Growing up, magazines used to be “The Bible” for young girls. We looked to their glossy pages as sources of inspiration, from fashion, to beauty, and even art–magazines helped evoke a sense of creativity that could be applied to your individuality. But that was then. Now, magazines are more focused on the advertisements, rather than the actual content. You spend between $4 and $5 on a magazine, but this charge no longer buys you sources of inspiration–rather you start buying into the world of advertisement.
According to the article, “The Psychology of Advertising,” published by the Atlantic, “The first advertisement printed in English appeared in the Imperial Intelligencer in March, 1648. Advertising inmagazines did not begin until comparatively recent times. For instance, the first advertisement appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1864. In this magazine more space has been devoted to advertising during the past year than the sum total of space for the twenty-four years from 1864 to 1887, inclusive.” We are no longer paying to find sources of inspiration; rather, we are paying for the advertisements. Most of the advertisements that run in magazines such as Vogue, Rolling Stone, In Style, and Elle all publish the same type of advertisements, making their content similar rather than unique. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult for the public to find sources of inspiration that coincide with their individuality. We have all become walking billboards.
“Although the number of pages devoted to advertising in our best magazines has increased during the last ten years, the number of firms advertising in these same magazines has decreased. The struggle has been too fierce for any but the strongest. The inefficient advertisers are gradually being eliminated, and the survival of the fittest seems to be a law of advertising as it is of everything else that develops,” the article “The Psychology of Advertising” reports.
While the number of advertisement pages has increased over recent years, many firms struggle to advertise because of financial reasons. According to the article, “Firms which formerly paid but one hundred dollars for a full-page advertisement in the Century Magazine now pay two hundred and fifty dollars for the same amount of space. The Ladies’ Home Journal has increased its advertising rate to six dollars for a single agate line (there are fourteen agate lines to the inch), the width of one column, for a single insertion. The cost of a full page for a single issue is [$4,000].” But if the public, especially women, didn’t regard magazines as their “Bible” would advertisements be so prevalent among society? A publication now relies heavilyon the advertisements to do the selling–and celebrities, and pop icons have now become parts of that selling point. Attaching a recognizable face and famous name to the front page of a magazine is the easiest way for a publishing house to sell their magazine. They trust that devoted fans will pay the five dollar to read an “exclusive interview” with their favorite celebrity–but fans are no longer paying for that exclusive interview. Rather, they are paying to see those glossy pages covered with advertisements, rather than original content. While advertising has become so ingrained into society, we not only buy into it, we accept it. If we continue to purchase five dollars magazine issues we welcome the ads and ignore the lack of content and entertainment. But sometimes it’s hard to ignore the billboard when it’s everywhere you turn.
Sam Norton can be contacted at