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The Survival of Print Media

Karlie Kloss, once said, “Growing up in a house of five girls, I couldn’t help but glance at a fashion magazine or two”. However, this statement might not be true today. Magazines played an integral role in setting trends globally. If it is in your favourite magazine, it must be in your wardrobe. The ever-evolving world of media has drastically changed this attitude of people. Nowadays, it is surprising to see people pick up a newspaper, or a magazine to dig up a desperately needed piece of information. Traditional print media is terribly affected by the role social media plays in the fashion industry due to influencer marketing besides higher and quicker reach to the audience but is trying to cope with facing failures to stay afloat without going obsolete.

The widespread availability of fashion magazines combined with the enticing covers of magazines directed at women had a stunning influence on the audience regarding body image, fashion, and beauty to name a few. In the 1850s and 1860s, magazines focused on women being homemakers and set unachievable beauty standards leading to dissatisfaction among women about their own bodies. However, this did not stop women from buying these magazines as they were marketed as glamorous, and they needed to be updated with the newest wrinkle no matter how unaffordable the products were for majority of the consumers. For most women, it was an escape from everyday life. The publishing giants took advantage of this in the right way.

Luxury brands were advertised in these magazines to build relevance and drive sales. From the first look of the season being launched to only the elite publishers being invited to special showings, it all happened here, and this is how publishing giants hyped up their products. In a 1999 New York Magazine cover story, Calvin Klein explained how he got direct sales increase whenever Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine gave them an editorial. Contrastingly, the publishing giant, Conde Nast’s digital revenue only matched with print revenue for the first time in 2018. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Vogue reported a 37% decline in sales from 2010 to 2014. In today’s age, consumers spend most of their time surfing through digital media. The data from technology and strategy consulting firm Activate says “for an average American, only 4% of media consumption include print as compared to 48% on digital media”. To cope with this, all content printed by magazines are published online adding to the list of the downfall of magazines.

The reach of social media is higher than any fashion magazine ever so much so that even luxury houses who did not pay much heed to online selling have taken upon themselves to garner maximum publicity. As of 2018, Instagram announced that they have one billion users. It is a platform for discovery. One hashtag, one-click on the go on a post to shop are opening new avenues for giants to market and sell their product. Instagram is where customers hope to see brands. Instagram has helped build communities and through these online communities, fashion brands are launched achieving success with no magazine coverage and with little-to-no presence at major fashion week events, for example, Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Things.

The influencer economy has officially taken over. Brands see in influencers what they saw in magazines as they achieve similar levels of publicity through influencer marketing as they did by running print advertisements, even more. For publishers who have always held authority over the industry and now losing their grip, the gig economy is a hard pill to swallow. Moreover, employees are moving digital with their work amidst the fear of losing job security as several publishing houses are shuttering down leading to a talent crisis in the industry as the existing employees are made to work across digital platforms as well as print media to keep the publishers afloat without a raise acting as a demotivator. Working with individual influencers directly might be beneficial. Currently, magazines need influencers and not the other way around.

Talking about entertainment pieces like gossip certainly doesn’t help. Being directed at women, they ought to be conversing about women empowerment. This is probably done in attempt to cut costs which should instead be spent on creating new and innovative content for the media hungry audience. Maintaining their “status-quo” is leading them down a path wherein there would be nothing left to maintain status of.

Despite an inevitable fall, traditional publishing giants are desperately trying to catch up. From hosting relationship dinners to producing podcasts and chat shows, they are tapping into all avenues hoping for the best. However, being stuck on age-old content is not doing any good.

Even though magazines are trying to survive in this world, it is unsure whether they can handle change at such a rapid pace without coming up with new and original content. It is certain that over-working employees and not changing working methods with influencers is not going to help them stay afloat in this increasingly conscious world.

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