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Magazine Industry Past

Page history last edited by bhespanhol 10 years, 2 months ago
  Magazine Group    
Magazine Industry Past   Magazine Industry Present   The Future of Magazines  


The History of the Magazine Industry





 The Gutenberg Printing Press



  8 9 


     "It's a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams, the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men! Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men." -Johannes Gutenberg [1] 

     Johannes Gutenberg is known for the invention of the Gutenberg press… He invented the printing press with replaceable/movable wooden or metal letters in 1436 (completed by 1440)… "This method of printing can be credited not only for a revolution in the production of books, but also for fostering rapid development in the sciences, arts and religion through the transmission of texts.”[2]


     The Gutenberg printing press led the way for a revolution in the world of literacy. The printing press gave the masses books, and because books were so readily available, the need for literacy became more pertinent and important. Thus, with the increase in the number of books, came a substantial increase in literacy rates. “Books had been costly and education rare; only the clergy had been regular readers and owners of books. Most books had been written in Latin, considered the language of scholarship. In the Renaissance, the educated middle classes, who could now afford books, demanded works in their own languages. Furthermore, readers wanted a greater variety of books. Almanacs, travel books, chivalry romances and poetry were all published at this time.” [3]

     For more specific information on the development and effects of the Gutenberg Press, please visit the following link: Gutenberg Printing Press
     Credit to the MASS COMM Book Industry Group

Why this is important?


     It is the foundation for print mass media including books, newspapers and magazines. Without this invention, any sort of printed mass media would be nonexistent. 




The Emergence Phase

     During the Magazine Industry's emergence, or novelty phase, there was an intended market of wealthy, educated, noble people. The emergence of this form of mass media was the answer to delivering selective content to a specific upper class audience. It was a combination of two of the earliest forms of mass media: newspapers and books. It was newspaper content in the form of books.


The Term 'Magazine'

     The origin of the word magazine causes controversy for historians. Some sources identify the word magazine from the French term "magasin" which translates to "storehouse." Other sources believe magazine came from the Arabic word "makhzan" which means, "the warehouse." Both words are very similar and capture what a magazine is so really, both are correct. A "storehouse" is a place or building in which goods are stored, which is also known as a warehouse. "This term can also be related to an abundant source or supply of knowledge." [5][11]


 [4]   [4]  [4]
 Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen  The Ladies Mercury  The Gentleman's Magazine



     The emergence phase began in Germany in 1663 with periodicals called "Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen." The concept of periodicals spread throughout Europe. In 1693, the first woman-targeted periodical, "The Ladies Mercury", was released in London. Also,in 1704, "The Review" was created and edited by political activist and novelist Daniel Defoe. In 1731 the name 'magazine' appeared in London to describe the periodicals. "The Gentleman's Magazine" created by Edward Cave, being the first of the general interest magazines. At that time, "magazines" were closer more like pamphlets in the form of bookseller catalogs.[5][11]


What was so special about periodicals?

     Periodicals were publications that resemble today's magazines, but with a different approach. They had literal and philosophical topics mainly created by one author with no original content targeted to an intellectual audience. "Periodicals contained very little information and their appearance resembled pamphlets in form of bookseller catalogs." They included content such as poetry, politics and philosophy, and were oriented to a broad domestic and political commentary rather than recent news. [5]


What was the advantage of those early magazines/periodicals?

     The main reason they were published was to inform the elite class with publications with more liberal perspective and freedom. [5]


What were the problems?

     Periodicals/Magazines in the 1700's had very high distribution costs, printing was expensive and transportation was not efficient. They usually appeared monthly or bimonthly at best. They also faced very low literacy rates therefore only the literate elite could read their publications. [5]




     American magazines were originally just regurgitation of British news. 

 [7]  [6] 
The American Magazine The General Magazine


     Ten years later,


     The First Colonial Magazine a had similar beginning compared to the Europe magazines. They appeared in Philadelphia in 1741 about 50 years after the first newspapers, the first magazines in the American colonies appeared. They  followed the British formats, published by Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Bradford. Franklin came up with the idea first, but Bradford beat him to press by three days. Franklin's General Magazine lasted longer, primarily because he exploited his role as Postmaster General for the colonies as he was able to distribute his magazines paying no postal fee, while also being able to block carriers from distributing rival's magazine.Bradford's magazine lasted for only three monthly issues and Franklin's only lasted six months. [10] [11]


      After the ratification of the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of the press, Congress fixed postal rates in 1792, which negatively impacted  magazines. But a revision two years later lowered rates on magazines, yet production and distribution rates remained high and magazines were still a luxury for a privileged, literate elite. "A circulation of 500 would have been high."[10]


     "In the nineteenth century, increased literacy, a larger middle class, and westward expansion led to a greater demand for magazines that could transmit information to the frontier. In 1863, postage rates were streamlined into first-, second-, and third-class rates, and then in 1879, the three classes of mail were reorganized so that magazines now enjoyed the same low postage cost as newspapers. Improved techniques in paper manufacturing and printing machinery, including color printing beginning in the 1860's, lowered production costs. As a result, the number of magazines boomed, and the highest magazine circulations climbed from 40,000 before the Civil War to 100,000 by the end of the century. "[10]


What were the advantages?

     The most successful magazines were reprinted from London Periodicals, Independent Reflector and Pennsylvania magazine. But their purpose was still to inform the elite, literate class on different subjects with more freedom. [10]


What were the difficulties they faced?

     Nothing much changed since the early periodicals, the obstacles were the same. Magazines developed slowly in colonial America due to lack of a substantial middle class, let alone a literate one, and technology for printing just wasn't advanced enough. They also suffered from very high distribution costs, printing was expensive and transportation was not efficient.  Franklin was able to go through the distribution cost because he was the "post master" and controlled distribution.  Even with that advantage, a circulation of 500 copies was considered high. By 1776 more than 100 magazines had failed.[10] [11]


What were the improvements?

     With the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, guaranteeing freedom of the press, Congress fixed postal rates in 1792. Also, a revision two years later lowered rates on magazines, but production and distribution costs remained high and magazines were still a luxury for the privileged, literate, elite class. Even with those improvements, a circulation of over 500 copies would still be high.[10]




The Entrepreneurial Stage

     The next stage of the Magazine Industry is the Entrepreneurial stage, where the major players of the emerging period begin looking for a practical and marketable use for the magazine. This stage takes place during the 1800's because communities stated to develop different angles about society and life around them. With that, new ideas began to redesign the purpose of a magazine, its audience, and ultimately its content. Throughout the nineteenth century, the magazine industry developed itself through the power of high and low culture structures in our society, and the big issues in society were the key to the now various, interest-driven magazines. Also, the problems and ideas that could be aimed at the national audience caused the birth of the general interest magazines.[11][10]


     "Many early magazines were overtly religious and boasted the largest readerships of the day. For example, the Methodist Christian Journal and Advocate claimed twenty-five thousand subscribers by 1826. Literary magazines also emerged at this time. The North American Review established the important work of important writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. Specialty magazines addressed various professions, lifestyles and topics also appeared. Some of these magazines included The American Farmer, The American Journal of Mathematics, The American Law Journal, Medical Respiratory, and the American Journal of Science.This type of specialization spawned the modern trend of reaching readers who share a profession, a set of beliefs, cultural tastes or social identity."[11]


     The growth of the magazine industry in the newly independent United States remained slow while delivery costs remained high. Some postal carriers refused to even carry magazines because of their extensive weight. Because of these issues, there were only roughly twelve magazines operating in 1800. By 1825, there were 100 active magazine, but almost 500 had failed to make it in that time frame because of the difficulty of staying in competition with bigger companies. During the first quarter of the 19th century, most communities had their own weekly magazine in local circulation, focusing on local issues. They also focused on government activities, and political intrigue, as well as the usual reprinted material from other sources. Some magazines were trying  to use advertising to help pay for the financial strains prevalent due to small circulation. Advertisement was not very popular because they were full of special taxes and also publishers liked to avoid these type of income. [11][10][5]


The Beginning of General Interest Magazines - 1821


[22]  [20]  [21]
Harriet Beecher Stowe The Saturday Evening Post  Nathaniel Hawthorne 


     The rise general interest magazines was one of the most important developments in the magazine industry. The idea of reaching a broad audience with the intention of controlling the majority of the market stood out as the first major general interest mass medium in 1821.[11]

     "The first General Interest magazine began in 1821, targeting a national audience. In 1821, two young Philadelphia printers, Charles Alexander and Samuel Coate Atkinson, launched the Saturday Evening Post, which became the longest-running magazine in U.S History. Similar to other magazines, the Saturday Evening Post included a few original essays but "borrowed" many pieces from other sources." [11]However, the Post grew , and started to incorporate news, poetry, essays, play reviews and much more.The Post published the writings of such prominent authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Although the Post was a general interest magazine, it also was the first major magazine to target directly to the women audience, via its "Lady's Friend" column, which addressed women's common problems.[11][10]

     For more information about the Saturday Evening Post click the link: Saturday Evening Post

Why is this important?

     General interest magazines are important because they set the foundation for the one of the earliest and most organized business models of the magazine industry. 



Women's Magazines are Born -1828


 [23] File:Sarah Hale portrait.jpg [24]
Godey's Lady's Book  Sarah Josepha Hale 


     Right after the release of general interest magazines, the circulation of women's magazines began to rise significantly and exclusive content designed specifically for woman began to circulate in the Magazine Industry. In 1828, Sarah Josepha Hale started the first magazine directed exclusively to a female audience: the Ladies' Magazine. These magazines provided general-interest articles and also advocated for women's education, work, and property rights. [11]


     With increases in literacy and public education, the development of faster printing technologies, and improvements in mail delivery, especially in rail transportation, a market was created for more national magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. By 1850 nearly 600 magazines were being published regularly. (Thousands of others lasted less than a year.) After about nine years and marginal success, Hale merged her magazine with its main rival, Godey's Lady's Book (1830-1898),which she edited for the next forty years. [11][32]

     By 1850, Godey's, which its colorful fashion illustrations achieved a circulation of 40,000 copies - at the time, the largest distribution ever for a U.S magazine. By 1860, circulation grew to 150,000. Hale's magazine played a central role in educating working- and middle-class women, who were denied access to higher education throughout the 19th Century. Godey's marketing was very astute. She appealed to husbands, brothers, or any other male figure in the house to encourage them to buy a subscription to ensure that their wives or daughters would not be only a better person but able to please them better as a result. [32]


The Arrival of Illustrations in Magazines:


 [25]  [26] [27]  [28]
Godey's Lady's Magazine  Harper's New Monthly Magazine  Matthew Brady  Civil War by Matthew Brady 


     Another significant addition to the magazine industry is the arrival of illustrations. It Began during the mid-nineteenth century...

     Early magazines relied on the printed word. However, drawings, engravings, woodcuts, and other forms of illustration had become a major feature of magazines. During this time, Godey's Lady's Magazine employed up to 150 women to color-tint its magazine illustrations and stencil drawings by hand.[11]

     Harper's New Monthly Magazine, founded in 1850,focused on other ideas such as woodcut illustrations published on every issue, in order to captivate the audience with its elaborate pieces offered extensive woodcut illustrations with each issue. During the Civil War, many readers bought Harper's because of  its very elaborate battlefield sketches.[11]

     "Publications using visual language to add to the printed word began to help transform magazines into a mass medium." But bringing photographs into magazines took a bit longer. Matthew Brady and his colleagues, whose thirty-five hundred photos documented the Civil War, helped to popularize photography by the 1860's, but it wasn't until the 1890's that magazines and newspapers obtained the technology to produce photos in print media.[11]


For more information on the effects of photojournalism click here: Photojournalism


Postal Act of 1879


Increase in magazine circulation due to Postal Act of 1879 


     Out of the many postal acts that happened in the nineteenth century, the Postal Act of 1879 is the most important. It significantly improved the distribution of magazines by eliminating the distinction between newspaper and magazines. Making them the same cost for shipping and delivery without losing in quality and delivery.[29]


     This caused a major increase in circulation of magazines, as shown in the chart above, as well as the decrease in price and popularization of magazines.


What were the advantages during the nineteenth century?

     The community started to develop angles and different point of view, creating audience for specific market and as well and for general interest magazines.


What were the difficulties they faced?

     Especially during the first quarter the growth of the magazine remained slow while delivery costs remained high. Distribution was still expensive and difficult. Many companies attempted to start a magazine but it was very hard to stay in competition with the big magazines. During the 1825, there were 100 active magazine, but nearly 500 had failed.


What were the improvements?

     With the progression of the years, there was an increase in literacy and public education, therefore people became more interested in magazines and the problems happening around the country. Better printing technology and faster rail transportation allowed the development of national magazines targeted to the general audience. Illustrations and pictures started being added to magazines. It was the key to reach even the illiterate audience, especially the women, causing a big increase in circulation for general interest magazines.

The Postal Act of 1879 increase the circulation of magazines even more and made magazines more popular and accessible.


The Development of Modern American Magazines


     As the magazine industry progresses into the twentieth Century...


     There was a increase in magazine titles and distribution was facilitated by the Postal Act of 1879. "Advances in mass-production printing, conveyor systems, assembly lines, and faster presses reduced production costs and made large-circulation national magazines possible."[11]

     The combination of reduced distribution and production costs enabled publishers to slash magazine prices. As prices dropped from thirty-five cents to fifteen and then to ten-cents, the working class was gradually able to purchase national publications. By 1905 there were about 25 national magazines, available throughout the whole country for millions of readers.[11]


     As jobs began to appear in the city and the population began shifting from farms to urban areas, magazines "helped readers imagine themselves as apart of a nation rather than as individuals with only local or regional identities."[11]


     The very rapid growth of drugstores and dime stores, supermarkets, and departure stores offered new places for magazines to be purchased and sold with the other consumer goods.[11]


     But the most significant improvement for the magazine industry in the beginning of the twentieth century was the increase of literacy rate. The chance of success of a magazine succeeding increase as people became able to read and see the content published. In 1900, 90% of the population 10 and over were literate, as shown in the table below. 


[31]  [35]


The power of advertising in the magazine industry

     As the magazine industry circulation skyrocketed, as did the demand for advertising...

     Magazine circulation began to skyrocket and advertising revenue rose significantly along with this shift in the Magazine Industry's success. The economics behind the rise of advertising was simple: A magazine publisher could dramatically expand circulation by dropping the price of an issue below the actual production cost for a single copy. [11]

     The publisher would then would get money back the loss through ad revenue, guaranteeing large readership to advertisers who were willing to pay to reach more readers. The more readers, the higher the price for the advertisements. Therefore, the number of ad pages in magazines grew exponentially, together with the amount of readers and the industry's income. [11]


     Advertisement changed the business model of the old magazines which had full control of the industry and relied to make profit mostly with their subscription and newsstand sales to survive, into a more dependent magazine who relied mostly on advertising as their main source of money.


     "Advertisers continually and increasingly used national magazines to capture consumers' attention to build a national market place in the turn of the century. Magazines began using a broader scope to reflect various audiences that assisted in creating the magazine industry and ultimately the development of Modern American Magazines." [11]


Why is this important?

     Advertisement set the groundwork to a more modern type of magazine resembling to what a magazine is today. Magazines became dependent on advertising, but this popularized even more the magazine and became affordable to the now literate middle class.

Social Reform and The Muckrakers

     As  the price dropped below the cost of production, literacy was high, and the middle class became accessible to magazines, muckraking was born.


     The word muckraker came from a quote from Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 " The men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor. There are beautiful things above and round about them; and if they gradually grow to feel that the whole world is nothing but muck, their power of usefulness is gone." Although Roosevelt expressed his feeling with disdain towards the muckrakers, it was worn with pride by the journalist. [33][38]


     With the transition from country to the city in search of industrial employment, and millions of immigrants made their way to the united states," the nation that journalists had long written about had grown increasingly complex by the turn of the Century."[11]

Many newspaper reporters became dissatisfied with the simplistic and conventional way of newspaper journalism and turned to magazines for answers. In magazines they were able to write at greater length and depth about broader issues such as corruption in big business and government, urban problems faced by citizens and immigrants alike, labor conflicts, and racism. [11][38]


Investigative Reporting


 [36]  [37] The Jungle [34]
McClure's Magazine  Ida Tarbell's in McClure's Magazine 1902  Upton Sinclair in Doubleday, Page and Company 1906 


Three major stories were uncovered by the muckrakers:


     McClure's Magazine and the Breakthrough of Investigative Reporting in 1902. Lincoln Steffen's published the "Shame of the Cities," which tackled urban problems in the industrial age, and exposed how officials worked with big business to maintain power while corrupting the public treasury. [34]

     More information click here: Shame of the Cities

    Ida Tarbell's in McClure's Magazine 1902, one month after "Shame of the Cities" as "The History of the Standard Oil Company," which took on John D. Rockefeller's oil monopoly.

     More information click here: History of the Standard Oil Company


     Upton Sinclair in Doubleday, Page and Company 1906, published a shortened version of his book, "The Jungle," which depicts the situation of the meatpacking industry. His description of the atrocities in the industry lead to the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

     More information click here: The Jungle 


Why is this important?

     The Muckraking magazines empowered the middle class, because they were getting the knowledge over monopolies and problems happening that they were once blind to it, and now they can pressure the government and fight for better country.

The Magazine Industry Creates Social Change

     "In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. Other reforms stemming from muckraking journalism and the politics of the era including anti-trust laws for increased government oversight of business, affair and progressive income tax, and the direct election of U.S senators."[11]

Why is this important?

     Without the freedom and the more elaborated articles that a magazine was able to provide the journalist,, those changes would not have been possible, or it would have taken much longer to "rake these mucks" from society.


The Rise of General Interest Magazines


 [39]  [40]  [41]  [42]
The Saturday Evening Post  The Reader's Digest  Henry Luce ( Time and Life)  The National Geographic Magazine 



     Muckraking was really big until the 1910's, until america goes to World War I. After World War I and till the 1950's general interest magazines were the most prominent, covering articles with international issues, and also a variety of broad topics aimed at the national audience. [38]


     Photojournalism was very big during the time period, by using images to express emotion and document the daily life. The high quality of the magazines photos gave an visual advantage over the radio. "In the 1920's more than 50 magazines were qualified as general interest, and by 1946 more than 100 general interest magazines competed with radio for audience."[11]


     There were many important magazines during that time period such as: Saturday Evening Post, Reader's Digest, National Geographic, Henry Luce (with Time and Life magazine).

     For more information on the most important General Interest magazines click on the links above, or below the pictures.


1950's Emergence of Television: The Fall of General Interest Magazines & Beginning of Specialization


    " Long before the arrival of motion pictures or cable television, magazines were the first medium to bring visuals to the masses, and the first to segment the masses into groups of various interests and demographics. Early magazines used engravings and illustrations to visualize life; later, magazines of the twentieth century used photographs to disseminate some of the most iconic images of modern times." [11]


     In the 1950's Television started to become more popular and the visual advantage that the magazines had over radio was lost against television. Television provides more options than pictures and words, now with also audio-visual content. Advertisers saw that advantage and begin to transition from general interest magazines to television, because they served the same purpose but television was more efficient. Magazines begin to lose advertising revenue and many general interest magazines died, such as Collier's and Woman's Health Companion.[11]


     Magazines publishers had to find another way to get attention from advertisers, so specialized magazines were created. Those specialized magazines succeeded by creating content for a specific audience based off of culture, race, gender, personalities, hobbies, interests, work, and more, focusing on smaller, discrete audiences that could be guaranteed to advertisers. [11]


     More information about emergence of television please visit the link: Mass Comm. Television group.


     Specialized magazines can be categorized into groups based on the characteristic of their target audience. Click on the Link with the name of the audience to know more about them.


 [44]  [45]  [47]  [46]  [48]  [49]  [50]
 Men's and Women's Magazine  Sports, Entertainment, and Leisure Magazines  Elite Magazines Magazines for Ages  Minority Targeted Magazines  Supermarket Tabloids  TV Guide 


Why is this Important?

     When TV came along, the demand for general interest magazines was hurt, because they fulfilled the same role TV does, but with less success. This lead to the creation of specialized magazines. Those specialized magazines set the framework of the business model of a magazine, and continued to inform the society with more freedom, but not generalized for all audiences but targeted to one specific audience with focus on the content that the readers want to read.





     The organization of the magazine is divided into 3 main parts

Editorial and Production[11]
     The editorial department is where the magazine industry produces the content with the exception of laying out advertisement pages. Chain of commands begin with the publisher and extends from editor in chief, managing director, a variety of sub editors and writers.
The sub editors take care of the visual, layout, design, etc. The writers write the articles, and are divided into: subject specialized staff writers, region focused freelance writers and people who write well-written manuscripts, however more than 95% of those are declined.


Most large commercial magazine employs hundreds of people.

Many national magazines digitally transport magazine copy to various regional printing sites for insertion of ads and faster distribution

Advertising and Sales[11]

     Magazines are heavily reliant of advertisement. They provide the advertiser a rate chart which show much each space cost. As in digital magazines, the prices may vary depending on how developed the ad is. Some magazines such as Highlights for Children, rely solely on subscriptions and newsstand sales instead of ads.


     Magazines developed different editions to attract the advertisers such as: regional editions, based on geographic areas; split-run editions, same content but with local ads; demographic editions, targeted particular group of consumers.

Circulation and Distribution[11]

     This department monitors single copy distribution and subscription sales.
     They strategize the best way to increase subscription and circulation of the magazine in order to obtain the most revenue.





                                                                                               BEFORE                        AND                      AFTER 




     In the 1970's, new computer technologies started to assist mass media around the world. By the end of 1980's Photoshop and other computer programs were able to transform the image into digital image and manipulate them. Because of the absence of physical film the authenticity of the images presented were questioned, because digital images can be easily changed, and yet difficulty detected. [11]


Why is this important?

     Images used to always tell the truth, "A picture is worth one thousand words," but with the introduction of computers, Images could be easily changed and the truth could be manipulated in pictures as easy as it's in words.



     With the evolution of the computer technology and beginning of the internet, once again the magazine industry is faced with another challenge: to confront the digital age.


     The magazine Industry is deciding whether to embrace the paperless era, continue with its print editions or maybe both.


Continue in our Present Page for more information on how the industry is dealing with the digital era.







  Magazine Group    
Magazine Industry Past   Magazine Industry Present   The Future of Magazines  
  Magazine Industry Works Cited    


Comments (4)

bhespanhol said

at 2:32 pm on Apr 3, 2014

I edited the link... the previous past page COMPLETELY CRASHED.... we will have to reformat everything

Joseph Runge said

at 10:54 am on Apr 5, 2014

The second link is to the new past page.

bhespanhol said

at 6:44 pm on Apr 7, 2014


You don't have permission to comment on this page.