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How Gen Z is Bringing Back Magazine Culture

Magazines have been a staple of society for quite a while. Whether you’re looking for information on celebrities, pop culture, household items, vehicles, you name it, there’s more than likely a magazine that is based around that topic. A lot of times, they are geared towards advertising products and making a profit. Zines, on the other hand, are not always as widespread as magazines. They are not commercially published and normally are created by a single person or group. Occasionally, they are preferred by some readers since they can be more personal. Lately, more zines have been popping up as Gen Z works to bring back the magazine-esque culture. To figure out what has been more popular as of late, we collaborated with The Koi Pond from NinetyEightLA to conduct an online survey based on both magazines and zines. A special thank you goes out to Rachael Previti for setting this all up!

Current Magazine Trends

Even in the digital age, magazine popularity has not declined. There are still thousands of them in print and, thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. 74% of respondents said that they have picked up or interacted with a magazine in some form within the last year, with 22% of these people having read one in the recent weeks of the survey being conducted. 16% even said that they had engaged with one within days of taking the survey, clearly showing how relevant magazines have remained. While a lot of people couldn’t recall which magazine they had perused, the 20% who could name Vogue as their latest indulgent.

A good reason for Vogue being the most popular amongst all of the other titles could be due to its cover and/or overall aesthetic. Even though many try to follow the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, 70% of the respondents said that they do consider the cover image/aesthetic when they go about selecting a magazine to read. However, 66% did say that they prioritize the content that is inside of the publications.

Now, as previously discussed, content can vary depending on the magazine that one picks up. We asked readers what they gravitate towards when they are deciding on what to select. Once again aligning with Vogue being the most popular choice, 56% said that they prefer to flip through fashion or style-related content, finding that most exciting. Not far behind though is photography with 54%, which only furthers the idea that readers value creativity in all different forms. This also conveys how visual appeals are significant to drawing and maintaining the audience’s attention. Following these two popular topics, we have pop culture and celebrity news coming in with 46%, lifestyle with 44%, and editorial and op-eds with 42%.

As we’ve already established, magazines are EVERYWHERE. It’s just a matter of deciding what topic you want to read about and what locations sell said topic. After asking our audience where they purchase their magazines, bookstores won the polls with 38%. Considering that the products of a bookstore consist of paperback and hardcover novels, card games, trinkets, and magazines, this should come as no surprise that they are the dominant distributor. Readers also said that they can find their choice magazine(s) in other places, 22% being their local grocery store and 14% being from convenience stores. I suppose that makes buying magazines pretty convenient, right?

Reader Relationships with Magazines and Zines

From Tiger Beat to GQ, magazines are made for everyone. While certain preferences may change over time, it’s clear that people still want to engage with magazines due to the ranges of information that they’re able to provide on different issues. For example, as young kids or teens, many wanted a magazine for the free poster that was inside, the fun activities that were included, relationship advice, makeup trends, and features from their favorite celebrities. As they got older, these now young adults have begun to lean more towards wanting to read about their industry, home decor, and just new knowledge on various topics overall (recipes, workouts, current events, etc.)! One common consensus that has been echoed throughout quite a few of the respondents is that, although many love a tangible copy of magazines, it has started to become too expensive to keep up with subscription costs- or even just a single copy. A slew of respondents have said that they love collecting physical magazines and being able to put the covers of them on their walls or just have them as a keepsake. 76% of the respondents voiced that they would rather have a physical copy of a magazine and/or zine, with only 24% expressing a preference for online copies. But, when there is similar information online that is much more easily accessible (financially wise), many have decided to opt out of purchasing or receiving magazines for the time being.

“I got Vogue regularly as a teenager as a gift, but couldn’t keep up the subscription when it ran out (can’t justify the extra expense).” -Reader Response

Still, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t engaging with magazines anymore, as one can deduce from the already provided statistics. The main consumers of the magazine and zine industries tend to be people who are into fashion and, overall, the arts. One of the main factors for this seems to be that people like to stay up to date on what is occurring in their industries. Sure, they could utilize the vast digital media for that but, sometimes, magazines and/or zines will go more into depth on the chosen topic. A large reason for many though seems to be that they truly want to support their industries by purchasing the physical copies while simultaneously learning what exactly goes into creating physical magazine(s).

Transition to Zines

In case you’re not aware of what a zine is, let us explain. A zine, derived from ‘fanzine’, is a self-published magazine that is not widely circulated and is normally created by either a single person or a small group of people. It doesn’t profit off of any advertisements and it usually features original works from the people that are helping to mold said zine. There tend to be a lot more creative liberties taken with zines due to the lack of corporate restrictions, which can be freeing for both the readers and creators.

That being said, people come across zines in various locations, with 60% of readers saying that the most frequent place to encounter one is online. This supports the notion that many are switching to reading articles online due to the cost of physical copies or subscriptions to the much more general magazines. Even so, bookstores don’t fall too far behind, coming in with 40%, showcasing that there is still a demand for physical copies. A few respondents even said that they’ve happened upon zines at art markets, and community events, or have them being distributed on the streets.

When asked, most people said that they don’t have a particular zine that is their favorite. More often than not, they will pick one up because it catches their eye. The reasoning for this can vary: 42% said that they want to support an independent artist and/or creator, 28% stated that the content inside intrigued them, and 22% were simply attracted to the art or overall design of the zine. These all tend to be the motivating factors when it comes to why readers take an interest in zines.

Mainstream magazines aren’t always able to promote or share underground artists since they tend to focus on what is popular at the moment (although, some do have columns that feature up-and-coming creators). Zines, on the other hand, are often seen as a platform for artists from every nook and cranny to further share their art with like-minded individuals. When conducting this survey, we found that 62.5% of respondents were interested in producing their zine, further signifying the creative intellect that is reached when these self-published works are shared.

The individuality and artistry that are expressed within zines tend to be one of the driving forces in people preferring them over magazines. 40% of our audience said that they would rather read a zine due to its authenticity, accessibility, creativity, and how community-based it can be. Additionally, while magazines are more inclined to stay in a safe circle of content, zines push the boundaries of what they can and cannot publish.

“A zine is less manufactured. It has more soul and it’s more a reflection of its creators than a corporation's magazine.” -Reader Response

A zine’s influence is much more unique as opposed to a magazine’s, which is another strong appeal to choosing them over the latter. As quite a few of our respondents expressed, these usually locally published issues delve deeper into underground cultures as well as activist campaigns that aren’t always given a stage to speak on. They also are inclined to be much more handcrafted than magazines since they are not mass produced mass-produced.

Conclusion: A Comeback

With how active and engaged Gen Z is within the artistic culture, it only makes sense that magazines make a comeback but, this time, with more creative liberties to be taken. The solution? Zines. It’s exciting to see the new era of publications that are among us and, with how many different routes there are to be taken within this imaginative world, which way each individual will go about expressing their voice.

Written by Ashley Lavalle

Survey Results from The Koi Pond. Check them out on Instagram!

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