Vanity Fair: A Magazine in Decline

13 May

My wife has long subscribed to Vanity Fair and I generally peruse every issue. With more than 1.1 million subscribers, it ranks in the top 100 magazines, according to the Magazine Publishers of America. In its salad days, you could thumb through more than 100 pages of glittering ads before you reached the first of three table of contents pages. Back then, the editors would brag on a cover line about the number of pages in the issue, topping 600 pages once, if memory serves.

No longer.

Vanity Fair like other print media is in obvious decline. Advertising is way down. The current June issue’s table of contents begins on page 16. Sprinkled among the paid advertising are 10 or more house ads, ones magazines use to fill space in hopes that at the last minute someone will buy the page.

With the June issue the publication is rolling out its iPad edition, available at the Apple AppStore for $4.99. I believe my wife pays $12 (Update: She has since told me it’s $15 per year.) for an annual subscription. According to Mashable, the iPad version offers little more than what you can get online for free.

As the magazine shrinks in size, it also seems to be narrowing its once global perspective. It remains obsessed with Tiger Woods’ indiscretions, while the Twitterverse has long left that pseudo-scandal in the dust. According to Google Trends, interest in Tiger has dipped down to the level of his 2008 U.S. Open victory. Good news for Tiger; bad news for Vanity Fair.

The magazine has also become increasingly provincial and dumb. Its junior editors revel in their New York irony, but only reveal their ignorance and lack of sophistication. Take the June issue’s “60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll,” a relatively new section, which purports to glean insight into the thinking of contemporary Americans by asking questions only junior editors on a major New York publication could conceive. This month they seem stunned that only eight percent of their fellow countrymen and women consider the New York Times as a “most trustworthy source of daily news in the United States,” while more than three times that number prefer CNN or Fox News. Did they stop to consider that the daily circulation of the newspaper is 1 million, overwhelmingly in the city itself? Did they bother to notice that its monthly unique Web visitors is maybe seven percent of the U.S. population?

I’d hate for Vanity Fair to disappear. I do so much enjoy its great photography and voyeuristic glances into the world of celebrity. And its coverage of other media is excellent. I even appreciate its over-the-top fashion ads. But if it is going to survive, it needs to become smarter not snarkier. After all, that’s what bloggers are for.


4 Responses to “Vanity Fair: A Magazine in Decline”

  1. gevin shaw May 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Robert McChesney and John Nichols take a look at the failures of the century-long experiment in commercial journalism and examine the origins and benefits of the public-subsidized press in the first century of the country.

  2. meh2meh May 16, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    Thank you, Gevin. This is an excellent (audio) analysis. Well worth a listen.

  3. gevin shaw May 17, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Against the Grain takes a traditional Left look at politics and C.S. Soong is a professional and insightful interviewer.

    Once a week, Counterspin , also on KPFA, takes an alternative look at corporate mainstream media coverage. The interviews there are a little more leading and specifically biased, but its always good to hear another side of a story. They also don’t quite have their, well, corporate mainstream media radio voices down, but that might be part of the point.

    [It was a little freaky to go to a new page here, what was it, yesterday just as the new template was applied. I’m still a little amazed when someone makes a meeting that was arranged via email with no phone contact. Any indication, I guess, that there are actually humans connected to this thing.]

    • meh2meh May 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

      Nothing wrong with a “traditional Left look at politics” because, the MSM’s meme notwithstanding, the Left gets very little airing in this country. Your links are great and much appreciated.

      Sorry about freaking you out with the sudden change of theme here. I found myself having difficulty proofing the pages in Preview mode because the column width was so wide. Someone else tells me the image I chose (and old farm machine I saw on a recent bike ride) is also a tad freaky. It may take me a while to get the aesthetics of this blogging thing down. 😉

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