TV and the End of “Life”

The development of television eventually brought the end of America’s general-interest magazines, creating an environment that favored niche magazines.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.55.08 PMPeople had greater access to human-interest news and entertainment with the turn of a knob.  Households did not need to wait for pictures of national events when they could turn on their television.  In 1972 came the demise of LIFE Magazine, a magazine dedicated to the portrayal of news, current events, and travel, using photos.  Unfortunately, the population felt no need to read “late” content that had already been broadcast earlier in the week. Television also satisfied the public’s need for real-life entertainment, consumed during down-time in the home. National advertising followed, slowly pushing their energies toward television coverage to promote their products or services. In this way TV has slowly replaced the need for old magazines such as LIFE.  In light of new technological and cultural developments magazine producers needed to refocus their content on specific interest areas instead of taking a broad all-encompassing approach.

Examples fill the news racks: Glamour, Costal Living, Garden and Gun, Condé Nast Traveler, Martha Stewart Weddings and others catering to specific interest groups from southerners to brides to vacation homeowners.Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.56.09 PM

Although the magazine business still grows and readers still enjoy the feeling of a paper copy in their hand, I wonder how much today’s niche-oriented cable and satellite TV has affected the success of niche magazines.  How much has HGTV covered that is also covered in Costal Living or Good Housekeeping?  How much has TLC covered in its show Say Yes to the Dress that is also covered in Martha Stewart Weddings or The Knot?  How much has the Travel Channel covered that is also covered in Condé Nast Traveler?  How can both magazines and TV programming exist if there is so much potential content overlap?  How will magazines adapt to keep the readers interest while staying competitive in the business world?

I find the difference to be this: while TV simply shows viewers the content, whimsical magazine articles take the reader on a journey using their imagination, a part of the brain not engaged by watching TV.  Only time will tell whether the magazine’s reliance on imaginative writing, graphic design, and photography will stand against our generation’s movement to the passive absorption of information.

— Julia Kaczmar

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