other manipulated by the publisher, in a manner that they appear pleasing to his/her eyes to the extent that he/she is willing to purchase it. Gender, of course plays a very significant role in advertising, but through chalking out a reasonable approach, that too can be easily maintained by the publisher. Thereby, my concluding statement is that power indefinitely lies with the reader but the publisher has his own way of influencing the reader.
Belch, G. ; Belch, M., 2006. Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective w/ Premium Content Card. McGraw-Hill/Irwin
Cronin, A., 2003.Advertising Myths: The Strange Half-Lives of Images and Commodities. International Library of Sociology.
Gough-Yates, A., 2003. Understanding women’s magazines: publishing, markets and readerships. London: Routledge.
McKay, J., 2000. The Magazines handbook. London: Routledge.
O’Guinn, T., Allen, C. & Semenik, R.J., 2008. Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion. South-Western College Pub