Saturday, July 29, 2023


Each Saturday, I have ripped out and saved Caitlin Moran’s weekly column from “The Times” newspaper, one of my inspirations for these articles. Printed in their magazine, my cutting down the page’s sides, to fit into an A4 folder, is always a job for another time. A week ago, the shape of the magazine thinned down to A4 size, much to my approval. This change was prompted by the closure of the Prinovis printing plant in Liverpool in June 2023, leaving Walstead, owner of five printing presses, as the UK’s last large volume printer of magazines.

The rising cost of paper is as much a contributor to the declining circulation figures for magazines as the preference to read online. Popular titles like “Marie Claire”, “Glamour”, “Time Out” and “NME” are only found online in the UK, the latter two having relaunched as free magazines before withdrawing from print altogether. Others either print fewer issues a year, like “Cosmopolitan” (from monthly to bi-monthly) and “Time” (from weekly to fortnightly), while I stopped buying the “Radio Times” once the price of a weekly issue reached £4.00 in 2022, having reached the point for me where the time-limited use of a TV listings guide becomes too expensive to be a disposable item.

The only magazines I now buy regularly are the cheap and grimly functional “What’s On TV” because, like bus timetables, I find TV listings easier to read on paper; the aforementioned “Cosmopolitan”, whose annual subscription rate remained static as the number of issues per year dropped; and “Private Eye”, the satirical news magazine whose enduring cultural relevance, and “print first” publishing order, means its sales figures have never been higher. Any other magazine purchase either has to be for something I know I am going to keep, like the “Sight & Sound” decennial list of the greatest films of all time, or for a specific article I need to read for research – I would not create an online login in order to read one article from, say, “The New Statesman”, but I wouldn’t spend £5.50 on a print issue unless they provided me with a really good reason.

From my own behaviour, I can see traditional print magazines dissipating into two categories: online-only publications, and “bookazines”, the latter name currently applied to special-edition magazines on one subject, or compilations of previously printed material, whose presentation without advertising means the price approaches the £10-12 normally spent on a book, and more likely to be kept by its owner like a book. To that end, the music magazine “NME”, originally a weekly music newspaper and magazine until it became online-only in 2018, will introduce a bi-monthly premium magazine in 2023, “reprinting” online articles aimed at capturing a moment in time instead of what is coming next, with a limited print run and restricted availability to build scarcity and hype, and a cover price of £10, all aimed at people who will treat the magazine’s purchase like they would a vinyl record. That doesn’t sound like something that can be put in a recycling bin once you have finished reading it.

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