Magazines in the Digital Age– Stockpiles of Advertisements?

An “advertorial.” Because we all need a spicy holiday outfit.

Brooke Erin Duffy’s Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age recounts the history of women’s magazines, with an emphasis on the recent digitization of them and its implications for the industry. Duffy discusses advertisements in detail:

if you are an advertiser today, you can easily see your products featured on virtually every editorial page in the magazine. Back then, the horrible thing was the “advertorial” [an ad in the style of an editorial] … But today [magazine] pages are so pervasively riddled with advertising that you almost don’t need [advertorials] anymore, (Duffy, 128).

This is disconcerting, but not at all surprising given the amount of advertising we encounter with every other medium today. This all reminds me of a recent episode of HBO’s Girls wherein the main character Hannah gets a job working at GQ magazine, only to find out she would be doing advertorial work. Her first assignment is to write “The Field Guide To The Urban Man,” but the catch is that her piece would be sponsored by Neiman Marcus. Hannah, who is 24 years old, feels as though she is already selling out. In a rant that would (spoiler alert) get her fired, she says some pretty demeaning things about her fellow advertorial writers:

Am I seriously the only one of us who prides herself on being a truly authentic person? … What is happening at this table is honestly the biggest squanderization [sic] of talent I have ever seen in my life … Did you think you were going to grow up and be like in a sweatshop factory for puns?

Ouch, Hannah. She sees herself as a true writer, and for her, that means not writing for a sponsor in which she has to add predetermined products. She seems to think that advertorials are worse than advertisements, which I agree with. I think we can all agree that there is nothing worse than being duped into reading something to find out in end that it was all just an advertisement. Just today, there is an article on TechCrunch saying there have recently been fake female profiles on the Tinder app that end up promoting a mobile game. Just when I thought I had found love, I instead found a hot robot telling me to play Castle Clash. This also all reminds me of the iconic scene from A Christmas Story:

Conversely, when we subject ourselves to an advertisement, there is no disappointment– we know what we are getting, nothing more, nothing less. To wrap up the discussion on advertorials,

We read to dream and aspire, but also to acquire.”) This mentality may foreshadow the accelerated movement of our mass media system toward more individualized, interactive, and above all advertising-friendly forms of entertainment, (Duffy, 141).

This movement is, of course, already fully in motion. Duffy also discusses what works with digital magazines and what does not: “Cultural practices and industry conventions centered on ‘monthly editions,’ ‘in-depth features,’ and ‘editorial curation’ do not seem to translate well into the digital domain, (Duffy, 132). The one convention that stood out to me was the “in-depth features.” As we have seen, new media has seemingly abbreviated all content (and our attention spans), which our classmates Sara and Hammad touched on last week in a discussion of webisodes. It is no wonder to me that a very long article on an online magazine does not succeed. I hope I’m not the only one who has encountered a large article online and thought “nah.” Hopefully this was not too long for any of you to say “nah” too.

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

“Free Snacks.” Girls. HBO.  9 Feb. 2014. Television.


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