Molding Women into Bigger and Better Consumers?

“The first magazine targeted exclusively to a female audience was the seventeenth-century London fortnightly the Ladies’ Mercury, which promised to answer ‘all the most nice and curious questions concerning love, marriage, behaviour, dress, and humour of the female sex, whether virgins, wives, or widows'” (Duffy, 21).

This week’s reading by Brooke Erin Duffy, Remake, Remodel, spent a great deal of time discussing the marketing strategies of magazines through history. Many of the issues that have arisen throughout time have to do with an increased specificity in the reader demographic. There are no longer “niche audiences” to be targeted, but instead, the magazine industry must reach out to individuals.

After spending so much time last week thinking about marketing in the television industry, these strategies were on the forefront of my mind through this entire reading. I was often frustrated with Duffy’s arguments, or perhaps they didn’t make sense to me.

Something that has always made sense in my mind in the history of marketing is the certain specified reliable audiences. For unexplained reasons, there will always be people who buy romance novels. Audiences will always show up for the next James Bond movie. And people will always, always, watch Jeopardy. There are certain markets that simply have nothing to be concerned about.

It was this mindset that was conflicting with Duffy’s discussion on the magazine industry of the 1990s and beyond which was criticized for generalizing its audiences. I’m not sure what frustrates me. Is it the fact that the generalizations tie pretty well to my theory of guaranteed markets? Is it because this is an absurd task to request? Why should magazines, of all creative mediums, be responsible for targeting audiences even further than any other genre medium?

Now, I’m not saying that women should simply be broken down into the categories of “virgins, wives, and widows,” as mentioned in Ladies’ Mercury. In the very successful magazine industry, which has maintained its success for centuries, there seems to already be a plethora of options for both men and women from which to choose. That being said, won’t there always be successful markets for magazines? If you want to read about fashion, read Vogue. Sex? Read Cosmo. Science and Technology? Discover. On a diet? Cooking Light. Looking for pre-teen heart throbs? Tiger Beat. There are niche audiences being targeted everywhere!

In discussing the switch from print to digital, Duffy acknowledged the shift from a female dominant industry to men in the age of technology. She declared herself not fully versed on the subject, but still made assumptions regarding men taking over a woman’s industry.

Unfortunately, the shift toward digitization has the potential to undermine the leadership role of women in the industry. Thus, if it continues to be the case that digital producers (many of whom are male) exert influence over matters of content, women may get elbowed out of their leadership positions. As the dust settles at this moment of unprecedented change, the gendered hierarchies of value within the industry may be subverted (Duffy, 67).

She continues the discussion by saying the ‘high proportion of men in technology can overshadow some of the participation by women or women’s publications.’ While she stands by the magazine industry’s marketing motto of ‘for women by women,’ this point is slipped in to suggest the digital worlds’ upheaval of such a hierarchy.

My confusion continues a bit, because it seems as though the actual content is still predominantly controlled by the editorial staff (which she vaguely declared it seemed to be ‘mostly women’). Is the issue that the switch to the digital is simply evening out the gender ratio in regards to jobs in the industry? Or is she concerned that men are taking over yet another industry and calling it their own? I have no personal problem with the former, and the latter seems like it might be jumping the gun a bit.

It confuses the thesis, since the general consensus of the book is that the magazine industry is doing remarkably well considering all of the changes happening. Duffy is concentrating solely on problems that might happen, or might have happened – who really knows? Regardless, I would love to discuss these issues in class. It is very possible that I am reading too much into it.

I would like to conclude with the hilariously defensive quote about fashion bloggers from Vogue Italia’s editor Franca Sozzani because she seems to be extremely territorial about her spot in the industry:

Franca Sozzani wants you to take down your fashion blog.

Franca Sozzani wants you to take down your fashion blog.

 

Why are they so credited? Why do they sit in front row? Why does the Chamber of Italian Fashion thinks so highly of them, so much as to provide them with a driver during the shows as it’s happened during menswear? . . . These aren’t people who have been working in fashion too long to end up criticizing everything, the shows, and they don’t have a background in fashion so they are not conditioned by their knowledge or interests. Their comments are naïf and enthusiastic. They don’t hold a real importance in the business (Duffy, 102).

 

 

Duffy, Brooke Erin. Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age. Chicago: University of Illinois, 2013. Print. 

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