Identities in Women’s Magazines



Women’s magazines are in the identity business based on understanding demographics. While women’s magazines are themselves a genre, they seek niche audiences, marketing to specific tastes, creating a specified audience who will continue to be loyal to their magazine. In Chapter 4 of Remake, Remodel, “Rethinking Readership: The Digital Challenge of Audience Construction, Brooke Erin Duffy states,



…media executives strive to know their audience. Yet this strategic imperative is built upon the  assumption that “the audience” is a real set of individuals, rather than a purely discursive construction. That is media producers’ ideas about audiences may be quite different from the ways in which individual members of “the audience” understand themselves (69).

It is a necessity for these magazines, as content producers to have a defined audience so they can continue producing relative content. Media audiences, in recent years have come to be been understood as “industrially created and economically incentivized categories” (69). While content production in its sincerest form is content that is un-persuaded by commodification, women’s magazines rely highly on advertisers money, as well as an audience. It creates an interesting mixture of powers behind the women’s magazine– the audience, the magazine staff and advertisers in producing content (39). With the advent of digital technology, there has been an even larger push in understanding what audiences want. They can now measure the number of clicks an article has, get direct feedback from consumers and therefore build around that– but this also makes for a trickier definition of audience than that above. Now, there are an increasing amount of platforms, and different types of audiences- print, ipad, digital, who can vary and now produce their own content.

It seems clear that most popular women’s magazines carry similar themes from early magazines. In looking at popular ‘women’s magazines’ and the genres that media research firms break the genres, “women’s service,” “entertainment/celebrity” and “beauty and fashion,” these magazines are aimed at providing resources for improving women’s lifestyles with a focus on interests aimed at women, and creating a loyal readership (23).  However, now search engines provide women with specific answers to specific problems and magazines have incrasingly incorporated Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies in creating digital content. Instead of going to a specific source, it is easier to type a question or interest into google, and have google use its algorithm to determine the best result. Duffy uses the quote from Mark Weinberg, a digital media staff for Hearst magazine, in comparing web audiences to print, or ipad audiences,

The web audience doesn’t behave the same way…I would defy anybody who can find more than five people who could say on any given day, “I’m going to go to a specific site and see what they have on their website today”…what happens is people say, “I need to get this coffee stain out of my white shirt, I wonder what’s the best solution. (79)

While audiences for women’s magazines were traditionally thought to read specific magazines for continuous content related to specific issues, now magazines are needing to create digital content in relation to what is specifically searched on these search engines. It becomes more regimented, and distracts from creativity of digital content, for titles or terms that are more straightforward. However, it is clear that searchability for digital magazines is important– in relation to the traditional nature of women’s magazines as resources for women to improve their lifestyles. It also brings audiences to the page who would not normally– and may draw audiences to different types of resources, drawing them away from loyalty to one source. It is harder to identify an online audience in these terms but magazines are willing to put all there resources in trying to maximize audience and profit and to manufacture an identity based on interrelated powers of audience, marketers and producers.



Digital platforms allow for other ‘magazines’– if they can be called that –to be published cheaply without needing the large
amount of resources that these larger women’s magazines have with non-professional producers and that can relate to numerous topics. While there are many online women’s magazines, a related example is the popularity of Pinterest. Pinterest has the layout of a “table-of-contents” for specific topics. Although it is based on the image of a pin-board, it also resembles a magazine- images with text and allows users to create their own boards using resources online, linking them through images. Most of these ‘pins’ are solutions or ideas, mostly aimed at a feminine demographic, and the boards are searchable, making it easy to find specific content. Magazines are also increasingly using Pinterest, as well as users on Pinterest to pin online articles. Digital platforms such as these are great for increasing consumerism, and continuing with the three traditional genres of women’s magazines. While platforms are changing and converging, there appears to be limited changes in the actual ‘identity’ of magazines and how they view their audiences. While digital platforms allow for a vast diversity of magazines, the same types of magazines are popular, assuming that interests remain the same and have transferred to a digital realm. It has caused changes in the industry, and the way things are consumed– but as for content, there has been comparatively less change.

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