The Development of Modern American Magazines

Figure 9.1: FIGURE 9.1THE GROWTH OF MAGAZINES PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATESData from: Association of Magazine Media, 2015 Magazine Media Factbook,

In 1870, about twelve hundred magazines were produced in the United States; by 1890, that number had reached forty-five hundred; and by 1905, more than six thousand magazines existed (see Figure 9.1 on page 316). Part of this surge in titles and readership was facilitated by the Postal Act of 1879, which assigned magazines lower postage rates and put them on an equal footing with newspapers delivered by mail, reducing distribution costs. Meanwhile, faster presses and advances in mass-production printing, conveyor systems, and assembly lines reduced production costs and made large-circulation national magazines possible.5

The combination of reduced distribution and production costs enabled publishers to slash magazine prices. As prices dropped from thirty-five cents to fifteen cents and then to ten cents, the working class was gradually able to purchase national publications. By 1905, there were about twenty-five national magazines, available from coast to coast and serving millions of readers.6 As jobs and the population began shifting from farms and small towns to urban areas, magazines helped readers imagine themselves as part of a nation rather than as individuals with only local or regional identities. In addition, the dramatic growth of drugstores and dime stores, supermarkets, and department stores offered new venues and shelf space for selling consumer goods, including magazines.


As magazine circulation began to skyrocket, advertising revenue soared. The economics behind the rise of advertising was simple: A magazine publisher could dramatically expand circulation by dropping the price of an issue below the actual production cost for a single copy. The publisher recouped the loss through ad revenue, guaranteeing large readerships to advertisers who were willing to pay to reach more readers. The number of ad pages in national magazines proliferated. Harper’s, for instance, devoted only seven pages to ads in the mid-1880s, nearly fifty pages in 1890, and more than ninety pages in 1900.7

By the turn of the century, advertisers increasingly used national magazines to capture consumers’ attention and build a national marketplace. One magazine that took advantage of these changes was Ladies’ Home Journal, begun in 1883 by Cyrus Curtis. The women’s magazine began publishing more than the usual homemaking tips, including also popular fiction, sheet music, and—most important, perhaps—the latest consumer ads. The magazine’s broadened scope was a reflection of the editors’ and advertisers’ realization that women consumers constituted a growing and lucrative market. Ladies’ Home Journal reached a circulation of over 500,000 by the early 1890s—the highest circulation of any magazine in the country. In 1903, it became the first magazine to reach a circulation of one million.

Social Reform and the Muckrakers

Better distribution and lower costs had attracted readers, but to maintain sales, magazines had to change content as well. Whereas printing the fiction and essays of the best writers of the day was one way to maintain circulation, many magazines also engaged in one aspect of yellow journalism—crusading for social reform on behalf of the public good. In the 1890s, for example, Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) and its editor, Edward Bok, led the fight against unregulated patent medicines (which often contained nearly 50 percent alcohol), while other magazines joined the fight against phony medicines, poor living and working conditions, and unsanitary practices in various food industries.

The rise in magazine circulation coincided with rapid social change in America. While hundreds of thousands of Americans moved from the country to the city in search of industrial jobs, millions of new immigrants also poured in. Thus the nation that journalists had long written about had grown increasingly complex by the turn of the century. Many newspaper reporters became dissatisfied with the simplistic and conventional style of newspaper journalism and turned to magazines, where they were able to write at greater length and in greater depth about broader issues. They wrote about such topics as corruption in big business and government, urban problems faced by immigrants, labor conflicts, and race relations.

In 1902, McClure’s Magazine (1893–1933) touched off an investigative era in magazine reporting with a series of probing stories, including Ida Tarbell’s “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” which took on John D. Rockefeller’s oil monopoly, and Lincoln Steffens’s “Shame of the Cities,” which tackled urban problems. In 1906, Cosmopolitan joined the fray with a series called “The Treason of the Senate,” and Collier’s magazine (1888–1957) developed “The Great American Fraud” series, focusing on patent medicines (whose ads accounted for 30 percent of the profits made by the American press by the 1890s). Much of this new reporting style was critical of American institutions. Angry with so much negative reporting, in 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed these investigative reporters muckrakers, because they were willing to crawl through society’s muck to uncover a story. Muckraking was a label that Roosevelt used with disdain, but it was worn with pride by reporters such as Ray Stannard Baker, Frank Norris, and Lincoln Steffens.


© Bettmann/Corbis

Influenced by Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle—a fictional account of Chicago’s meatpacking industry—and by the muckraking reports of Collier’s and LHJ, in 1906 Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Other reforms stemming from muckraking journalism and the politics of the era include antitrust laws for increased government oversight of business, a fair and progressive income tax, and the direct election of U.S. senators.

The Rise of General-Interest Magazines

The heyday of the muckraking era lasted into the mid-1910s, when America was drawn into World War I. After the war and through the 1950s, general-interest magazines were the most prominent publications, offering occasional investigative articles but also covering a wide variety of topics aimed at a broad national audience. A key aspect of these magazines was photojournalism—the use of photos to document the rhythms of daily life (see “Case Study: The Evolution of Photojournalism” on pages 320–321). High-quality photos gave general-interest magazines a visual advantage over radio, which was the most popular medium of the day. In 1920, about fifty-five magazines fit the general-interest category; by 1946, more than one hundred such magazines competed with radio networks for the national audience.


IDA TARBELL (1857–1944) is best known for her work “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” which appeared as a nineteen-part series in McClure’s Magazine between November 1902 and October 1904. Tarbell once remarked on why she dedicated years of her life to investigating the company: “They had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me.” For muckrakers and investigative journalists like Tarbell, exposing such corruption was a driving force behind their work.
(Left and right) The Granger Collection

Saturday Evening Post

Although it had been around since 1821, the Saturday Evening Post concluded the nineteenth century as only a modest success, with a circulation of about ten thousand. In 1897, Cyrus Curtis, who had already made Ladies’ Home Journal the nation’s top magazine, bought the Post and remade it into the first widely popular general-interest magazine. Curtis’s strategy for reinvigorating the magazine included printing popular fiction and romanticizing American virtues through words and pictures (a Post tradition best depicted in the three-hundred-plus cover illustrations by Norman Rockwell). Curtis also featured articles that celebrated the business boom of the 1920s. This reversed the journalistic direction of the muckraking era, in which business corruption was often the focus. By the 1920s, the Post had reached two million in circulation, the first magazine to hit that mark.

Reader’s Digest

The most widely circulated general-interest magazine during this period was Reader’s Digest. Started in a Greenwich Village basement in 1922 by Dewitt Wallace and Lila Acheson Wallace, Reader’s Digest championed one of the earliest functions of magazines: printing condensed versions of selected articles from other magazines. In the magazine’s early years, the Wallaces refused to accept ads and sold the Digest only through subscriptions. With its inexpensive production costs, low price, and popular pocket-size format, the magazine’s circulation climbed to over one million during the Great Depression, and by 1946, it was the nation’s most popular magazine. By the mid-1980s, it was the most popular magazine in the world, with a circulation of 20 million in America and 10 to 12 million abroad. However, by 2014 it was recovering from bankruptcy, and its circulation base had dropped to about 4.2 million, less than a quarter of its circulation thirty years earlier.


During the general-interest era, national newsmagazines such as Time were also major commercial successes. Begun in 1923 by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, Time developed a magazine brand of interpretive journalism, assigning reporter-researcher teams to cover stories, after which a rewrite editor would put the article in narrative form with an interpretive point of view. Time had a circulation of 200,000 by 1930, increasing to more than 3 million by the mid-1960s. Time’s success encouraged prominent imitators, including Newsweek (established in 1933); U.S. News & World Report (1948); and, more recently, The Week (2001). By 2014, economic decline, competition from the Web, and a shrinking number of readers and advertisers took their toll on the three top newsweeklies. Time’s circulation stagnated at 3.2 million, while U.S. News became a monthly magazine in 2008 and switched to an all-digital format in 2010 (and is now most famous for its “America’s Best Colleges” reports). Newsweek’s circulation peaked in 1991 with 3.3 million readers. As its circulation and revenue sank, it was sold in 2010 for just $1 and the assumption of its debt. After an unsuccessful foray as a digital-only publication, Newsweek relaunched as a print publication in 2014 under new ownership and with an uncertain future.


MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE (1904–1971) was a photojournalist of many “firsts”: first female photographer for Life magazine, first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union, first to shoot the cover photo for Life, and first female war correspondent. Bourke-White (near left) was well known for her photos of WWII—including concentration camps—but also for her documentation of the India-Pakistan partition, including a photo of Gandhi at his spinning wheel (far left).(Left and right) Margaret Bourke-White/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images


LIFE MAGAZINE published iconic photos during its original 1883–1972 run. Following nearly a century as a weekly, it has since been published as a monthly, an occasional commemorative publication, a newspaper supplement, and an online archive.
The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images

Despite the commercial success of Reader’s Digest and Time in the twentieth century, the magazines that really symbolized the general-interest genre during this era were the oversized pictorial weeklies Look and Life. More than any other magazine of its day, Life developed an effective strategy for competing with popular radio by advancing photojournalism. Launched as a weekly by Henry Luce in 1936, Life appealed to the public’s fascination with images (invigorated by the movie industry), radio journalism, and advertising and fashion photography. By the end of the 1930s, Life had a pass-along readership—the total number of people who come into contact with a single copy of a magazine—of more than seventeen million, rivaling the ratings of popular national radio programs.

Life’s first editor, Wilson Hicks—formerly a picture editor for the Associated Press—built a staff of renowned photographer-reporters who chronicled the world’s ordinary and extraordinary events from the late 1930s through the 1960s. Among Life’s most famous photojournalists were Margaret Bourke-White, the first female war correspondent to fly combat missions during World War II, and Gordon Parks, who later became Hollywood’s first African American director of major feature films. Today, Life’s photographic archive is hosted online by Google (

The Fall of General-Interest Magazines

The decline of weekly general-interest magazines, which had dominated the industry for thirty years, began in the 1950s. By 1957, both Collier’s (founded in 1888) and Woman’s Home Companion (founded in 1873) had folded. Each magazine had a national circulation of more than four million the year it died. No magazine with this kind of circulation had ever shut down before. Together, the two publications brought in advertising revenues of more than $26 million in 1956. Although some critics blamed poor management, both magazines were victims of changing consumer tastes, rising postal costs, falling ad revenues, and, perhaps most important, television, which began usurping the role of magazines as the preferred family medium.



The Evolution of Photojournalism

by Christopher R. Harris

W hat we now recognize as photojournalism started with the assignment of photographer Roger Fenton, of the Sunday Times of London, to document the Crimean War in 1856. However, technical limitations did not allow direct reproduction of photodocumentary images in the publications of the day. Woodcut artists had to interpret the photographic images as black-and-white-toned woodblocks that could be reproduced by the presses of the period. Images interpreted by artists therefore lost the inherent qualities of photographic visual documentation: an on-site visual representation of facts for those who weren’t present.

Woodcuts remained the basic method of press reproduction until 1880, when New York Daily Graphic photographer Stephen Horgan invented half-tone reproduction using a dot-pattern screen. This screen enabled metallic plates to directly represent photographic images in the printing process; now periodicals could bring exciting visual reportage to their pages.

JACOB RIISThe Tramp, c. 1890. Riis, who emigrated from Denmark in 1870, lived in poverty in New York for several years before becoming a photojournalist. He spent much of his later life chronicling the lives of the poor in New York City. The Museum of the City of New York /Art Resource, N.Y.

In the mid-1890s, Jimmy Hare became the first photographer recognized as a photojournalist in the United States. Taken for Collier’s Weekly, Hare’s photoreportage on the sinking of the battleship Maine in 1898 near Havana, Cuba, established his reputation as a newsman traveling the world to bring back images of news events. Hare’s images fed into growing popular support for Cuban independence from Spain and eventual U.S. involvement in the Spanish-American War.

In 1888, George Eastman brought photography to the working and middle classes when he introduced the first flexible-film camera from Kodak, his company in Rochester, New York. Gone were the bulky equipment and fragile photographic plates of the past. Now families and journalists could more easily and affordably document gatherings and events.

As photography became easier and more widespread, photojournalism began to take on an increasingly important social role. At the turn of the century, the documentary photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine captured the harsh living and working conditions of the nation’s many child laborers, including crowded ghettos and unsafe mills and factories. Reaction to these shockingly honest photographs resulted in public outcry and new laws against the exploitation of children. Photographs also brought the horrors of World War I to people far from the battlefields.

In 1923, visionaries Henry Luce and Briton Hadden published Time, the first modern photographic newsweekly; Life and Fortune soon followed. From coverage of the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression, these magazines used images that changed the way people viewed the world.

Life, with its spacious 10-by-13-inch format and large photographs, became one of the most influential magazines in America, printing what are now classic images from World War II and the Korean War. Often, Life offered images that were unavailable anywhere else: Margaret Bourke-White’s photographic proof of the unspeakably horrific concentration camps; W. Eugene Smith’s gentle portraits of the humanitarian Albert Schweitzer in Africa; David Duncan’s gritty images of the faces of U.S. troops fighting in Korea.

Television photojournalism made its quantum leap into the public mind as it documented the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. In televised images that were broadcast and rebroadcast, the public witnessed the actual assassination and the confusing aftermath, including live coverage of the murder of alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and of President Kennedy’s funeral procession. Photojournalism also provided visual documentation of the turbulent 1960s, including aggressive photographic coverage of the Vietnam War—its protesters and supporters. Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Eddie Adams shook the emotions of the American public with his photographs of a South Vietnamese general’s summary execution of a suspected Vietcong terrorist. Closer to home, shocking images of the Civil Rights movement culminated in pictures of Birmingham police and police dogs attacking Civil Rights protesters.


In the 1970s, new computer technologies emerged and were embraced by print and television media worldwide. By the late 1980s, computers could transform images into digital form and easily manipulate them with sophisticated software programs. Today, a reporter can take a picture and within minutes send it to news offices in Tokyo, Berlin, and New York; moments later, the image can be used in a late-breaking TV story or sent directly to that organization’s Twitter followers. Such digital technology has revolutionized photojournalism, perhaps even more than the advent of roll film did in the late nineteenth century. Today’s photojournalists post entire interactive photo slideshows alongside stories, sometimes adding audio explaining their artistic and journalistic process. Their photographs live on through online news archives and through photojournalism blogs, such as the Lens of the New York Times, where photojournalists are able to gain recognition for their work and find new audiences.

However, there is a dark side to all this digital technology. Because of the absence of physical film, there is a loss of proof, or veracity, of the authenticity of images. Original film has qualities that make it easy to determine whether it has been tampered with. Digital images, by contrast, can be easily altered, and such alteration can be very difficult to detect.

CAMILLE LEPAGE, a twenty-six-year-old French photojournalist, was killed in May 2014 while covering the chaotic civil war in the Central African Republic, which reignited in 2012. Her photos exposed the everyday life of civilians and soldiers in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, from refugees and the gravely injured in hospitals to African fashion-show models trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. Her work appeared in news media around the world, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, and Al Jazeera.
Camille LePage/AFP/Getty Images

An egregious example of image-tampering involved the Ralph Lauren fashion model Filippa Hamilton. She appeared in a drastically Photoshopped advertisement that showed her hips as being thinner than her head—like a Bratz doll. The ad, published only in Japan, received intense criticism when the picture went viral. The 5’10”, 120-pound model was subsequently dropped by the fashion label because, as Hamilton explained, “they said I was overweight and I couldn’t fit in their clothes anymore.”1 In today’s age of Photoshop, it is common practice to make thin female models look even thinner and make male models look unnaturally muscled. “Every picture has been worked on, some twenty, thirty rounds,” Ken Harris, a fashion magazine photo-retoucher said; “going between the retoucher, the client, and the agency . . . [photos] are retouched to death.”2 And since there is no disclaimer saying these images have been retouched, it can be hard for viewers to know the truth.

Photojournalists and news sources are confronted today with unprecedented concerns over truth-telling. In the past, trust in documentary photojournalism rested solely on the verifiability of images (“what you see is what you get”). This is no longer the case. Just as we must evaluate the words we read, now we must also take a more critical eye to the images we view.

Christopher R. Harris is a professor in the Department of Electronic Media Communication at Middle Tennessee State University.

TV Guide Is Born

While other magazines were just beginning to make sense of the impact of television on their readers, TV Guide appeared in 1953. Taking its cue from the pocket-size format of Reader’s Digest and the supermarket sales strategy used by women’s magazines, TV Guide—started by Walter Annenberg’s Triangle Publications—soon rivaled the success of Reader’s Digest by addressing the nation’s growing fascination with television by publishing TV listings. The first issue sold a record 1.5 million copies in ten urban markets. Because many newspapers were not yet listing TV programs, by 1962 the magazine became the first weekly to reach a circulation of 8 million, with its seventy regional editions tailoring its listings to TV channels in specific areas of the country. (See Table 9.1 for the circulation figures of the Top 10 U.S. magazines.)

1972 2014
Rank/Publication Circulation Rank/Publication Circulation
1 Reader’s Digest 17,825,661 1 AARP The Magazine 22,837,736
2 TV Guide 16,410,858 2 AARP Bulletin 22,183,316
3 Woman’s Day 8,191,731 3 Better Homes and Gardens 7,639,661
4 Better Homes and Gardens 7,996,050 4 Game Informer 7,099,452
5 Family Circle 7,889,587 5 Good Housekeeping 4,315,330
6 McCall’s 7,516,960 6 Family Circle 4,015,728
7 National Geographic 7,260,179 7 National Geographic 3,572,348
8 Ladies’ Home Journal 7,014,251 8 People 3,510,533
9 Playboy 6,400,573 9 Reader’s Digest 3,393,573
10 Good Housekeeping 5,801,446 10 Woman’s Day 3,288,335
Table 9.1: TABLE 9.1 THE TOP 10 MAGAZINES (RANKED BY PAID U.S. CIRCULATION AND SINGLE-COPY SALES, 1972 VERSUS 2014)Data from: Alliance for Audited Media,


TV Guide’s story illustrates a number of key trends that affected magazines beginning in the 1950s. First, TV Guide highlighted America’s new interest in specialized magazines. Second, it demonstrated the growing sales power of the nation’s checkout lines, which also sustained the high circulation rates of women’s magazines and supermarket tabloids. Third, TV Guide underscored the fact that magazines were facing the same challenge as other mass media in the 1950s: the growing power of television. TV Guide would rank among the nation’s most popular magazines in the twentieth century.

In 1988, media baron Rupert Murdoch acquired Triangle Publications for $3 billion. Murdoch’s News Corp. owned the new Fox network, and buying the then influential TV Guide ensured that the fledgling network would have its programs listed. In 2005, after years of declining circulation (TV schedules in local newspapers had increasingly undermined its regional editions), TV Guide became a full-size entertainment magazine, dropping its smaller digest format and its 140 regional editions. In 2008, TV Guide, once the most widely distributed magazine, was sold to a private venture capital firm for $1—less than the cost of a single issue. The TV Guide Network and—both deemed more valuable assets—were sold to the film company Lionsgate Entertainment for $255 million in 2009. As TV Guide fell out of favor, Game Informer—a magazine about digital games—became a top title, as it chronicled the rise of another mass media industry.

Saturday Evening Post, Life, and Look Expire

Although Reader’s Digest and women’s supermarket magazines were not greatly affected by television, other general-interest magazines were. The Saturday Evening Post folded in 1969, Look in 1971, and Life in 1972. At the time, all three magazines were rated in the Top 10 in terms of paid circulation, and each had a readership that exceeded six million per issue. (A look at today’s top-selling magazines—see Table 9.1—indicates just how large a readership this was.) Why did these magazines fold? First, to maintain these high circulation figures, their publishers were selling the magazines for far less than the cost of production. For example, a subscription to Life cost a consumer twelve cents an issue, yet it cost the publisher more than forty cents per copy to make and mail.


THE RISE AND FALL OF LOOK With large pages, beautiful photographs, and compelling stories on celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Look entertained millions of readers from 1937 to 1971, emphasizing photojournalism to compete with radio. By the late 1960s, however, TV lured away national advertisers, postal rates increased, and production costs rose, forcing Look to fold despite a readership of more than eight million.
The Advertising Archives

Second, the national advertising revenue pie that helped make up the cost differences for Life and Look now had to be shared with network television—and magazines’ slices were getting smaller. Life’s high pass-along readership meant that it had a larger audience than many prime-time TV shows. But it cost more to have a single full-page ad in Life than it did to buy a minute of ad time during evening television. National advertisers were often forced to choose between the two, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, television seemed a better buy to advertisers looking for the biggest audience.

Third, dramatic increases in postal rates had a particularly negative effect on oversized publications (those larger than the 8-by-10.5-inch standard). In the 1970s, postal rates increased by more than 400 percent for these magazines. The Post and Life cut their circulations drastically to save money. The Post went from producing 6.8 million to 3 million copies per issue; Life, which lost $30 million between 1968 and 1972, cut circulation from 8.5 million to 7 million. The economic rationale here was that limiting the number of copies would reduce production and postal costs, enabling the magazines to lower their ad rates to compete with network television. But in fact, with decreased circulation, these magazines became less attractive to advertisers trying to reach the largest general audience.

The general-interest magazines that survived the competition for national ad dollars tended to be women’s magazines, such as Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Woman’s Day. These publications had smaller formats and depended primarily on supermarket sales rather than on expensive mail-delivered subscriptions (like Life and Look). However, the most popular magazines, TV Guide and Reader’s Digest, benefited not only from supermarket sales but also from their larger circulations (twice that of Life), their pocket size, and their small photo budgets. The failure of the Saturday Evening Post, Look, and Life as oversized general-audience weeklies ushered in a new era of specialization.

People Puts Life Back into Magazines

In March 1974, Time Inc. launched People, the first successful mass market magazine to appear in decades. With an abundance of celebrity profiles and human-interest stories, People showed a profit in two years and reached a circulation of more than two million within five years. People now ranks first in revenue from advertising and circulation sales—more than $1.5 billion a year—and ranks eighth in the United States in terms of circulation (see Table 9.1).

The success of People is instructive, particularly because only two years earlier television had helped kill Life by draining away national ad dollars. Instead of using a bulky oversized format and relying on subscriptions, People downsized and generated most of its circulation revenue from newsstand and supermarket sales. For content, it took its cue from our culture’s fascination with celebrities. Supported by plenty of photos, its short articles are about one-third the length of the articles in a typical newsmagazine.

Although People has not achieved the broad popularity that Life once commanded, it does seem to defy the contemporary trend of specialized magazines aimed at narrow but well-defined audiences, such as Tennis World, Game Informer, and Hispanic Business. One argument suggests that People is not, in fact, a mass market magazine but a specialized publication targeting people with particular cultural interests: a fascination with music, TV, and movie stars. If People is viewed as a specialty magazine, its financial success makes much more sense. It also helps explain the host of magazines that try to emulate it, including Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, In Touch Weekly, Star, and OK!People has even spawned its own spin-offs, including People en Español and People StyleWatch; the latter is a low-cost fashion magazine that began in 2007 and features celebrity styles at discount prices.


Convergence: Magazines Confront the Digital Age

REGIONAL MAGAZINES maintain a healthy readership in some areas, with sometimes award-winning coverage of local events, issues, and personalities. But even locally, there can be stiff competition: Denver Magazine, whose offices are pictured here, was closed and absorbed by rival 5280 in 2011.
Joe Amon/ The Denver Post via Getty Images

Although the Internet was initially viewed as the death knell of print magazines, the industry now embraces it. The Internet has become the place where print magazines like Time and Entertainment Weekly can extend their reach, where some magazines like FHM and PCWorld can survive when their print version ends, or where online magazines like Salon, Slate, and Wonderwall can exist exclusively.

Magazines Move Online

Given the costs of paper, printing, and postage, creating magazine companion Web sites is a popular method for expanding the reach of consumer magazines. For example, Wired magazine has a print circulation of about 853,000. Online, gets an average of 19 million unique visitors per month. Mobile magazine apps have become even more popular. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of U.S. consumer magazine iPad apps grew from 98 to 2,234.8

The Web and app formats give magazines unlimited space, which is at a premium in their printed versions, and the opportunity to do things that print can’t do. Many online magazines now include blogs, original video and audio podcasts, social networks, games, virtual fitting rooms, and 3-D “augmented reality” (or AR) components that could never work in print. For example, has added interactive 3-D models for do-it-yourself projects, so that a reader can go over plans to make an Adirondack chair, examining joints and parts from every angle. has featured 3-D athletes in Calvin Klein underwear, and automotive magazines are using AR to bring car models to life. Additionally, many digital magazines (including Lucky, Seventeen, GQ, Teen Vogue, Brides, Popular Science, and Maxim) offer mobile-specific scanning apps that enable 3-D involvement on every page, not just those pages with a QR code (the square scannable bar codes that link to video and Web pages). Although QR codes are still a primary part of the mobile activation experience, they are more associated with promotions and coupons, whereas augmented reality is a vehicle for a stronger branding experience.

Paperless: Magazines Embrace Digital Content

SALON, launched in 1995, is now a leading Internet entertainment magazine. Though it was created by former newspaper staffers, its mixture of topics and article lengths, as well as its national scope, makes it more akin to a general-interest magazine.
Courtesy of

Webzines such as Salon and Slate, which are magazines that appear exclusively online, were pioneers in making the Web a legitimate site for breaking news and discussing culture and politics. Salon was founded in 1995 by five former reporters from the San Francisco Examiner who wanted to break from the traditions of newspaper publishing and build “a different kind of newsroom” to create well-developed stories and commentary. Salon is a leading online magazine, claiming 17.6 million unique monthly visitors in 2015. Its main online competitor, Slate, founded in 1996 and now owned by the Graham Holdings Company, draws about 25 million unique monthly visitors.


Other online-only magazines have tried to reinvent the idea of a magazine, instead of just adapting the print product to the Web. For example, MSN’s Wonderwall ( uses a layout that is only possible in a digital magazine. Visitors are met by a vertical “wall” of more than sixty celebrity photographs, each linking to a story. Lonny (, an interior design magazine, enables readers to flip through digital pages and then click through on items (such as pillows, chairs, or fabrics) for purchase. As magazines create apps for smartphones and touchscreen tablets, editorial content is even more tightly woven with advertising. Readers can now, for example, read Entertainment Weekly’s top music recommendations on their iPhone or iPad and then click through to buy a song or album on iTunes. Entertainment Weekly, owned by Time Inc., then gets a cut of the sale it generated for iTunes, and the reader gets music almost instantly.