The Mag Rag

Every couple weeks I see a newscast or blog shouting about the end of the printed newspaper.  They claim that it is only a matter of time before they all fold completely, because no one will pay for what they can get for free online.  But you never hear such commotion about magazines, and I believe that is because they’re not going anywhere.  We love them too much.

For instance, my current subscription is for Real Simple magazine (I only allow myself one subscription at a time, because I don’t have time to read more).  I love it.  I am obsessed with it.  Despite being in the middle of reading an excellent book, I will virtually pace at my mailbox for my Real Simple.  I will drop my book on its binding the moment it arrives and likely not revisit it until my magazine is dog-eared and tea-stained.

But this doesn’t make sense.  Do you know what I do with those pages of information that hundreds of people have compiled for me?  Nothing.

I apply about one percent of what I read, yet I feel compelled to keep subscribing anyway.  A recent issue suggested I switch from perfume to fragrant water; I haven’t.  Another showed me how to use household foods and baking ingredients to all-naturally clean my home; I still use the regular stuff.  I briefly considered switching to their incoming mail organization system, but decided our mail was fine.

So why do I read it?  It’s organization porn.

I seriously feel like I’m going to have a happiness stroke when I see how they completely made over someone’s closet.  Or how they ingeniously suggest using a colander to hold ice when you’re mixing cocktails so the water escapes, leaving drinks undiluted.

As I read, I picture myself transforming our home with these techniques.  I will banish clutter from our junk drawer by inserting cubic boxes for each item!  I will create an efficient mudroom with cubbies for all of my imaginary children to store their backpacks and shoes!

And it’s not just Real Simple.  Why do I sometimes read People magazine?  Do I personally know any of the people to which they refer?  Of course not.  But I could tell you the names of all of the Jolie-Pitt children, as well as their birthplaces.  I could joke about the “colon cleanse” Gwyneth Paltrow was quoted talking about.

In a strange way, celebrity gossip is like reading about fabulous cleaning products – fun to read, but totally irrelevant.

I used to subscribe to InStyle magazine.  It showed me how to be of-the-moment, superbly fashionable and utterly urban.  Yet I never bought the clothes and couldn’t afford to if I wanted to.  And it took me years to realize that it made me feel like an ugly, poverty-stricken hick.

It’s not just me, either.  I have a friend who subscribes to Cooking Light and absolutely loves it – yet has never cooked one recipe from it.  I have a husband who reads The Economist, yet rarely has the chance to discuss the in-depth articles with anyone.  My mother reads movie reviews in People magazine every week but won’t see a movie in the theater, she always waits for it to come out on DVD six months later.

All of this is really ironic when you consider that I have wanted to be a magazine editor for as long as I can remember.  The concept of magazines has always drawn me because it would seem that people read their magazines because they like them, not because they have to be informed like with a newspaper.

As I wrote for several newspapers in college, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was reading my work.  Why slave over each word and every fact if no one will read past your first three sentences?  But with magazines, you have a chance.  Readers have already selected your publication because they love your topic, so it just might matter to them if you choose to write about “Bing vs. Google” rather than “The Benefits of Bing.”

Magazines are an escape into information for your life, whether you apply it or not.  They entertain as they inform, which is exactly what draws a reader to them.  Also, they’re low on the commitment scale.  Have just ten minutes?  Read one article and you won’t feel like you were left hanging.

Who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll be the writer/editor telling Real Simple readers how they can avoid the pitfalls of not finding the right manicurist. And maybe that person will dream of following my advice, and then a week later head to the bathroom to do her own nails.  Even so, I bet I’ll have hooked a reader for life.


Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

7 responses to “The Mag Rag

  1. Sam

    Organization is the key to proper living!

  2. Glenn Reph

    I get all four major car mags and I think they all recycle the same story each month with different pictures of the same car, but I read each one like it is new… I am hooked on car porn I guess… 🙂

  3. colleenreph

    You have truly unraveled one of life’s great mysteries…Now, how can I bring myself to unload the stack of 2004 Real Simples in the closet??? Never know when you’ll need one!

  4. Liz

    Abby I love this! I have had a subscription to Cooking Light for two years and have only made something from it once (that was not “light” in any sense of the word!)

    I think I would categorize us magazine obsessors as fundamentally hopeful people…we see and appreciate all the potential in an organized attic or thoughtfully prepared meal!

    So one day, when you’re a magazine editor, just think, you’ll be bringing hope to countless readers…you’ll be the Obama of the subscription world 🙂

  5. Nina

    I use to get domino magazine until they stopped publishing it. What were they thinking?? It was any home/design/art/decor-lover’s dream mag. Guess what the publishers decided to send in “replacement” to finish off the subscription? Glamour. Excuse me while I puke. The first “replacement” came with Taylor Swift on the cover (all the more reason to toss it) and I FANNED through it, and off to the recycling bin it went. What a waste of printing press space. They should have just refunded everyone their 5 bucks instead of making a fool of themselves.

    • abbyreph

      Excellent illustration, Nina. And wouldn’t you give anything to have Domino back, despite only applying a portion of what you read? My point exactly!

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