A few days ago I picked up a copy of the most recent issue of “Jane” magazine. It’s not one I usually pick up, but I’ve been a magazine addict for as long as I can remember, and the addiction started when Mom got me a subscription to “Seventeen,” at least a year before my actual age even qualified me as a “teenager.” So, now and then I like to re-identify with the roots of my addiction, as it were.
I’m completely fascinated by my experience with Jane this week. As I’ve seen in several other print media over the last few years, this one shows clear signs of infection by the Digital Disease, and it’s fabulous. We’re not just talking about bright graphics-driven layouts that attempt to tease the reader into “clicking” through the issue, rather then poring through it cover-to-cover or, gasp, using the table of contents. This magazine appears to have removed the persona of authority that fashion and popular culture editors have traditionally embodied. Regardless of whether that authority still there but simply transparent, I really get more of a sense of community, almost like I’m entrenched in a bulletin-board discussion. We have plenty of vocabulary originating from television (ok, YouTube: the revolution is complete). We have not “insider tips” but real-world tips appearing to come from people NOT on the payroll of Maybelline or Calvin Klein. And we have heartfelt calls to collective action, à la: “who’s with me here? Let’s do this!” I love it.
My little tête-à-tête with Jane also brings to mind the sort of historical role that magazines have (for some people, anyway): sort of a time capsule, not just of current events, faces and trends, but of methods of advertising persuasion. The language and imagery that can sell a commodity changes with time. As Nick Currie writes in the article cited above, “The consumer society depicted in the pages of old magazines—advertising and editorial both, although the advertising perhaps somewhat more so—has lost its power to seduce, bully or dominate. The products presented look quaint, the future promised farcically fallacious. Everything has been valuably alienated—contextualized, sure, but also de- and re-contextualized….”
What works now? Perhaps the very thing that draws me to the magazine: I already feel loyal to the collective. Curses!