Seven Assumptions of Highly Successful Magazines

As I’ve mentioned before, I have acquired a number of magazine subscriptions through a few different programs. I currently subscribe to 3 women’s magazines: Marie-Claire, Glamour, & Cosmo. Before I moved to Tennessee, I ended up with a subscription to Allure, but I no longer get that one. After perusing these magazines for several months, I have come up with a list of assumptions these magazines make about their readers, many of which are probably largely inaccurate.

1. All or most readers live in major cities. Most of these magazines assume that you (the reader) live in a large city – namely NYC, Chicago, or LA. But mostly NYC, since that’s where most of these magazines are based, and where most of the writers, editors, and other staff live. It is a reflection of their bias, but not necessarily a reflection of their readership. Where is middle America? Do they think that no one in Nebraska reads their magazines?

2. All or most readers hold an “office job.” Do you work at an office? I don’t mean a doctor’s office or a law firm. I’m talking a Dunder Mifflin-style office. A “business office,” if you will. For some reason, these magazines seem to think that there are no doctors, teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, soldiers, retail-workers, or any other professions among their readership. It is assumed that the vast majority of their readers are cube-dwellers, hellbent on climbing the corporate ladder to become CEOs of major fashion labels, publishing houses, or paper companies.

3. All or most readers are LOADED (or live like they are). Do you, as an average woman, own a pair of Christian Louboutin heels? No? How about a Louis Vuitton purse? A dress by Balenciaga? Makeup by Dior or sunglasses by Chanel? I didn’t think so. Most of my clothes came from Walmart, Target, or a department store in the mall. My shoes come from Payless, my purses come from Walmart and my makeup comes from the drugstore. I refuse to buy a pair of sunglasses that costs more than $10, because it’s a guarantee you’ll lose them if you do. These magazines seem to think that all their readers have huge amounts of disposable income to blow on name-brand clothes, accessories, and makeup. That, or they assume we are all up to our ears in credit card debt from purchasing such extravagant clothing. With the impact of the recession on nearly every sector of the economy, one would think they would advertise less expensive items. Granted, some of these magazines have “steal” options to counter the “splurge” items, but even these are sometimes woefully out of the price range of many, especially young twenty-something’s like myself who are just getting started.

4. All or most readers are single (or have a boyfriend). I suppose the mentality on this one is that once you get married, you will no longer subscribe because you’ve already permanently hooked a man and you no longer need the tips on how to dress sexy, act sexy, have sexy hair and make up, or be amazing in bed. Don’t let them know I’m on to them, as they will find this revelation to be highly embarrassing as it is very un-feminist of them to essentially be all about how to get a man. But, aside from the embarassingly un-feminist subtext of the magazines, there are hardly ever mentions of “marrieds” in them. Co-habitors? Sure. Engaged? Occasionally. But married? Rarely, if ever. I once heard a song that had the line “You don’t find Cosmo in a happy home.” Perhaps the magazines know it’s true, and so they ignore us marrieds who just read them for the LOLs.

5. All or most readers are “pro-choice.” During election season, these magazines are full of informative articles encouraging readers to exercise their right to vote. However, the information presented almost always shows any pro-life candidate in an unfavorable light. They are talked about in terms of their voting record on “women’s issues” (code name for abortion, because let’s face it, breast cancer & heart disease really aren’t contentious issues), and inevitably those who do not favor stabbing unborn babies in the head come out behind those who DO favor abortion. Some of us females have made peace with biology and realize that as women, we carry the babies. Sometimes this might suck, but such is the way things are. It isn’t the baby’s fault that I got pregnant, so I don’t think I’ll kill it. I’m sure many other readers feel the same way.

6. All or most readers are sexually incompetent. This is evidenced by the fact that in every issue of all of these magazines, there is an article on the undiscovered wonders of girl-on-top sex. Really? How many non-virgin women in the civilized world have not tried it by now? Aside from the reverse cowgirl redundancy, just the sheer number of articles on how to have better sex are mind-boggling. Most of these tips are common sense. They come naturally during the act.

7. All or most readers worship at the alter of the Shoe Cult. Call it The Cinderella Syndrome, Part Deux: The belief that the right shoe can change your life. There is always heavy emphasis on shoes in these articles, particularly very expensive designer shoes. I, for one, hate shoes. I would rather be barefoot or in flip flops, perhaps because I have wide feet and can never find any shoes that fit my foot properly (another post to come on that later). I know many women LIKE shoes, but the devotion to footwear in these magazines is almost slavish – like, regardless of how uncomfortable or impractical, all women have to wear fancy stilettos and high-heeled strappy sandals, and they must cost upwards of $500 a pair. Redonkulous, if you ask me.

Perhaps I judge too harshly. Perhaps the point of these magazines is to celebrate the fun frivolity that comes with being female, especially a twenty-first century, liberated, independent, Pill-popping female. Perhaps their purpose is to help us escape the drag of everyday life by allowing us to look at pretty people in pretty clothing, doing fun and exciting things, and having delightfully unmarried, girl-on-top sex in outrageously expensive footwear, without worrying about the responsibilities of giving birth and raising unwanted babies. Clearly they appeal to a wide audience, even if they do have some bias and set unattainable fashion and body image standards for their average reader. After all, I’m getting 3 of them a month, so can I really judge?