Where Have All the Magazines Gone?

By John Gaines

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 websites and databases vying to replace them.

LIFE Magazine - Ceased Publication 2000

For 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 “soldier kissing a nurse” photo at the end of World War II. LIFE, which began publishing 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 could increasingly do for free on Facebook and Pinterest? 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

Our library system still collects some newspapers, including the Washington Post, Free Lance-Star, and 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 was discontinued in early 2009. Although the Washington Post continues to publish book reviews after this section ended, they are far fewer in number and don’t come with the level of insight and analysis that they did in the former 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 website, and you can find many more book reviews at sites such as www.goodreads.com, http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/books/, and even our own website, www.librarypoint.org! As librarians, we enjoy reading many different genres and authors and will offer our insight into the literary world through this website 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 website. We also keep an extensive microfiche collection of local newspapers dating back to the 19th century in the Virginiana Room of our Fredericksburg 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)

No 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 announcement that Nintendo Power, one of the last video game magazines still being issued in print format, would be canceled, and it ceased 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 mailbox or local library. But, like its older print brethren, Nintendo Power was 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 gamefaqs.gamespot.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.

Recent Departures

The past several years have seen the CRRL’s magazine collection cut even further due to multiple titles ceasing publication. Some of the many magazines that CRRL used to subscribe to that have recently ended include Glamour, Money, Redbook, and Teen Vogue. Some similar titles, such as Seventeen, continue on in CRRL's collection, with drastically reduced print schedules and issues per year count. In general, the titles vanishing the fastest from the CRRL collection appear to be middlebrow titles aimed at mass audiences; more highbrow/specialty titles like the Wall Street Journal seem likely to continue indefinitely, and lowbrow fare like the “cute puppies are our specialty!” Dogster will never vanish from our shelves as long as humans retain their primal love of dogs. This has increasingly created a “missing middle” in print publications that must be filled by CRRL’s many online resources, databases, and even the librarians themselves as far as advising customers on many issues. Some rough equivalents to the magazines that have ceased publication can be found in our RBdigital collection. CRRL will continue to move forward in a world increasingly without print magazines.