Magazine publishing is emerging from a difficult, transformative period in it’s rich history as traditional audiences have given way to a fresh, young demographic who expect rigour and thoughtfulness in their titles. This has lead some publishers to adapt and those slow on the uptake to continue to flounder.
Here in Australia industry is typically several years behind in terms of international trends—which should result in foresight but rarely does. While publishers and outlets in Australia continued to mutter about ‘the end of print’ (yawn), floundering about unlearning how to produce successful magazine titles and killing off those that had managed to sustain themselves through the initial online onslaught (R.I.P. Desktop, Dolly & Cleo), overseas—Particularly in the U.K. and Germany—the independent magazine sector’s influence was finally filtering into mainstream publishing titles while the indie sector itself started to diversifying their already wide array of offers.
Magazine titles that had sustained the first wave of new indies by creating an homogenised look, feel and approach to content—influencing and emboldening one another—such as Frankie (one of Australia’s recent publishing success stories—there are many lessons to be learnt from this title that larger local publishers still ignore), Kinfolk, Cereal, Gather Journal, Apartmento—it’s a very healthy list that goes on and on—were finding themselves bumping up against newbies and revivals taking more confident, individual and brazen approaches such as the title about ‘the life of things’—McGuffin or the skyscraper shaped Real Review or risky, adventurous titles like Toile.
There was a quiet revolution happening in the formerly impenetrable realm of mainstream fashion titles too. A sector that is wedded to the search for ‘new’ and ‘next’ started abandoning ties to the nouveau riche ‘Boomer’ audiences that had previously sustained the luxury goods market, and their thereby started to reach out for a fresher, younger ‘millennial’ audience, the same audience that had sustained the aforementioned ‘first wave’ of indie titles such as much lauded The Gentlewoman, Lula and Oh Comely to name a mere smattering. At first it was happening through subtle tweaks and editorial redesigns at titles such those initiated in 2016 at U.S. Vogue (if you look back at issues from a few years ago, there has been a move to declutter pages and create more space, a lesson learnt from the aforementioned indie titles and a style seen as key to attracting youthful audiences), U.K. Elle and InStyle.
The end of 2016 saw the balance tipped towards younger, more thoughtful and unfussy readers by established fashion titles looking to renew their audiences such the Paris and Italia editions of L’Officiel. L’Officiel is a title with a long history dating back to the 1920s that has been quietly extending it’s global reach without creating any massive waves until very recently with the hire of art direction teams, ARPA for L’Officiel Italia—who gave the title and complete refresh more akin to something from the Fantastic Man stable of titles rather than anything traditionally associated with mainstream fashion titles—and Ill Studio for the mothership, Paris L’Officiel (or to give it it’s full title L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode de Paris) who have only just started reinvigorating and refocusing this edition and are already sending ripples of influence to it’s many international editions, going against the Boomer set standards previously applied to this sector in favour of something that looks and feels appropriate to a much younger, and often more sophisticated audience.
At this stage it’s worth mentioning W magazine too which has embarked on a similar journey into uncharted territory with varying degrees of success so far. In what many are seeing as some sort of existential crisis, the team at W, in the last quarter of the year, have been producing a number of special issues that either give up editorial control to some interesting choices of creatives (Terry Jones, formerly of i-D and bonkers video artist Ryan Trecartin to name a couple) or mess with the physical format of the publication (their male on one side, female on the other, flippable issue was pretty bizarre). These recent releases also feature a new masthead, design refresh and spanky new typefaces produced exclusively for the title by Commercial Type.
European titles were well serviced by a wide range of events this year such as the QVED Editorial Design conference held in Münich. Another German event—Indiecon—featured included their very own Indie Mag Day. There was MagCulture’s Modern Magazine conference now also in it’s second year alongside a slew of new book and magazine fairs. MacGuffin picked up Best magazine at the increasingly illustrious Stack Awards in London towards the end of the year, alongside a who’s who of current indie publishing titles. All this bodes exceedingly well for magazine publishing in general, whether of not the ripples from this activity will be enough to save the Australian magazine publishing industry—and what will be left when they get here—only time will tell.
Links & References
Linefeed’s Most Interesting Mags in 2016
The Architectural Review
Catch up on events you might have missed