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Where Have All the Magazines Gone?

The rise of broadband Internet and the coming of the Great Recession have combined over the past several years to create a perfect storm for many different types of magazines. The 2000s and early 2010s have seen many respected publications end, either converting to online editions or shutting down entirely.  So many magazines have closed over this time period that I have become convinced that I should chronicle some of our former print resources and point out the online resources that have replaced them. So, let’s take some time to reminisce over the fate of those wonderful magazines that used to be in our stacks, and look at the Web sites and databases vying to replace them.

LIFE Magazine--Ceased Publication 2000

Iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse at the end of World War IIFor the majority of its run, LIFE Magazine was one of the great photojournalism magazines of the United States, capturing many iconic images such as the famous “sailor kissing a nurse” photo from the end of World War II.  LIFE, which began publication weekly in 1936 and switched to a monthly format in 1978, was an early casualty of the Internet publishing age, as the magazine was losing money and Time Warner wanted to relieve itself of its money-losing properties before the merger with AOL in 2001.  Even without the AOL merger, it seems unlikely LIFE would have survived to the present day, as webcams and photo editing software were becoming widely available, even to people outside the traditional field of photojournalism. Would people still want to spend money at a newsstand to buy what they increasingly do for free on Facebook and Pinterest themselves?

Sadder still was the fate of life.com, formerly a wonderful archive of the combined photos of LIFE magazine and Getty Images, which offered millions of combined photos from their combined collections ranging from the dawn of LIFE’s publication to the present day, effectively continuing LIFE’s tradition of photojournalism after the end of the print magazine. This site launched in March 2009 but was effectively closed in January 2012, becoming a redirect to a small, poorly organized channel on www.time.com, LIFE’s corporate parent. However, Google still maintains an excellent photo archive of LIFE’s older collections, complete with many photos never published during the magazine’s run, at http://images.google.com/hosted/life.

Washington Post Book World--Ceased Publication 2009

Cover to Washington Post Book WorldOur library system still collects some newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Free Lance-Star, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but a great many newspapers have either lost their special features or shut down entirely over the last decade, particularly since the onset of the recession in 2008. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of this for me as a librarian is the loss of many book review publications that came with the newspapers and the insight into the literary world they provided.  Washington Post Book World, a special section of the Sunday Washington Post edition that focused on book reviews that began publication in 1972, endured the brutal 2000s newspaper market much longer than its peers at other newspapers, but it was discontinued in early 2009. Although the Washington Post continues to publish book reviews at the end of its Sunday section, they are far less in number and don’t come with the level of insight and analysis that they did in the former, separate Book World section.

The end of Book World means that the only remaining dedicated book section in a wide circulation newspaper is the New York Times Book Review.  However, the Washington Post still publishes some book reviews at its Web site, and you can find many more book reviews at sites such as www.goodreads.com, www.chicagotribune.com/features/books/, and even our own Web site, www.librarypoint.org! As librarians, we enjoy reading many different genres and authors, and will offer our insight into the literary world through this Web site via reviews and analysis. CRRL also offers readers a chance to look at many different newspapers through our databases, which you can access here on our Web site.  We also keep an extensive microfilm collection of local newspapers dating back to the 19th century in the Virginiana Room of our Headquarters branch, so we can also help you find many articles that you may not be able to locate online!

Nintendo Power--Ceases Publication December 2012 (our library ceased its subscription in November 2011)

Cover to Nintendo PowerNo type of publication has been hit harder by the onset of the digital age than video game magazines.  The publishing industry was startled--but perhaps not shocked--with the very recent announcement that Nintendo Power, one of the last video game magazines still being issued in print format, had been cancelled and will cease publication in December 2012.  Many people who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s (including myself) had a special affection for this magazine, as its bright color palette, hyperbole-laden game reviews and exciting “insider” news had us eagerly waiting for it to arrive at our mailboxes or local libraries. But like its older print brethren, Nintendo Power was ultimately a victim of changing tastes and priorities among consumers.

Nintendo Power supposedly had a dual reason for existence: it would offer subscribers “classified” hints and information on how to beat games, and it would function as advertising for the company, getting gamers hyped up to buy the latest Nintendo game and system releases. In reality, Nintendo Power (and magazines such as GamePro that were not company specific) were far more focused on marketing games than on actually providing information about them.  Reviews tended to be very superficial and the actual “hints” sections focused on only the earliest and easiest parts of the games, forcing players to buy expensive game guides for information on the more difficult sections. The existence of free guides available on www.gamefaqs.com rendered the paid guides and hint sections available in Nintendo Power obsolete, and www.metacritic.com the most important source of game reviews.  Of the many game magazines our library subscribed to, the only remaining one is Game Informer, Gamestop’s official publication.   The other game magazines ceased publication during the 2000s, most long before Nintendo Power.

An Age after Magazines

We now live in an age when the functions of the magazines have been replicated--and in some cases surpassed--by online resources.  Instead of simply looking for pictures of attractive housing styles and decoration in Country Home, we may look through our friends’ photo collections on Twitter and Pinterest.  Rather than browsing Nintendo Power for information on games, we may visit www.gamespot.com to find out the latest information on new releases.  And, you may even find yourself looking on CRRL’s front page for book reviews of interesting titles!  Although the world of print magazines is diminished, the selection of online magazines continues to expand, with many available through our Research Page.  Come and explore what we have to offer you online, and if you’d like to chat with us or request a book match, come and ask us!