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A Brief History of Magazines

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The Gentleman’s Magazine, May 1759|
Magazines – a.k.a. periodicals, serials, glossies, slicks – are publications that appear on a regular schedule and contain a variety of articles.

They are financed by advertising, a purchase price, pre-paid subscriptions or sometimes all three of these means.

The English word magazine recalls a military storehouse of war materiel and originally was derived from the Arabic word makhazin meaning “storehouses.” The term magazine was coined for this use by Edward Cave, editor of The Gentleman’s Magazine.

Types of Magazines

Most magazines look more or less the same at first glance, but they are targeting different audiences. * Consumer: magazines targeting general reading audiences who are subsets of the general public with special interests. For instance, there are consumer magazines that cover homes, sports, news, fashion, teen gossip, and many more groups of readers.

Examples include AARP The Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic, People, Time, TV Guide, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, Parents, Seventeen, ESPN Magazine, Money, Men’s health, In Style, and thousands more. * Trade and Professional: magazines targeting people working in trades, businesses and professional fields. These periodicals provide news, information and how-to articles for readers working in specific industries with advertising content focused on those industries or trades including job notices.

By comparison, Golf Course Management is a magazine for golf course
superintendents who maintain golf courses, while Golf Digest is a consumer magazine aimed at people who like to play golf. Other examples of trade magazines include Airbrush Action Magazine, a trade publication covering the spectrum of airbrush applications; Florida Realtor Magazine, the official publication of the Florida Association of Realtors; Sound & Video Contractor, which covers professional audio, video, security; the newsweeklies for media professionals Editor & Publisher, Folio, Broadcasting & Cable, PR Week, Advertising Age, Publishers Weekly, Variety, Billboard; and thousands of other magazines such as National Fisherman, Construction Today, Investment Week, Beverage Industry, Candy Industry, Dairy Foods, Restaurant Magazine, SeaFood Business Magazine, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, Food & Beverage Packaging, Pet Business Magazine, Supermarket News, Convenience Store News, Legal Week, and Pulp and Paper. * House Organ: also known as in-house magazines, in-house publications and house journals, these periodicals are published by for-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, special interest groups and affinity groups for their customers, employees, clients and members.

Examples include UNCP Today for university alumni, Avalon Hill General about Avalon Hill games, Friends magazine of Chevrolet Dealers, The Rotarian, Ratten, Spirit, Nintendo Power, Planet BP, 31 Rue Cambon, The Communicator, Marble Church Monthly Newsletter, and thousands of other titles. Distribution

Magazines can be distributed through the mail; through sales at newsstands, bookstores or other vendors; and through a variety of free distribution methods including making them available at selected pick-up locations.

There are three main means of circulation:

Paid circulation: The magazine is sold to readers for a price, either on a per-issue basis or by subscription, where an annual fee is paid and issues are sent by mail to readers

Free circulation: There is no cover price and issues are given away.

Controlled circulation: Usually industry-based publications distributed only to qualifying readers, often for free and determined by some form of survey. This Widely used before the rise of the World Wide Web and is still employed by some titles. Timeline

* 1663 The world’s first magazine – Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen (translation: Edifying Monthly Discussions) – is published in Germany. * 1731 The first modern general-interest magazine, The Gentleman’s Magazine, is published in England as entertainment with essays, stories, poems and political commentary. * 1739 The Scots Magazine begins and today remains the oldest consumer magazine in print. * 1741 Benjamin Franklin intends to publish America’s first magazine, General Magazine, but is scooped when American Magazinecomes out three days earlier. * 1770 The first women’s magazine, The Lady’s Magazine, starts with literary and fashion content plus embroidery patterns. * 1843 The Economist begins examining news, politics, business, science and the arts. * 1857 The Atlantic magazine arrives.

* 1895 Collier’s weekly magazine starts and is published until 1957. * 1895 An American magazine, The Bookman, lists “Books in Demand” originating the idea of a bestseller list. * 1896 The first pulp fiction magazines are printed on cheap wood pulp paper with ragged untrimmed edges. * 1897 The old Saturday Evening Post is revived by Cyrus Curtis to become the most widely circulated weekly magazine. * 1899 National Geographic appears.

* 1902 McClure’s Magazine inaugurates the muckraking era with the article “Tweed Days in St. Louis” by C.H. Wetmore and Lincoln Steffens. * 1912 Photoplay is the first magazine for movie fans. * 1922 Reader’s Digest begins publishing.

* 1925 New Yorker magazine arrives.

Time Magazine, August 23, 2004|
* 1923 Time, the first U.S. newsmagazine, is started by Henry Luce. * 1933 Newsweek begins publication.
* 1933 Esquire is the first men’s magazine.
* 1936 Life, a weekly photojournalism news magazine, is started by Henry Luce and continues to 1972. * 1937 Look, a bi-weekly, general-interest and photojournalism magazine, starts and continues to 1971. * 1944 Seventeen is the first magazine devoted to adolescents. * 1953 TV Guide starts.

* 1953 Playboy opens with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. * 1954 Sports Illustrated is started by Time magazine owner Henry Luce. Two other magazines with that name had been started in the 1930s and 1940s, but both had failed. * 1967 Rolling Stone demonstrates the popularity of special-interest magazines. * 1967 New York magazine appears as a regional magazine. * 1972 Feminist Gloria Steinem brings out Ms. magazine. * 1974 People debuts with Mia Farrow on the cover.

* 1990 Entertainment Weekly starts.
* 1993 Wired magazine arrives with a voracious curiosity about everything under the Sun.

Learn more:
The timeline list above is not exhaustive.
Many other important magazines have started and stopped publication since 1663. Read more here . . .
* Magazine – Wikipedia
* The History of Magazines
* The History of Magazines
* History of Magazines Timeline
* History of Magazines on a Timeline
* Advertising History Timeline
* Blogging History Timeline
* Photography History Timeline
* Media History Timeline
* Publishing History Timeline
* History of Magazines Timeline
* The Early History of Magazines
* The Historical Background of Magazines
* The 300 Top Magazines
* Historic Chronology of the Top Magazines
* Magazines – Economics and Careers
* Trade magazines – Wikipedia
* List of trade magazines – Wikipedia
* List of academic journals
* Professional magazines
* List of magazines by circulation
* House organs
* Affinity groups
* Customer magazines

Resources for Courses page »

© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke 910.521.6616 e-mail home page The images linked from this page are courtesy of the websites of the publishers and others.

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